Innovators: Taking safety to the airwaves

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Carlisle Carrier Corp. invests in four-wheeler awareness.

Several years ago, Karol Kabroth, director of safety and claims administration for Carlisle Carrier Corp., noticed that many of her company’s accident claims originated close to home. Some of the crashes involved automobile drivers that had made poor driving decisions – pulling in front and stopping, hanging in the no-zone or not yielding when entering traffic from a ramp. “These people don’t know how to drive with us,” Kabroth says.

Although Mechanicsburg, Pa.-based Carlisle serves grocery warehouses from Maine to Virginia and west to Ohio, the carrier’s drivers face considerable traffic congestion in the local area. Mechanicsburg is virtually surrounded by Interstates 81, 581 and 83, U.S. 15 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. In addition, the local region boasts strong warehousing and trucking activities. The combination of busy, interchanging interstates and concentrated truck traffic meant that Carlisle could see claims from local accidents grow.

Rather than continue to face significant, and possibly growing, claims in the local region, Kabroth looked for a solution. When Carlisle faced accidents caused by the errors of its own drivers, the carrier, which operates approximately 150 trucks, had always taken prompt and aggressive action. For example, the company launched a driver awareness campaign when it noticed an increase of backing accidents. The GOAL campaign, for “Get Out and Look,” included buttons, decals, in-cab messaging, driver meetings, paycheck flyers and various other media.

The new challenge was different. The audience for Carlisle’s intended safety message was not its own workforce but the traveling public. In particular, Carlisle was concerned about local-area commuters who traveled the highway system on a daily basis and were more likely than through travelers to exit and merge – activities that increased the risk for crashes.

Kabroth quickly settled on her media of choice. “I picked television in hopes of getting the messages out to the public in a short time,” she says. Kabroth decided that quick safety tips to help automobile drivers understand the operation and limitations of large trucks would be the way to go. So she worked with two Harrisburg, Pa., television stations to formulate a plan.

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Using primarily voiceovers, text and footage shot when Carlisle ran driver recruiting advertising on television, the 15- to 30-second safety tips, courtesy of Carlisle Carrier Corp., would run following the news throughout the day – morning, afternoon, evening and late evening – every day of the week for one week of the month. Ads every day of the month would be too expensive, and Kabroth thought that a more saturated message for one week each month would be more effective than spreading the ads out.

But Kaboth’s budget didn’t accomodate the ads’ $1,000-a-month cost. Her first strategy was to invite other trucking companies in the region to participate, but they weren’t interested. “They wanted to make it into a recruiting ad, and that’s not what this is

Targeted at car drivers, Carlisle Carrier Corp.’s TV campaign offers tips on how to safely share the road with large trucks.

about,” she says. So Kabroth approached Carlisle owners Dave and Cookie Metzler about spending $12,000 a year for the ads. The Metzlers immediately said yes. Kabroth was not surprised. “The owners backed me 100 percent. They put safety before everything.”

Kabroth began assembling the tips, relying on authoritative safety information about sharing the road with trucks. But first, she spoke with Carlisle drivers about what unsafe practices they saw on a daily basis.

The top complaint was automobile drivers who sped down on-ramps, expecting trucks to move into the left lane for them. That concern led to a spot warning automobile drivers that often truck drivers can’t change lanes to accommodate yielding on-ramp traffic because it would be dangerous for them to do so.

Another ad warns automobile drivers not to cut off trucks in passing or merging situations because of how long it takes a truck to slow down. Other tips include warnings to steer clear of blind spots and to leave at least two car lengths between the car and the truck. Kabroth continues to talk with drivers about the problems they see, and she also draws on her daily experience commuting in the congested I-81 corridor.

Kabroth believes the ads have helped Carlisle control its accident claims in the local area, although the connection is hard to prove. But she sees other clear benefits as well. The campaign has received favorable comments from the general public and from truck drivers. “People have called who want to drive here because of the safety tips,” Kabroth says. And Carlisle has been asked by the state public utilities commission and the state police to provide trucks for use in other educational and training initiatives.

The concept is slowly catching on. Kabroth says that the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association recently agreed to kick in funds so that PMTA’s South Central Chapter can expand the safety tip advertising in the Harrisburg area and build a website. Kabroth is encouraging other PMTA chapters to launch similar efforts.

Reaction to the safety tips hasn’t been universally positive. Sometimes people who hate big trucks vent to her and others at Carlisle because the carrier has chosen to raise its profile. When that happens, Kabroth sends them more information about sharing the road with large trucks.

Innovators is a new department profiling carriers that have found innovative ways to overcome trucking’s challenges.

Do you know a carrier that has used an innovative approach in any area from financial management to driver recruitment? If so, contact Avery Vise at [email protected] or (800) 633-5953.