Safety performance and the financial bottom line

By Robert Sumwalt

Member Robert Sumwalt (center) with Jetco Delivery driver, Stafford Wilson (left) and Jetco president, Brian Fielkow (right).
Member Robert Sumwalt (center) with Jetco Delivery driver, Stafford Wilson (left) and Jetco president, Brian Fielkow (right).

 On May 29, I was honored to participate in the Houston Transportation Safety Day. The event was sponsored by Texas Trucking Association, Port of Houston, Jetco Delivery, and Great West Casualty Company.

 The event was attended by leaders and customers of Houston’s transportation community, and discussion topics centered on building a culture of safety and the critical role of leadership in ensuring safety. Brian Fielkow, president of Jetco Delivery, affirmed that good safety translates into good business – one that can be felt on the company’s bottom line.

 Jim Schultz discussed his real world experience with turning around the safety practices of a large trucking company – one that ultimately lowered OSHA reportable injuries by about 76% and reduced workers’ compensation payouts by over $70 million per year. We’re talking real dollars saved!

 To put a finer point on the relationship between safety and the financial bottom line, I highlighted a domestic auto manufacturer’s recall of 14 million vehicles this year. So far, estimates place these recalls at costing nearly $2 billion, including the highest fine in US history for a set of recalls. These financial figures say nothing of the potential loss of goodwill to the company, either.

 So, yes, real world experience bears out that good safety performance translates to good business.

 But, there is a human side to safety, as well. Stafford Wilson, a 24-year veteran truck driver, told the audience of over 100 attendees: “For a driver, safety is everything. It is the most important part of our job. Everything we do is to not only protect ourselves and our livelihood, but we’re also aware that the public’s safety is in our hands, and protecting others on the road is part of what we do. At the end of the day, we want to go home to our families, just like everyone else.”

 As a driver, Stafford also recognized that good safety means good business, which translates to job security. He noted that transportation companies with good safety performance keep their existing customers happy and attract new customers.

 If you’ve been one to think safety and financial performance are dichotomous, think again.

Member_Sumwalt144x180Robert L. Sumwalt was sworn in as the 37th Member of the National Transportation Safety Board on August 21, 2006. He is a frequent contributor to the NTSB blog.

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