Fast Way Freight makes safety job one
Safety is more than an afterthought at Fast Way Freight System Inc. It’s so much a part of their culture that they built it into their name — Friendly - Accurate - Safe - Timely.
Fast Way, headquartered in Spokane, Washington, operates a fleet of more than 50 trucks and 200 trailers, serving the Inland Northwest region of eastern Washington, northern Idaho and western Montana. As primarily a less than truck load carrier, Fast Way picks up and delivers freight from multiple shippers and consolidates it into a truckload — any given load could consist of anything from groceries, sporting goods and automotive parts to rebar and compressed gas. Dispatch centers are located in Spokane and Wenatchee, Washington, and Lewiston, Idaho. The company, founded in 1993, also operates truckload, dedicated, flat bed, step deck, and low boy units.
Visit Fast Way’s cross dock terminal, particularly first thing in the morning, and you’ll see a frenzy of activity as forklifts scurry about the cavernous building sorting and loading pallets of freight, and trucks carefully backing into the docks for their load and then heading out on their daily routes. According to Co-Owner and President Jeff Bosma, Fast Way generates about 100,000 shipments a year for about 500 customers.
“We've got a little bit of a niche, but we never want to rest on our laurels. We always want to be on our toes, not our heels, and safety is a huge part of that,” Bosma stated. “The one thing we're really working on is for everybody from management and dispatchers to dock supervisors and drivers to have a sincere concern for safety and to make that job-one.”
The majority of the Fast Way fleet is tractor-trailers, and because the routes are shorter, allowing trucks to return to the main terminal each night, the company has a luxury where maintenance is concerned. The shop is split with half the mechanics working on power units and other devoted to trailers. With new trucks, they're investing in upgraded safety features, such as disc brakes and camera-based driver assistance and collision mitigation technologies.
On average, the Fast Way fleet runs 1.8 million miles a year — typically each truck travels 200 to 300 miles a day in local and regional operations. An emphasis on safety has played a large part in an exemplary safety record, according to Safety Manager Tom Pineda — in 2018, Fast Way improved in all USDOT safety categories by an average of 31.5 percent.
“Safety permeates into all aspects of the operation,” Pineda said. “When drivers are thinking about being safe, they’re not as hard on equipment. Even something as seemingly insignificant as not slamming the trailer door or making sure to not bump a loading dock, can have an impact on maintenance.
“The same goes for improving fuel economy, because there are less jack rabbit starts, and when drivers don't have a perceived need to rush, their customer relation skills are better as well,” he adds.
"Every trucking company out there will admit that they're hiring guys that they never would have looked at 10 years ago. Sometimes that scares me, but at the same time, we're laser focused on safety and in that respect we're light years ahead of we were,” Bosma said. “It not only helps for the lesser qualified drivers, but also makes existing employees that much better.”
Fast Way incorporated CarriersEdge into their safety program in 2018. “Every arrow in my quiver is tied together, and CarriersEdge is easy to integrate with our strategy because there aren't any missing components,” Pineda pointed out. He’s found the training modules to be highly useful as they are “modern and professionally made,” and interactively engaging to drivers.
“I like that you're not just staring at the screen, but instead, have to work through the programs and complete the pop quizzes along the way,” Pineda said. “Drivers don't like to just sit — as soon as they think something doesn't apply to them, they're done."
While Fast Way encourages drivers to do training on the clock, and has a dedicated computer at the terminal for CarriersEdge courses, Pineda appreciates the flexibility provided by their mobile accessibility, so that drivers can view the library of orientation, refresher and compliance courses and knowledge tests any time, any place they have access to a mobile device and internet connection. That ease of use, especially for a driver, who may have moments of downtime on the job, is one of the main reasons Fast Way achieves incredibly high completion rates — recent stats show them reaching 76% of their drivers in a month, and 92% in a quarter.
Another important differentiator about CarriersEdge, Pineda pointed out, is that their content is relevant and up to date. "Drivers get onboard because the material is personal to them," Pineda said. “We have a driver that's been here 20 years, and when I was evaluating online training, I asked him to give me his impression of the CarriersEdge modules — he's a crusty old guy, but when he was done, he said he actually learned a few things. To hear him say that really means something.”
As a manager, Pineda takes full advantage of the CarriersEdge administrator interface which enables him to manage the entire program ---- everything from assigning courses and reporting on progress to printing certificates and sending reminders to users, with just a few clicks of the mouse.
“One of the benefits with CarriersEdge is that it allows me to track completion rates, and to see which questions, if any, my guys are having trouble with and in which areas we need improvement,” he said. “As a one-person safety department, being able to easily handle multiple functions with one program save valuable time, so it is well worth the investment.”
Working with a diverse range of customers means a wide variety of safety requirements for Fast Way drivers. Individual work environments may present unique challenges — dealing with ladders, for instance, is something that drivers are rarely required to do, but there's a CarriersEdge module to familiarize them should the situation arise. The extensive library of 70-plus subjects, ranging from defensive driving to handling hazardous materials, ensures drivers are ready for any situation. And, it not only increases their safety, but allows our sales and dispatch teams to accept any job.
“Oftentimes, when a new client requests a delivery, one of the first questions they'll ask is about the safety policies already in place,” Pineda says.
Some of those facilities require drivers to take an in-house safety test before being allowed onto the property. According to Pineda, because drivers have already completed the CarriersEdge programs, they have an easier time being certified and spend less time going through the process, thus saving valuable time on their route.
Fast Way’s culture around safety extends to the employee-driven safety committee. Pineda incorporates CarriersEdge into monthly safety meetings to highlight topics he and the team want to discuss. "They're the ones out on the front lines, but I'm here to keep them on track so that we can have a strategic plan,” Pineda said.
Where the individual modules come in especially useful for Pineda is when a serious incident occurs. He recounted an accident where a motion sensor failed, resulting in the driver backing into a loading dock and hitting the overhang on the building. Rather than punish the driver for the mistake, Pineda used the situation as a learning tool, reviewing with him the related safety videos.
"Beating up the guy isn't going to change anything — it's just going to make him mad at me,” he said. “I like to coach the guys on an individual basis, and if something seems to be a trend, I'll present it to the entire group.
“A lot of safety is common sense, but common sense isn't as common as people think,” Pineda says. “What you get from CarriersEdge is an overall approach to safety and a focus on thinking safety rather than just talking about it.”
Compliance with ongoing training requirements is another need to use CarriersEdge, according to Pineda. But there’s more to it, he emphasized, when it comes to the big picture.
“When I'm talking to a new hire about our safety program, I explain that it's something we do to satisfy our insurance company, but it's more important than that because our employees are our family, and we want to keep them safe so they are able to have a long career with our company.”