“When did you get hurt?” may be the response when you mention safety consciousness. Injuries can have long-term—even career-ending—consequences. An injury was the impetus for Phoenix Truck & Crane to build its rigorous safety program.
Bill Dick founded Phoenix 30 years ago. An owner operator, he experienced companies’ poor treatment of professional drivers. It didn’t sit well with Bill, so he started his own company with the credo that drivers would be respected. From one truck, Phoenix has grown to a fleet of more than 150 owner operators and company-owned cranes.
Trucking has changed since Bill started Phoenix, as has the area around the company’s Coquitlam base. Growth in BC’s Lower Mainland meant high-end projects and higher professional expectations. All companies had to step up their game, including safety practices. Phoenix was there and played a role in establishing the requirements for crane operators to be certified (Fulford Harbour Group Cranesafe Certification).
Bill’s son, Trevor, now the company’s vice-president, was injured in 2011 by a load-related fall. Fully engaged in the industry’s growing emphasis on safety, Bill gave Trevor a blank cheque to create a new safety program, one second-to-none. Trevor found a new calling. He notes that “pain and suffering motivate people to watch out for everyone else.” He developed an entirely new safety program and attained COR certification in only four years.
Trevor acknowledges he had to overcome some resistance to the new safety culture; push-back is common whenever you introduce change. Truck drivers tend to be rugged individualists but many veteran drivers embraced the changes immediately, having learned from experience how important safety is.
When it comes to the team or their loads, Trevor “doesn’t mess around.” There are no corners cut, no grey areas; the first instruction to new drivers is that rules will not be bent and doing so is reason for dismissal. The no-nonsense, practical approach protects drivers and assures clients of an impeccable safety record.
Owner operators undergo two days of training and orientation, including a truck inspection to ensure compliance with Phoenix’s requirements. Daily pre- and post-trip inspection reports exceed industry standards. Random monthly inspections are conducted in the field by a dedicated team whose sole job is to visit owner operators wherever they are. Where the industry used to be about telling drivers to “go there, figure it out,” now scout technical field team members assess sites to resolve problems and safety issues before the vehicle arrives. Phoenix drivers have a services department to support them and ensure no one is ever on their own. Regular monthly safety meetings (by phone during the COVID pandemic), memos, emails, and constant communication provide attaboys and continual learning. And Trevor is always available.
The safety program keeps up with the changing workforce. Millennials, not yet highly represented, are joining the transportation industry. Their expectations differ from previous generations’ — they expect more guidance and respect. Companies have to learn to engage them; one way is a safety program that ensures the company has their backs.
Phoenix has that aced. Their safety culture is enthusiastically embraced at all levels, says Sabrina Christie, Phoenix Sales & Marketing. “People are really proud of our program.” The company’s safety committee members happily proclaim themselves safety geeks, which makes Trevor the chief geek.
The results are safe operations, great reputation, repeat customers, good relationship with WorkSafe, and a happy workforce. And recognition: SafetyDriven’s Large Employer COR Award, 2016; SafetyDriven’s Health and Safety Innovation Award, 2016 and 2018; and four Phoenix drivers were recognized in SafetyDriven’s 2020 Driver Appreciation Week.
Phoenix’s safety program is a pledge to its workers, whether they drive a truck, operate a crane, or occupy a desk. It is summed up in the Phoenix Truck & Crane Occupational Health & Safety Manual: “The personal health and safety of each worker of this company is of primary importance.”