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2016 Innovator of the year: Transport America helps drivers weather the storms

Dodie Weikert remembers the air was “a bit cold” when she left St. Paul, Minn., going eastbound on Interstate 94, but the sky was clear and sunny. Weikert had planned to reach Chicago on the same day, Dec. 22, 2015, to deliver a hazmat shipment for Transport America.

As she passed Madison, Wis., the sky turned overcast, and 20 miles from Janesville, she received a weather alert through the in-cab computing system.

“We can keep (drivers) busy, out of harm’s way, and make them money, and still create a value to our customers that aren’t impacted – that is what we are trying to accomplish.”
– Greg Handwerk, vice president and general manager, Transport America’s One-Way Truckload group

The message warned of slippery icy roads from Janesville to Chicago on I-90, the road she was traveling. Weikert immediately started planning to stop at the Transport America Support Center in Janesville or, if weather permitted, continue to a truck stop in Beloit, Wis.

A few minutes later, her route intersected the storm front – it was like “hitting a wall,” she recalls. The overcast sky turned to a blinding snowstorm. A car in front skidded out of control. She no longer felt safe and went to the Support Center to shut down.

Weikert reported the situation to a fleet leader at Transport America and updated her arrival time for Chicago, assuming she could resume in the morning. Her fleet leader already was aware of the situation.

Fleet leaders receive email alerts when drivers are moving – or will be moving – into severe weather events. Customer service managers are alerted when loads are scheduled to pick up or deliver in an area affected by weather. This foresight makes it possible to contact shippers to reschedule, relay or reroute loads to avoid sending drivers into harm’s way.

Transport America has earned the distinction as the 2016 CCJ Innovator of the Year for developing a unique weather alert system that supports its culture and core values, starting with safety. It also helps to improve customer service and utilization in the face of disruptive events.

Check out the other parts of this series:

 

Commercial Carrier Journal’s editors recognize innovators throughout the year and select one for special recognition as Innovator of the Year. Innovators considered for the current award were those recognized in the magazine in 2015.

Innovation in any aspect of the operation is eligible for recognition. To qualify, the carrier must operate at least 10 power units in Classes 3-8 and maintain a satisfactory safety rating, if rated. Selection of innovators for recognition is at the sole discretion of CCJ’s editors.

This year’s award was announced and presented at the CCJ Innovators Summit, a networking event for current and previously recognized innovators held Feb. 3-5 at the Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. Representatives of innovative trucking operations updated one another on their initiatives.

The CCJ Innovators program is sponsored by Freightliner Trucks, PeopleNet and Shell Lubricants. For more information on the program and links to previously recognized innovators or to fill out the online nomination form, go to www.ccjinnovators.com or contact Jeff Crissey, CCJ editor, at 800-633-5953.