Safety a hallmark when delivering high security loads for Boyle Transportation
As a professional truck driver for 10 years and seven years in operations and safety management, Michael Lasko knows a thing or two about what resonates with drivers. Now, serving for the past three years as manager of safety and quality for Billerica, Massachusetts-based Boyle Transportation, he’s putting that knowledge to work in helping to build an award-winning fleet that hauls security-sensitive cargo.
Operating a fleet of 65 tractors, with 10 more on order to handle growth, Boyle Transportation was recently awarded first place by the Truckload Carriers Association in its fleet safety awards program (5 million to 14.9 million category). The company has also been named a Best Fleet to Drive For, for the past three consecutive years.
“There is absolutely a correlation between the two awards,” said Lasko. “If you have a culture of safety and work with drivers as professionals - helping them improve in specific areas and treating them with the respect they deserve - then you’re working together in partnership. We feel we do that, and it helps contribute to our low driver turnover rate. And we also feel it plays a part in reducing accidents and having a confident and professional driver behind the wheel.”
According to Lasko, the company primarily serves clients in the defense and life science/healthcare sectors. Finding the “right” driver for Boyle doesn’t come without its challenges. “Professional driver candidates need to be able to pass an extensive background check before being hired, in addition to having a strong safety record.” he said.
But, those who join Boyle typically stay. In 2017, the company had an internal turnover rate of just 11.9 percent (once retirements are factored out). “Keeping that number low is critical to us, since we have specific requirements in the hiring process,” said Lasko. “When we do hire drivers, we have a one-week orientation program that is very thorough, plus we assign a driver mentor. As for training, it goes from A to Z, and includes the Smith System driver training program. We will do classroom work, plus hands-on work in the yard. The orientation process is long, compared to other carriers, but we feel it prepares our professional drivers well for working with us. We also individualize our instruction during orientation. If we see an area where a driver might need more instruction, we then utilize driver training modules from CarriersEdge. For example, if a driver needs to develop more skills and knowledge in hazmat hauling, we can have the driver take that online coursework. CarriersEdge training modules are put together well. They are comprehensive, relevant, and keep the driver engaged. We know the driver will become more knowledgeable after finishing the course.”
Boyle started using CarriersEdge in 2016. “Prior to CarriersEdge, we had been using a video-based training program, but we felt the material was a bit dated and drivers weren’t engaged. They’d start to nod off. Then it seemed like the questions at the end were not well thought out…if your heart was beating you could answer the questions.”
Lasko said with the way CarriersEdge puts together its training modules - through animation, video and text, coupled with questions along the way - drivers stay engaged and “can’t help but learn. They can’t move forward unless they’re learning and comprehending the material.”
Lasko said Boyle Transportation takes full advantage of the mobility of CarriersEdge, and ease of administration. “CarriersEdge has a web-based log-in platform so our drivers can do coursework on the road via their company-issued smartphone, or at home. They don’t have to be at our terminal to complete a course,” he said. “Each quarter we will assign a module that fits with the season, or the company and industry trends we’re seeing. Last quarter, for example, we had our drivers go through the ‘winter driving’ module. We also assign other course work on an as-need basis. If we have drivers who will start going up into Canada, then we will have them go through the cross-border module.”
Lasko views tailored training and specific modules from CarriersEdge as a helpful tool with buy-in from drivers. “Our CSA scores have been coming down since implementing CarriersEdge - they’re close to perfect. Since using the training modules, our professional drivers are better versed in pre-trip inspections, cargo securement, and defensive driving. We haven’t had a DOT recordable accident in the past 14 months. We really do have a solid program in place and we are always trying to improve upon it.”
According to Lasko, some companies overdo training when a problem with a driver arises. “Training shouldn’t be punishment,” he said. “I know from past experience as a driver that no one wants to take training in areas where problems don’t exist. So, if a driver has an accident for example, why do a full-blown training program on material that is not relevant to the issue at hand? One size does not fit all. We do a deep dive to see what the issue was and concentrate on that. We will view video from our SmartDrive camera to understand what happened. Then we can coach the driver and assign CarriersEdge course work that addresses the issue, or do a combination, which includes in-house training. It’s more helpful that way and the training is targeted to correct an area that could use improvement. From a time-management standpoint, CarriersEdge is very streamlined and easy to administer. We save a lot of time and the results speak for themselves.”
Prior to implementing CarriersEdge in its arsenal of training tools, Lasko said he took several courses himself. “I was the litmus test,” he said. “Being a former driver, I know out-of-date and irrelevant training material only frustrates professional drivers. After evaluating the material, I knew it would be well received by our team. I think CarriersEdge has really hit a homerun in what they’ve put together. It’s worked out great for us.”
As for the horizon? Lasko said Boyle is in the process of adding its own customized content related to its specialized operations. "With CarriersEdge we have the ability to add training for company policies, procedures and equipment,” he said. “Their web portal makes it very easy for us to have a comprehensive, online program that is utilized, and just as important - liked -- by our professional drivers.”