Businesses of any size and complexity may see a Safety Management System (SMS) to be costly, too much paperwork and that it takes too much time to administer. This may apply to trucking operators, air operators, construction operators and other businesses. It is correct that SMS requires human and financial resources, it takes paper files to document and it could easily be more work than what the organization is capable of.
In a small trucking company the owner is also running the truck, is the manager, bookkeeper, mechanic and takes on other tasks required to operate. At times there isn’t enough time in the world to keep up with all these responsibilities, and let alone to take on another comprehensive SMS tasks.
This time-constraint approach to justify operating without a safety management system or take short-cuts is a rush to judgement. Operators may assume that others “don’t know what it is like to operate a trucking company” and what it takes each and every day. All this is correct, and others may not know how multiple daily tasks are delegated between one person, or between multiple employees. However, the “blame the time” approach does not promote a healthy business.
How is then possible for operators to become successful when they are not capable of taking on a new task of safety management?
The key to success is to look for what makes the organization successful, then prioritize and work on these successful tasks. Regulatory compliance, safety oversight and customer service are ingredients for success. By focusing on these simple principles there is enough time to manage prioritized tasks.
In a few simple steps, let’s follow a process where a trucking operator did not have processes for safety or regulatory conformance. The outcome is based on a true story.
When heading out with this rig, legal capacity 80,000 lbs, the daily inspections were skipped, loads were regularly heavy over weight, brakes were not adjusted and driver log-book had no entries. Due to highway DOT control stations, the owner chose to travel back-roads to avoid scales, travel farther distances and constantly be on the lookout for DOT enforcement vehicles. These processes worked for a period of time. However, one day due to material fatigue of being constantly overloaded and travelled on less supportive roads, the tractor-frame caved in. That day the freight didn’t make it to the customer and the operator didn’t get paid for services. In addition, since the incident happened on an interstate overpass just a few miles north of a DOT enforcement station, it didn’t take long for highway enforcement to show up.
A successful business will remove obstacles, apply appropriate processes and move forward.
Processes applied by this operator did neither conform to regulatory compliance nor to customer service expectations. The issue is not if there is enough time to implement a safety system, but if the operators are willing to change processes to meet customer’s needs and expectations, and establish processes conforming to regulatory compliance.
As technology progresses, regulation changes and customers demand better service, businesses must change processes to meet these needs. This applies to any business, not just transportation operators. Several years ago some of the car manufactures did not change processes to meet the current needs and encountered financial difficulties.
Over time processes becomes obsolete and operators must be able to adapt to these changes.
There will be times when processes become obsolete and must be traded for other up-to-date process. The key to success is to apply processes to ensure regulatory compliance, safety oversight and meet customer’s needs.