Staying safe in unprecedented times: Q&A with Jim Ledbetter, Safety Manger

September 28, 2020 Casey Nighbor

2020 has proven to be a difficult year for everyone and the trucking industry is no exception. The last few months have been very trying for drivers, but no matter what safety is always a priority. We chatted with Centerline's safety manager, Jim Ledbetter, about how drivers can stay safe now and always. 

1. How should you prepare drivers for peak season?

I think drivers need to prepare for peak season by really being aware. Not only do they need to be aware of general driver safety, but also what’s going on with the pandemic and all of the social distancing and hygiene protocols that go along with that. Right now, with everything opening back up, there is the very real possibility of more spikes across the country. Many drivers come into contact with multiple people throughout the day doing their job and need to make sure that they are being safe.

I also think that we are going to continue to see more and more traffic. People have been stuck in the house all summer and are looking to get out. Freeways, roadways and parking lots that drivers are on will start to be busier with automotive and pedestrian traffic. Couple that with the fact that people aren’t paying as much attention after not driving for so long. Drivers need to be really paying attention and being aware of their surroundings on the road.

Currently, I’m telling drivers that in addition to being socially distant from people, they need to be social distant drivers. Stay away from packs of cars and use the lane of least resistance to avoid traffic-related accidents. Giving yourself space and being a defensive driver means you can avoid the chance of an accident.

Overall, drivers need to be really focusing on the basics. Pay attention to traffic, prioritize safety on the road, minimize distractions, follow COVID-19 guidelines and general hygiene/cleanliness guidelines.

2. What’s the one thing you wish more drivers would do to increase safety?

The biggest thing I wish more drivers would pay more attention to are pre- and post-trip inspections. It’s something that a lot of drivers skip over or do quickly without paying much attention to the details of their truck. However, doing them can avoid a lot of problems. Not only do they avoid violations, but they can also avoid break downs and even collisions. They really a non-negotiable part of the job.

3. What safety violation or injury is most common among drivers that you see?

Lately, we’ve seen a lot of pallet jack and pallet-related injuries. Although you may not think of it, pallets are frequently the cause of workplace injuries. To avoid pallet injuries, you should never use them as a stepping stool, avoid stacking them on their sides and walk around them instead of over them

For pallet jacks, drivers need to be trained or certified to use them. If you are not experienced with pallet jacks, you should not be using them.

4. How do you think COVID-19 has impacted the life of a truck driver and our customers?

I think that everyone has a newfound respect for truck drivers after COVID-19. I really think that more people appreciate what drivers do. At every truck stop, I’ve seen signs thanking truck drivers. I think this pandemic has increased recognition and awareness of drivers and how important they are to our daily lives.

For drivers, I think this pandemic has made them aware that they need to be more well-rounded in their specialties and abilities. You can’t just be a flatbed driver or a refrigerated truck driver. At any time, the market can change and you need to be able to go where the business is.

For our customers, I think it’s taken a toll on a lot of operations. But it’s really varied depending on the type of business. Some have really taken a financial hit because their products aren’t in demand right now. For our clients with essential businesses such as grocery stores and medical suppliers, their workload has ramped up quite a bit.

5. What recommendations or best practices do you have for employers to ensure their drivers stay safe as we head into a holiday season and a new year?

The holiday season is always really busy for drivers and also a time of increased traffic. Like I said previously, making sure that you perform a pre- and post-trip inspection is a surefire way to mitigate many issues before they become real problems.

For people who are hiring or looking for drivers, don’t take any shortcuts. You want to hire drivers who are going to take ownership and accountability for their jobs and their safety. Don’t settle for a less qualified driver. If your gut is telling you that this is the wrong person for the job, they most likely are. It may take a little more time but qualified drivers are out there.

If you are struggling to find qualified drivers, contact Centerline to see how we can help. Or download our solutions eBook to learn more. If you’d like to learn more about safety trends and best practices, click here

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