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Excellent record highlights attention to driving safety

by Connie Lannan

Party Palace Rentals, Forest Hill, Md., has maintained a safe driving record over the years. That’s an achievement to be proud of, but Jim Shusta, safety supervisor, knows that record occurs only with continued focus.

“We are fortunate not to have experienced any serious accidents. There are, however, safety issues we struggle with, such as maneuvering a 24-ft. box truck in tight spaces. From low-hanging branches in rural and suburban areas to narrow streets in urban environments, we are mindful of the damage that can be done to both our equipment and the customers’ property. We remind our drivers and crew to pay special attention when delivering and setting up equipment in these areas,” he says.

To alleviate risks, Shusta makes sure all his drivers are trained and pass an evaluation. He also has monthly safety meetings. “We go over safe driving tips, from not driving while impaired by drugs and alcohol to staying focused. We also go over tips for extreme weather conditions and make a point to discuss driving safety during the change of seasons. And we discuss the dangers of aggressive driving,” he says.

Other steps include:

A cellphone policy: “All of our drivers have a cellphone so we can get a hold of them. To answer or make a call, the driver has to pull over,” he says.

A drug and alcohol policy: “We have an independent agency contracted by the company to do testing on a completely random basis, which is good,” Shusta says.

Spotters: “We normally have one or two other crew members go with the driver. We make sure that if there is overhanging vegetation in the driveway or in a tight area, one of the crew gets out of the truck to guide the driver,” he says.

Incident reports: “Any accident is reported and generates a report. We review it with everyone, going over the cause and action steps to prevent it from happening again,” Shusta says, adding that “if anything comes to us as far as a violation, we go over it with those involved as soon as it happens.”

Yearly driver reviews: “While the DOT [Department of Transportation] doesn’t require us to have CDL [commercial driver’s license] drivers, we are required to have a yearly review of our drivers, getting their MVRs [motor vehicle records] and ensuring they have their medical cards. If we have any problems, we mitigate those,” Shusta says.

The key is to “keep an eye on your drivers’ performance,” he says. “If they are not performing up to par, you have to fix it to keep everyone safe.”