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Safety first gives trucking firm edge in financial viability
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Scott Blevins cringes when he hears the words “an accident involving a big rig” on the evening news.

Part of his reaction is the fact he makes his living running a trucking company and serves as president of the California Trucking Association. Accidents are never good. But part of why he cringes comes from the assumption it plants in the minds of listeners that the truck driver automatically was at fault when that isn’t most likely the case based on accident statistics.

Not only that, but Census Bureau statistics for 2009 show that injury accidents are 17.6 more likely to involve passenger cars than big trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for 2009 show that 3,163 of the 33,808 people who died in traffic accidents did so in those mishaps involving big trucks.

Many accidents are attributed to drivers of passenger vehicles following too closely to the back of trucks, cutting trucks off, and sitting in blind spots for extended periods where the truck driver can’t see them while driving on freeways.

The California Trucking Association spends a lot of effort and time not only working with members to improve fleet and driver safety but also to educate the public.

The association and the California Highway Patrol before the Memorial Day weekend conducted a public service demonstration at the old Fresno Airport.

They had a loaded Mountain Valley Express truck weighing 80,000 pounds and a CHP unit roll down a runway side-by-side. When they reached a series of cones, both drivers applied their brakes. It took the truck 300 feet longer to come to a stop than the CHP patrol unit.

“Trucks can’t stop on a dime,” Blevins said.

Trucking firms such as Manteca’s Mountain Valley Express devote a good deal of time to accident avoidance. It is driven by as much a desire to make sure employees return home safely to their families at night as it is to save money.

Blevins noted that insurance premiums to cover catastrophic events have gotten so expensive that trucking firms routinely do the equivalent of self-insurance for minor accidents. That means relatively minor incidents such as fender benders and such are paid for by the company in a bid to keep insurance costs down.

And since broken mirrors and fender benders can add up quickly, the strategy is to drill drivers that safety comes first.

“We say safety pays,” Blevins said.

Blevins noted that accidents mean lost trips, lost work, and lost employee time. They are things a trucking firm can ill afford given the competitive nature of the business and operating margins.

Mountain Valley Express has consistently been a high finisher in California Trucking Association fleet safety contests for short haul carriers. The Manteca-based trucking firm also received the CHP’s first ever Safe Transportation Achievement Recognition (STAR) award in 2010 that goes to carriers that make safety their No. 1 priority in day-to-day operations.