Veriha Trucking has built a reputation for safety. Nearly half of their drivers are new to the industry and trained from the ground up. They conduct driver simulators twice a year and require drivers to complete monthly safety lessons. They recognize top performers and they invest in technologies to help make sure every driver comes home safely to their families. “As a training fleet, safety is our #1 value–that’s what we’re focused on,” says Karen Smerchek, President of Veriha Trucking. “This is an obligation without compromise. By making poor safety decisions, we could be out of business tomorrow.”
Veriha installed in-cab event recorders in 2013 after their safety director resigned and left the industry. “He got burnt out worrying about accidents, and it really took a toll on him,” recalls Smerchek. Another cause of stress was deciding whether to believe their drivers’ stories or not. Were they terminating someone who didn’t make a mistake? Or keeping someone on staff who was exhibiting risky behavior? “Cameras really tell us how to proceed. They brought a lot of peace of mind. The safety director doesn’t have to guess anymore. I feel like the stress of people within my safety team has decreased so much because they don’t carry the burden of deciding what happened; they get to take action based on what they have visibility to, and they get to see the truth through that camera.”
Five years later, Veriha switched to Netradyne’s Driveri safety camera solution for two main reasons.
1) The driver scorecard. Each driver receives a daily scorecard via mobile app for self-coaching, with an emphasis on positive recognition and extra points awarded for good driving. “Getting the data into a usable format for your drivers to see truly does wonders,” Smerchek notes, “and the drivers actually started some peer competition. Even though we don’t have a bonus [attached to the score], there are groups of friends challenging each other to improve their scores.”
2) Real-time alerts. These include in-cab alerts for performance coaching, and event alerts for managers. “Real-time alerts for behavior change is huge,” says Smerchek. “We all have bad habits and they’re not going to change overnight. If it’s an experienced driver, the roots of a habit are pretty deep. Many times the habits are so ingrained that the drivers don’t think they’re driving distracted until we show them the videos. With these alerts we have definitely seen an improvement in behavior change.”
Real-time alerts for behavior change is huge. We all have bad habits and they’re not going to change overnight.
— Karen Smerchek, President, Veriha Trucking
Driveri helps Veriha’s managers work more efficiently as well. First, drivers are self-coaching via the app. Next, managers are spending 50% less time reviewing videos because of the high accuracy of the analysis. Finally, the manager portal highlights trends like extreme increases or decreases to scores, which may signify a driver who is embracing the coaching, or a driver that’s having issues and needs support. Smerchek adds, “Most of the data we need can be found in the portal summaries.”
Many companies are understandably nervous to use driver-facing cameras. Smerchek’s perspective is, “When they key is on, it’s your office; when the key is off, it’s your home. We learned things that were happening in the cabs of our trucks that we never dreamed were happening. As much as it’s things that you probably don’t want to know about, you’re going to be a better fleet because you can see them, you can address them, and keep improving. Our goal is to coach, not to terminate.”
Smerchek advocates transparency during the hiring process and patience while new drivers adjust to the technology. They share exoneration testimonies among their drivers, and they encourage drivers to make them aware of opportunities for improvement. To maximize impact and efficiency, they chose to enable all available in-cab alerts and audio recording, and they instruct drivers to use the mobile app.
Smerchek says companies must decide what kind of culture they want. “It’s important to stay disciplined with coaching, build relationships with drivers, and provide positive recognition. It’s like a bank account – you can’t make a withdrawal unless you have sufficient deposits.” For Veriha, cameras are a tool they use to create a safety culture. “You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” she adds. “My insurance provider is well-aware of the cameras and our overall safety culture. They were wowed by everything we were doing to truly impact and improve.”
It’s important to stay disciplined with coaching, build relationships with drivers, and provide positive recognition. It’s like a bank account – you can’t make a withdrawal unless you have sufficient deposits.
— Karen Smerchek
Veriha Trucking is a truckload carrier located in northeast Wisconsin. The 41-year-old fleet of 250+ drivers mainly travels throughout the Midwest and Northeast for a variety of customers and industries, hauling paper products to groceries, produce, petfood, auto parts, and more. As a training fleet, they have an academy & apprenticeship program, bringing new drivers into the industry by training them from the ground up. They are a 2019 TCA Fleet Safety Award Winner.