Rocha Transportation, Modesto, California, and Roehl Transport, Marshfield, Wisconsin, were named the grand prize winners of the TCA's 33rd Annual National Fleet Safety during the convention's Annual Banquet and Awards Dinner. The competition recognizes companies that have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to safety.

Rocha Transportation won the award for truckload companies with a total annual mileage under 25 million miles; Roehl Transport for companies with a total annual mileage more than 25 million miles.

The two grand prize winners were selected from among 18 division winners.

To receive the top awards, a company has to demonstrate that it strives to meet stringent standards in its overall safety programs, on and off the highway, and be judged to be the best in its commitment to improving safety on the nation's highways.

Rocha Transportation

For Rocha Transportation, the basis of an outstanding safety program begins with a total commitment to safety, starting at the highest levels of the company. “The day we stop operating safely is the day that I will shut the doors and we'll go home,” said Henry Dirksen, president of Rocha Transportation.

This philosophy is carried from senior management to the driver level, where drivers are “fanatical about safety.”

Drivers have monetary incentives to be safe. They are offered quarterly and annual safety bonuses that can exceed $1000 per year.

Drivers are told from the very first day of employment that an unsafe company doesn't generate a profit and their pay will be directly affected by Rocha Transportation's safety record.

“Our drivers understand that the money used to pay claims could be better used to reward their hard work with pay raises and bonuses,” stated Rocha Transportation's award application. “Our drivers have seen their compensation package increased every six months for the past four years, and know it's due to their outstanding safety record. We expect that trend to continue.”

The company is willing to spend money to make sure its drivers have all the tools they need to be safe. In 2008, 2.5% of the company's annual budget — or about $275,000 — was allocated to safety-related activities.

When a driver does have an accident, the unfortunate experience is turned into a learning tool for future accident prevention. The driver receives counseling and retraining as necessary, and is given a summary of exactly how much the accident cost the company. This eye-opening experience is often humbling to the driver and acts as a future deterrent.

Above all, drivers must demonstrate that they have learned from the experience and are not likely to make the same mistake again, or else there's a good possibility of losing their job.

Roehl Transport

Roehl Transport doesn't feel that safety “program” adequately describes the company's commitment to safety. Rather, it has successfully created a safety culture built around safety as every employee's deepest value.

A “value,” as described in Roehl Transport's award application, is: “a deeply held belief beyond compromise … that doesn't change based on the circumstances of the moment.” Thus, regardless of the priorities that might arise during a given truck driver's day -- perhaps a hot load that must be delivered or an impending snowstorm that is bearing down on the driver's location -- safety must always trump all.

While many trucking companies provide defensive driving courses to their drivers, Roehl Transport's driving system, called “The Roehl Way,” is billed as “protective driving.”

“To drive defensively imparts an ‘us versus them’ mentality, with the focus on not allowing ‘them’ to harm us,” explained the company's award application. “Protective driving, on the other hand, is a team philosophy where each driver accepts responsibility for others who share the highway.

“We see it as an opportunity to protect the welfare of the others, who in the end are our own family, friends, and loved ones. We put the lives and safety of people first, before dollars, or time schedules, or whose fault it was.”

The Roehl Way driving course is attended by both drivers and non-driving staff so they can interact and receive the same consistent message.

The beginning of the course provides a highly interactive focus on the ethics of the professional driver, which gives participants the ability to draw their own conclusions about values and hold safety as a personal value. The rest of the course involves participants identifying what safe driving behaviors are essential for a person to be considered a safe driver.

“Because the participants themselves identify the behaviors that constitute safety, they more readily adopt them and understand the necessity of living their value of safety by performing the correct behaviors all the time -- in other words, not compromising on safety,” the application stated.

Roehl Transport's core safety values are paying off. The company has been consistently ranked as the safest large carrier (for US miles only) through the DOT's SafeStat reporting system.

Evaluation method

The judging process for TCA's National Fleet Safety Awards begins with the determination of the top companies in each of six mileage divisions. The division winners are selected based on accident frequency only. The top three winners in each division then compete for the two grand prizes.

The grand prize-winning companies are judged on their overall safety programs. Among the factors considered: safety program organization, employee driver/independent contractor selection procedures, training, supervision, accident investigation, inspection and maintenance of equipment, and outside activities, including general highway safety.

In an effort to ensure the highest level of integrity to the contest, all grand prize finalists are audited by independent auditors not affiliated with TCA or the carrier.

Divisional winners

The companies selected as the top divisional winners, listed first through third place, were:

  • Division I, Under 5 Million Miles
    Rocha Transportation, Modesto, California
    Crown LSP Group, Rocky Mount, North Carolina
    Frerichs Freight Lines, Belleville, Illinois
  • Division II, 5-14.99 Million Miles
    Stone Belt Freight Lines, Shoals, Indiana
    Glass Operating Group, Newkirk, Oklahoma
    Landstar Gemini, Jacksonville, Florida
  • Division III, 15-24.99 Million Miles
    Stagecoach Cartage & Distribution, El Paso, Texas
    Witte Brothers Exchange, Troy, Missouri
    CRST Dedicated Services, Birmingham, Alabama
  • Division IV, 25-49.99 Million Miles
    MacKinnon Transport, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
    Freymiller, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
    Kennesaw Transportation, White, Georgia
  • Division V, 50-99.99 Million Miles
    Carter Express, Anderson, Indiana
    Landstar Inway, Jacksonville, Florida
    Navajo Express, Denver, Colorado
  • Division VI, 100+ Million Miles
    Bison Transport, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
    Roehl Transport, Marshfield, Wisconsin
    Hogan Transports, Bridgeton, Missourin