Safety program pays off

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It’s hard to miss one of CLI Transport’s bright red Freightliners pulling a sparkling clean matching trailer on the way to deliver to any of the 292 Sheetz convenience stores. Not only do the trailers attract new customers to the Sheetz stores, but they also serve as a billboard to drivers who are looking to further their driving career with a safety-minded employee-friendly company.

Just looking at the trucks, you know that CLI must be a great place to work. Not only does CLI have single digit turnover, they just won the American Trucking Association’s 2003 President’s Trophy for the small fleet division. (The other two winners were ABF Freight System, Fort Smith, Ark., and Pitt Ohio Express, Pittsburgh.)

How do you win a national safety award? “It might sound like a cliché, but it’s all about people. We have set high standards and won’t settle for less,” says Buddy Casado, president of Altoona, Pa.-based CLI, which has a fleet of 130 trucks and employs more than 300 drivers and support staff. Casado says safe driving is a mindset at CLI – part of the company culture that begins with the hiring and training process.

Much of CLI’s recruitment is via word of mouth. Truckers are initially attracted to the good-looking, well-maintained equipment with its award-winning trailer graphics. Once they look past the equipment, drivers find competitive compensation and a company that strives to provide a family atmosphere.

“We have mandatory 80-hour field and classroom training for every new hire regardless of past experience,” Casado says. The training includes five days in the classroom and three days in the field with an experienced driver. Casado meets all of the new recruits when they come to the home office for their classroom training. “Eighty hours of training is unusual for the industry, but it works well for us. We get buy-in from the drivers and they get on board with the safety program right from the start.” New drivers are often astounded at the training offered.

Monthly driver/safety meetings, annual safety awards, cash bonuses, recognition programs and a stable workforce enhance the overall safety mindset of his employees. They also wear company uniforms, have strict personal grooming requirements and drive trucks that are washed daily. “Our drivers strive to meet or exceed our high standards for safety and customer service,” Casado says. “It’s great to see our drivers and staff recognized with awards of this magnitude at a national level. They deserve this recognition because they are the ones that make it happen.”

Winning national safety awards is not by accident. It’s a result of creating a company culture where safety is part of the mindset of every employee.