It’s “wind season” right now in the transportation industry, which means drivers hauling wind turbine parts are out on the road and not as available for safety meetings. That’s why Ace Doran sends safety expert Paul Molnar out to meet the drivers in the marshalling yards where they haul and park the blades and towers before final delivery.
“In the wind industry, loads are sometimes scheduled in as little as two weeks out, so it can be a challenge to find where the drivers will be and meet with them,” says Paul, who is senior director of safety for Ace Doran. “With the help of our agent, we look for locations where we know there are going to be a bunch of Ace drivers. I make sure I am there at 7 a.m. when they start to trickle in and continue meeting with them throughout the day.”
Paul started his career as a driver, logging more than 1 million accident-free miles, and still holds his commercial driver’s license. “This permits me to better relate to the drivers and build positive working relationships with them,” he says.
On the trips to the marshalling yards, mostly in Texas, Iowa and Missouri , he holds a series of meetings that could be attended by anywhere from just a few drivers to more than 20 at a time. He may have as many as 4-5 meetings a day.
Sometimes, he will find a spot in the yard to conduct meetings, but he also offers to take drivers to lunch or dinner. Paul has just returned from a trip to a yard in Electra, Tex., where he was able to meet with 22 drivers. He ordered Barbecue dinner to be brought to the yard, enough for 30 people, and the drivers loved it, he says.
Paul’s meetings are well received by the drivers. “They don’t resist,” he says. “They know we are there to help them be successful. Drivers appreciate somebody being there. They want somebody to be out there on their behalf. I’ll even have drivers that want to come to a second meeting. They really appreciate getting the opportunity to talk to someone from management.”
Providing Support More Important than Presentation
Paul gives a presentation with a focus on prevention of incidents that result in claims and cargo damage, but his main purpose, he says, is to make sure the drivers know that he is there to provide support. “There are no conference rooms at these sites, so I’ll make hard copies of my PowerPoint, pass them around and get everybody in a circle,” he says. “But I do spend a lot of time addressing specific concerns and issues.”
What comes up in meetings is largely driven by the drivers. Paul’s role may be to:
- Answer questions about claims and incidents
- Provide advice about a specific safety concern
- Share recent incidents to raise awareness and how they could have been avoided
- Discuss a driver safety issue particular to wind, such as best practices for maneuvering a unit carrying a wind tower over an arch in the roadway without damaging the road
“I always start with the positives,” he says. “Some of these guys have some of the best CSA and driving records in the industry. The majority of them have perfectly clean records. My purpose is to make sure that they do not become complacent and take their good records for granted. I acknowledge them for their successes, and then I open it to feedback.”
Meetings Turn into Driver Safety Support Groups
Paul’s meetings often end up transforming into support groups, in which the drivers provide advice and guidance to one another, sharing close calls and challenges and how they have managed them successfully in the past. “Maybe there’s a site where a driver had a hard time making a turn and another driver, who has hauled to that site frequently, gives advice about what the less experienced driver needs to do next time,” Paul says. “In wind energy, towers and blades are delivered in sets of three, so there is a lot of teamwork involved. They are all in it together, and what I see in the meetings is that they hold one another accountable, which is key.”