For truck drivers hauling petroleum and pressured products, the business has changed a lot over the past few decades. More regulatory requirements have increased the need for training and documentation, while the number and types of products being transported has increased exponentially.
“There used to be just three grades of gas and three grades of diesel to keep track of, but now we’re hauling those as well as all kinds of custom-blended fuels, which makes the job more complex,” says Jim Haubrich, a 30-year veteran driver, 17 with CHS Transportation, who’s based in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Very specific procedures need to be followed to ensure product quality and integrity, as well as the safety of both the driver and the public, he says. “One small mistake along the way could end up being very costly.”
Knowing that all drivers are following proper procedures when handling and delivering petroleum products has always been important to CHS, from both safety and business standpoints. To improve on existing training processes, the company decided to leverage one of its greatest assets – the knowledge and experience of its drivers.
“Several years ago, we established a 10-member driver safety committee to help us refine our procedures and driver training, based on input from the people who worked with it every day,” explains Patrick Hessini, vice president, CHS Transportation and Distribution. “It’s a unique group because it’s driver-led. They bring up issues we might not have been aware of otherwise, along with providing feedback on new safety initiatives before they’re implemented.”
The group has also taken it upon themselves to be teachers and trainers for new drivers, to provide coaching and model best safety practices, he adds.
Committee members are elected by their peers from the roughly 400 drivers employed by CHS Transportation, with each geographic region represented. They talk monthly and meet in person four times a year, often with a full agenda.
“We usually start by reviewing incident reports across the system, looking for any issues that need to be addressed on a broader scale,” says Haubrich, who serves as committee chair. “From these discussions, we’ve made recommendations about things like adding check valves, grab handles or additional lighting to the trucks, and they’ve been implemented. They may seem like small things, but they can make a driver’s job safer and more efficient.”
With a total of 112 years of driving experience at CHS between its members, the driver safety committee helped to refine more structured training for new drivers, including the use of regional trainers and local field trainers that are all experienced drivers currently employed with CHS. “These trainers take new drivers on the road for the first several weeks on the job, explaining polices and processes, modeling good safety procedures and completing daily checklists and performance ratings,” explains Haubrich. “Now, it doesn’t matter where that new driver is based in the country. They’re getting the same training and learning all the same information and procedures as every other new driver within the CHS Transportation system.”