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Driver Safety as a Value: A Q&A with Trimble’s Gary Falldin

Safety is critical for every fleet and every driver on the roads. Drivers are the lifeblood of the supply chain, and keeping them and the public safe is one of the most essential values that every transportation organization should strive for. Accidents can not only be harmful to the individuals involved, but can also result in financial losses, shipment delays and recruiting issues.

To discuss more about how every fleet and business can embrace safety as a core value throughout their organization, we sat down with Gary Falldin, Trimble’s senior director of industry solutions.

Tell us about your role with Trimble and your career experience in the industry.

I am in the Industry Solutions Group for Trimble, where I use my first-hand industry experience to really examine how we at Trimble can make drivers safer, more productive, and compliant. I look at everything we do from the viewpoint of the driver – are our solutions intuitive and easy for drivers to use? A driver’s job is to drive the truck, be safe and make a living for their families. So, we have to make sure that everything we’re doing enables them to succeed.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about what safety professionals need. We’re looking to see that all the bases are covered as far as accident investigation, coaching, and making our solutions as easy as possible for the back office to use, and also helping drivers to learn where they could improve, and to help coach them.

I’ve been in the industry since I was 17. I started out unloading trailers at UPS and worked my way up in UPS for 25 years, driving a package car, moving up to supervisor and eventually division manager. I was division manager for all of the Iowa hubs, and then I oversaw the Earth City hub operation, which was the ninth largest hub division that UPS had at the time. After that I was responsible for all the West region hubs. I moved around a lot for UPS and eventually made the tough decision to leave the company and settle back in Minnesota where I went to work for Transport America as their vice president of safety, security and driver onboarding. Eventually I joined Dart Transit as their vice president of safety, security and driver onboarding before coming to Trimble.

I’ve also always been very involved in industry trade groups – I’m currently on the Leadership Committee for the Minnesota Trucking Association, and recently served as the chair of the MTA Safety Committee. I’m also on the Regulatory Policy Committee and the Highway Policy Committee for the Truckload Carriers Association, the Safety Policy Committee for the American Trucking Association and the Safety Committee for the National Private Truck Council. Additionally, I’m serving a two-year term on the American Transportation Research Institute’s Research Advisory Committee, and I’m on the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s Regulatory Affairs Committee.

I stay active with all of these groups because I want to stay focused and in touch with the industry. I strongly believe that you must be in the industry, talking to people and finding out what’s important to drivers and carriers, in order to deliver the right solutions that will work for them.

What are you and your team working on right now?

Right now, we have a heavy focus on finalizing our new in-cab platform, Instinct. We’re very focused on delivering an industry-leading product that will make customers’ jobs easier and we want to make sure that it’s as intuitive as possible for drivers and back-office staff to use.

There’s a lot that goes into that, and we’re well on our way. We are currently going through the back-office lifecycle and looking at how we set it up properly for drivers. We have some drivers who are testing it out now. It’s exciting to get feedback from them and to continue to tweak the platform to meet the needs of the drivers we serve.

You clearly have a deep background in driver safety – tell us about your approach to driver safety at Trimble.

Safety is a value, and it starts with culture, rolls into teamwork, is driven home in training and reinforced with technology.

The way I look at it, to really have strong safety at a trucking company, you need to go at it from several different angles. It always starts with culture; you have to have a good safety culture. Culture is shared values, shared beliefs, and accepted patterns of behavior. So, a safety culture is shared beliefs on the importance of safety, and accepted patterns of behavior. That way, everybody’s thinking the same way and we can talk about safety as a value versus just a priority.

I would never say safety is a “priority” because priorities can change. A priority this month might be idle time, but then next month your priority may be something else entirely. But if safety is a deeply held value, you’re not going to change it.

And then it goes to teamwork, which means that operations and every other team is talking the same language and doing the same thing as far as safety. So often there is a division between safety and ops, but you really need operationally-driven safety, with ops talking to the drivers constantly. We want Operations and Safety speaking the same language when talking with drivers. So for example, if someone says, “lean and look,” everybody knows that means to lean and look over the hood of the truck towards the right steer tire to make sure there’s not a car tucked in the blind spot.

Training truly needs to be ongoing. Throughout a driver’s career there’s constant training that has to be done, and monthly training that everyone goes through, including operations, safety and drivers.

There is much technology on trucks now -- collision mitigation, electronic roll stability, traction control, lane keep, video intelligence, lane departure warnings, automatic transmissions and more are becoming the norm. The use of technology must be an integral part of safety.

What steps do you and the Industry Solutions Group take to ensure that Trimble’s solutions are contributing to a safety-first culture?

We really look at the technology Trimble offers and examine if there is anything we can do to improve upon it to make it better for drivers and the backoffice. One example is the use of technology to allow drivers to use yard moves. The FMCSA had given drivers the option to use yard moves in yards that were not open to the public. The problem was that carriers needed to audit all yard moves to insure it was used properly but did not have the staffing necessary to complete that many audits.

Drivers hated having to count yard moves toward their drive time – they knew the regulation from FMCSA was out there which allowed yard moves. So, we are adding a way for carriers to geofence approved locations where yard moves could be used. Now, if a driver goes into a yard where it’s not approved, the option doesn’t pop up for them so they can’t use it. But if an approved location has been geofenced and confirmed, the option to use yard moves is available to the driver. This was definitely a driver satisfier.

How will driver safety evolve with the next generation of drivers?

I think the next generation of drivers is more comfortable with technology. They’re more accepting of it, and they understand how to use it. From collision mitigation to Video Intelligence, all that safety equipment has become more mainstream in trucking. Many new cars also have quite a bit of safety technology, so next generation drivers will already be used to it.

What that means for us is that we will be thinking through how we empower them to easily use technology on our devices, and do it safely. We also need to help facilitate effective communication with their company and family which is very important to drivers who are on the road for weeks at a time.

What role does safety (and safety-focused technology) play in the recruitment and retention of drivers?

Many things we do at Trimble help carriers improve their CSA safety scores, which have a direct impact on recruiting drivers. Beyond the altruistic value of safety, carriers are incentivized to be safe to help with recruiting and retention, because good drivers will look at their safety scores and join the carriers with good CSA scores.

Drivers know that better safety scores mean they will be pulled in less frequently for inspections which will help them be more productive and efficient by keeping their wheels moving, which means they can make a good living. If the wheels aren’t moving, many drivers aren’t getting paid.

By offering easy-to-use solutions, we can allow drivers to make the most of their hours of service. One example of how we make this happen is making it very easy to use our navigation system and ensuring that our navigation offering is best in class. It’s hard to turn a truck around if you go the wrong way, so we want drivers to go down the right roads the first time and be able to most effectively utilize all the hours they have. We also improved split sleeper berth in our ELD solution – that’s a confusing one for many drivers, so we help them set that up properly.

A concern I have is getting too far removed from the industry and starting to forget some of the best practices in safety and compliance. I have always made sure to take detailed notes of the best practices I had in safety and compliance, noting all the little things that worked. There are a million best practices in those notes. I want to make sure I stay connected in the industry, which is why I sit on so many advisory and regulatory committees to keep hearing about what’s going on and what the next problem to be solved is.

I’m thankful to be able to work on such an integral part of every trucking company’s business and remain connected in the industry where I can ensure we’re always moving the needle forward and making things safer and easier for everyone involved.

To connect with Gary and find out how Trimble can help your fleet embody safety as a value throughout your organization, contact us today.