Archive for category driver/company profiles

James Maltby Recognized with Patriotic Employer Award

By Jena Williams

Jim Maltby (left) is presented the Patriotic Employer Award by Gregg Bergstrom.

Jim Maltby (left) is presented the Patriotic Employer Award by Gregg Bergstrom.

The National Guard and military reserves are vital to the security or our nation. But as many reserve or guard soldiers will tell you, it can be tricky to schedule your day job around military service weekends. Sometimes those weekends can last 4 days; sometimes you can get called to active duty for a month or more. Understandably, this can make scheduling difficult for employers as well.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t it the law to allow employees to serve and isn’t their job protected?” The short answer to these questions is yes and yes. However, allowing and supporting do not mean the same thing. An employer that proactively supports the dedication of citizen soldiers is greatly appreciated.

James (Jim) Maltby, Director of Health, Safety, Security & Environment (HSSE) at Lynden Incorporated, the parent company over all the Lynden companies, is one such employer. Jim was recently recognized by the Office of the Secretary of Defense as a Patriotic Employer. This award recognizes employers that give high levels of support to their employees who are part of America’s National Guard or military reserves.

Jim was nominated for the award by Gregg Bergstrom, the Safety Director of Lynden Air Freight Inc. Gregg is in the Army Reserves and said he appreciates the times when he had last minute or unexpected orders and Jim’s willingness to work with him on those. Gregg said, “Jim always asks what he can do to help and goes out of his way to support you so that you don’t have to worry about your regular work when you are gone.”

As a veteran of the Air Force with 12 years of service, Jim believes former military to be some of the best trained and hardest workers out there. He and the Lynden family of companies encourage former military to become truck drivers through the Troops to Truckers program and stay involved in events that support the troops.

Thank you Jim for your support of your employees’ service in the armed forces.


More about Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve:

More information on Troops to Truckers:

When safety is a lifelong achievement

by Jena Williams

Mike Southards, Safety Director of Washington Trucking Associations

Mike Southards, Safety Director of Washington Trucking Associations

Because Mike Southards is a modest man, he did his best to refuse me an interview. I persisted. The Washington Trucking Associations (WTA) recently honored him with The Lifetime Achievement Award for Safety.

Years ago, Mike helped craft the award and determine its requirements so he claims he doesn’t qualify – that he was only doing his job, not doing anything extra like the other recipients.

Mike recalled former honoree Dave Kerns for his work training teens on visibility (or lack of) around trucks. Dave used to take a Haney big rig out to Yakima high schools, park a personal vehicle beside it and have the students climb in the truck to see how little there was to see. In many respects, Dave introduced the “No Zone Training” that is now known nationally. I wonder how many collisions were prevented and lives were saved by Dave’s work? Even though it is hard to quantify the impact on the lives of those teens, I’m sure most will agree that it was time well spent.

Mike described the efforts of Dennis Morgan to promote safety training from the North American Transportation Management Institute (NATMI).  He was the first to attain their Certified Director of Safety (CDS).

He remembered Jack Morris of Great West Casualty Co. and his volunteer work teaching and supporting safety classes from NATMI.  Jack willingly presented safety to anyone who needed a speaker or presenter, whether or not they were clients. Jack’s career has been spent molding the safety directors who follow in his footsteps.

You see, the impacts of improving safety are often hard to quantify. Counting injuries that don’t happen and deaths that don’t occur is not the same as counting widgets sold. Yet without healthy trucking workers, widgets can’t get from point A to point B. I’m glad we are honoring those who have dedicated their lives to keeping these workers safe.

When Mike joined the WTA as Safety Director in 1999, he, like the others, committed himself to improving the safety, and thereby the profitability, of the trucking industry. He may think he was just doing his job, but the impacts of his commitment to safety are widespread.

Mike has had a big impact – in 2002, he worked alongside others in the WTA to protect the motoring public and carriers from the liability of an impaired driver by strengthening rules surrounding positive drug or alcohol tests (See Chapter 272 pg. 1260). In 2006, they proposed and attained legislation to maintain fairness in the industry and protect the motoring public by removing carriers that break the rules that everyone else abides by (See Chapter 327, pg. 1498). In 2007, Mike and the WTA worked to improve the training required to become a professional truck driver and hold a CDL. As Mike noted, no one can learn enough to earn a CDL in 8 hours. Drivers need to be trained well so they don’t find themselves in situations they aren’t prepared to handle (See Chapter 419 , pg. 1941). These are just a few examples of Mike’s commitment to safety.

Additionally, Mike has worked to create a relationship between the trucking industry and the Washington State Patrol Commercial Vehicles Unit that is unparalleled in any other state. There is an open-door policy between the two where the Commercial Vehicles Division Chief gives out his card to those in the industry and tells them to call with questions or concerns. Ask around and you’ll see this doesn’t happen in other states – which is why Chief Batiste awarded Mike the coveted “Chief’s Coin” twice for his contribution to this relationship.

Through Mike’s outgoing personality and gift for remembering faces, names, and details about people, he brings the local industry safety people together. Curt Burhenn, WTAs’ Safety Management Council Chairman shared that Mike knows EVERYONE in the industry and that Mike is a walking-talking Federal Regulations book. “He’s like the internet, only a phone call away. If Mike hears you have a problem you can’t figure out, he’ll put you in touch with someone who just went through it.” Mike has a way of brightening the gloomy environment and stressful atmosphere that sometimes surrounds safety professionals.

So, thank you Dave Kerns, Jack Morris, Dennis Morgan, Mike Southards and all the other leaders in safety who have invested your time and talents in making the trucking industry safe. It might not be the same as counting widgets, but you are making a difference to each and every one of us that goes home safe.

Great safety directors come from companies of all sizes

By Jena Williams

Will Jones, Country Green Turf Farms

Will Jones, Country Green Turf Farms

If you assume the Safety Director of the Year must manage hundreds of drivers, think again! Some wear many hats in their company but still keep safety at the top of their list. Click here to read about Will Jones, the Washington Trucking Associations’ Safety Professional of the Year for 2015.

Hosting The Wall That Heals

By Jena Williams

American flag in foreground. The wall that heals in background

Interstate Distributor has a combined passion for safety and giving back to the community.

And as much as they commit to all of their employees arriving home safely, the company has a soft spot for soldiers who did not.

This week they have the honor of hosting “The Wall That Heals,” a 245-foot, half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC. More than 58,000 American soldiers died or were never recovered in the Vietnam War. Each name is remembered on the wall so their sacrifice will not be forgotten.

Mothers and widows were in the front row.

Mothers and widows were in the front row.

Many came to pay their respects.

All ranks were represented as many came to pay their respects.

The Truckload Carriers Association partners with the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund to bring the replica to veterans and families that may never get to see the original in Washington DC.

Finding loved ones.

Finding loved ones.

James Reed, Interstate Distributor

James Reed, Interstate Distributor

James Reed, CFO of Interstate Distributor, shared remembrances for Darrel Zane Wright, a soldier from his hometown of Port Orchard who died on February 6, 1968:  To see Sgt. Wright on the Wall of Faces:

Mike Southards, Safety Director at Washington Trucking Associations, found his classmate from Zillah High School, Russel E Butler. PFC Butler graduated in 1967 and was killed July 21, 1968. To learn more about PFC Butler:

Mike Southards pointing out Russel Butler’s name on the wall.

Mike Southards pointing out Russel Butler’s name on the wall.

The memorial travels with a mobile education center to share the story of the Vietnam War and educate all generations about the impact of the Vietnam War. Companies in the Truckload Carriers Association compete to donate their time and resources to transport the wall.

Interstate's dedicated matte black tractor "Honoring our Heroes"

Thank you to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund, the Truckload Carriers Association and Interstate Distributor for partnering to bring the replica to Tacoma, Washington.

Soldiers, whether active duty, veterans or families, we appreciate your sacrifice.


More information:

Interstate Distributor:
Interstate also has a Military to Commercial program to bring former military to work in the trucking industry.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund The Wall That Heals:

Truckload Carriers Association:

Safety Director shares how their company became a model of worksite safety and health

By Jena Williams

Gary Fitzmorris, Director of Safety & Compliance, Harbor Wholesale Foods

Gary Fitzmorris, Director of Safety & Compliance, Harbor Wholesale Foods

Thirty years at a family-owned company where you started out stocking shelves can give you a lot of perspective. You go from being the insecure, new kid to becoming a seasoned employee. You see personalities come and go, but most importantly, the company becomes your extended family. When Gary Fitzmorris took over as the Director of Safety & Compliance at Harbor Wholesale Foods he wanted more than safety rhetoric to protect this company.

Getting started

Gary looked for opportunities to mine the wisdom of workers and leverage the tools already available. At locations in both Lacey, Washington, and Roseburg, Oregon, he incorporated Keep Trucking Safe training materials and simulations into his new hire and refresher training programs. In Oregon, he took advantage of a specialized program designed by Oregon OSHA to develop an “exemplary injury and illness prevention program.” This required inviting their consultation program in and agreeing to correct all hazards they might find, among other requirements. Recently, in response to their dedication to safety, Harbor Wholesale Foods (Roseburg) was recognized as a model for worksite safety and health by the Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP)* administered by Oregon OSHA.

Getting buy-in

Gary believes employee involvement and management support is what makes their safety program successful. One program that was developed at their Oregon location and is soon to be implemented in Washington is the Bi-Quarterly Safety & Information meeting. He says each meeting is 5-15 minutes long and includes all employees on a shift. It’s designed to be an open forum for discussion of anything safety-related.

He admits that at first, the meetings were pretty quiet, but they just kept having them and over time ideas and suggestions started coming in. One example of a cheap and easy fix that came from a safety issue brought to the company’s attention through these meetings was the development of a reach hook. The problem was that when boxes got caught up on the gravity rollers, workers would need to climb up on the racks to get them to slide down. To prevent the need to climb and the resulting fall hazard, they engineered a reach hook so workers could stand on the ground while moving the merchandise forward.

Reach hook engineered and made in-house.

Reach hook engineered and made in-house.

Reach hook nudging a hung up box down the rollers.

Reach hook nudging a hung up box down the rollers.

Gary noticed increased engagement by the workers when they saw him make good on his commitment to address all issues or topics that are brought up and report back on the status at the next meeting.

Gary appreciates the very important role the safety committee has in identifying and addressing safety concerns at their distribution centers. He believes that the safety committee is the backbone of the safety program. Their safety committee is made up of a diverse group of employees representing all aspects of the operation. Safety issues identified by the committee are quickly assigned to be addressed by the person or department best suited for the topic. As with the Bi-Quarterly meetings all issues are followed up on. Supporting documents follow a reported issue from the time it is reported until it is reviewed at the next monthly safety committee meeting. This includes making sure the person who brought up the concern is informed of the resolution.

Before making a change

Gary and the safety committee run new equipment purchases and work methods through a change analysis (reviewing the pros and cons of the new method or equipment) to thoroughly consider changes before implementing them to make sure no new hazards are created. If there are new hazards discovered, they are carefully analyzed to determine if the change eliminates more risk than it creates. Every employee that works in the area or could be impacted is included in the change analysis.

The whole company wins when safety becomes a core value shared by everyone.

Free safety training materials are available at


*Not affiliated with Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program in Washington.

Tags: , ,

Have you considered a company-wide safety fair?

By Jena Williams

Charlie's Produce Safety Fair

Charlie’s Produce Safety Fair

The company safety fair used to be a common occurrence, but has fallen off in popularity recently. After participating in the company-wide safety fair at Charlie’s Produce, we would highly recommend that you try your own. It was a great time and a fun way to engage everyone in the importance of safety!

Charlie’s Produce held the fair at its Seattle location and was joined by the Portland and Spokane warehouse safety groups and transportation managers. About 200 employees including drivers, warehouse and office workers attended. Lunch was provided and the safety booths handed out raffle tickets that could be entered for cool prizes like a $500 gift certificate to the Great Wolf Lodge or an Xbox 360.

The “Why I’m Safe at Work” board was a highlight to me. Each person was asked to bring a picture, illustration or just write why they work safe and all the reasons were hung on the board. I saw family and Seahawks to name a few. What a great reminder that we all have a good reason to go home safely each day.

We brought our Keep Trucking Safe training simulations and popcorn. Other booths had information on orthotics for work boots, occupational health and chiropractic care, insurance, workers’ compensation and preventing injuries, health and wellness. The Charlie’s Produce transportation group trained or retrained on safe tire chaining – just in time for the weather to change!

The company safety fair is one more way to show your employees that their safety is important.

Share your ideas in the comments below.

Company president shares the pain of losing an employee to an on-the-job fatality

By Jena Williams

Lonnie “Homie” Olsen. Photo provided by Kathy Olsen and Tacoma Motorfreight Service from their celebration of his life.

Lonnie “Homie” Olsen. Photo provided by Kathy Olsen and Tacoma Motorfreight Service from their celebration of his life.

Lonnie “Homie” Olsen was a star employee who always put his customers first, and his customers loved him for it. Homie would joke that president Marty Johnson might own the company, but that he “Homie” was the CEO. He was a fast, efficient worker and a fun-loving practical joker who loved his job and his family. Homie had been with Tacoma Motorfreight Service (TMS) for 10 years when tragedy struck.

Marty shares that TMS is a family owned company that has never had even a crippling injury in their 100 years of service. That is until February 21 when he received the horrifying phone call.

Marty still can’t believe that it happened at all, much less to Homie. Homie was so good at his job that he was often the one to train new workers. He valued his customers so much that when the company gave Seahawks tickets out to the employees, year after year, Homie would take a different customer from his route. His customers were everything to him.

But something happened on that Friday night. Speculation runs that as he was hurrying to get home on the last day of the week, he noticed that he had left the landing gear down and in his haste forgot to set the parking brake when he went to crank it up. Without the parking brake, the slight grade was all it took for the truck to shift and roll. He was trapped between two trailers and killed instantly.

A co-worker, who was a former police officer, was the one who found him. He heard the music coming from Homie’s truck, saw the door open and in his gut, he knew something was wrong. Being a truck driver, the first thing he did was set the parking brake before he went back to find his friend and confirm that it was too late.

A few minutes later, Marty Johnson received the call that something had gone terribly wrong. As he rushed to the scene, he thought of Homie’s wife Kathy, who was also an employee of the company. What would he tell her? What would he tell the other employees? Theirs was a small, tight-knit company of 25. This would impact everyone.

Marty remembers the commotion of the scene and working with the local authorities to get someone to Homie’s house to tell his wife Kathy. As the minutes ticked into hours, he shared how he regretted not driving immediately to their home to give Kathy the news. It took the authorities too long as they lived outside the local jurisdiction. Finally the call came in on his cellphone. It was Kathy. She wanted to know why her husband hadn’t come home and hadn’t called and why no one was telling her anything. Marty still regrets breaking the terrible news over the phone.

He and other managers made call after call that weekend, delivering the news to each employee. Marty confided that he couldn’t bear the thought of sharing the news on Monday morning with the expectation that drivers would need to work all day after receiving it. Their company is a family and he knew they’d need time.

As Marty tells the story, you realize for him, there will never be enough time.


People make mistakes, but this is a good opportunity to remind your workers to always set their parking brakes. Here is a poster that you can print and hang to help as well:

Also use chocks when parked on an incline. Since a slight incline may be hard to detect, a best practice is to always use chocks.

Local company owner challenges the status quo and makes the job safer

By Jena Williams

Jack Belmont

Jack Belmont, Owner, Belmont Enterprises Inc.

To most of us, the status quo is comfortable and change is, well, less comfortable. But some people aren’t willing to accept that the status quo is as good as it gets.

Jack Belmont, owner of Belmont Enterprises Inc. in Tumwater, Washington is one of those people who doesn’t accept that how business has always been done is how it needs to continue.

Here are a few of the changes he’s made to make his company safer, both for his employees and for the motoring public.

Belmont Enterprises hauls raw glass sheets, known in the industry as “stoce.” Stoce sheets are hauled in nearly vertical stoce racks that traditionally were strapped into place by a driver that climbs a ladder to hook straps and place guards over the stoce.


Old method of attaching straps by climbing ladder, and reaching over sharp edges of (stoce) glass.

Old method of attaching straps by climbing ladder, and reaching over sharp edges of (stoce) glass.

Jack used to lie awake at night worrying that a worker would fall and slice themselves on the stoce. Then it came to him: there was no need to climb a ladder and to attach straps! He could design a system of permanently attached straps that could keep the worker off of the ladder.

Jack’s system is now in place and works perfectly. Using an aluminum rake, a worker can manipulate the straps and lift the guards into place while standing on the trailer bed.

Aluminum rake for adjusting straps

Swivel top, no ladder, tie down system is adjusted using an aluminum rake from trailer bed level.

Aluminum rake also lift stoce guards

Aluminum rake also lifts stoce guards into place.

Jack also listens to his employees when it comes to how to get the job done safer. There’s nothing more frustrating and harder on the shoulders than when a trailer curtain get snagged up. One day a driver suggested to Jack that it would be better if there were sleds on the top of the stoce rack to keep the curtain from snagging. The employee made wooden ones to test and Jack created the aluminum ones. The sled is another simple solution that saves time and prevents injuries.

Sled suggested by an employee of Belmont to prevent the trailer curtain from snagging on the stoce rack.

Jack is also willing to go above and beyond to protect the motoring public. He shared that a standard load of stoce is strapped to the frame with just two straps. He notes that so many things can go wrong in a scenario with just 2 straps. If one strap loosens in transit or if a driver forgets one of the stoce guards, the load can be lost on a public highway.

First, Jack addressed this scenario by adding a cut-proof cable to the tops of his straps. Then he went even further by challenging a general belief in the glass hauling industry: most companies stick with 2 straps because they believe that the glass needs to be able to flex in transit or it’ll break. Jack tested a third strap. It worked great and now they have the extra insurance of a backup strap.

Early in his career, he assisted in the cleanup of a spilled load and was willing to do anything to prevent another. He didn’t give up until the problem was solved.

Safety doesn’t happen by accident. Thoughtful solutions are waiting to be found.

What solutions have you developed to make your job safer? Share them in the comments.

Link to more information on the swivel top, no ladder, tie down system:

Link to company profile on Jack Belmont:




Ever wonder what makes a company great?

By Jena Williams

Is it years of experience? Supportive management? A strong safety culture? Reputation? Yes, all these things are important, but the most important ingredients are the dedicated employees that make up the team.

Last Friday, I was privileged to have the opportunity to ride along with Jim Carter of Oak Harbor Freight Lines, Inc., to see firsthand how a truly professional truck driver gets it done. Jim’s been a truck driver for 25 years with the last two and half at Oak Harbor Freight Lines. Jim is meticulous in checking the load to prevent load shift, careful with his deliveries, friendly with all his customers and always on the go!

He has some advice to new drivers just starting out, “Always pay attention to your surroundings and the other vehicles, including other trucks on the road. Don’t trust that they won’t cut you off. “

Thank you again to the supportive management at Oak Harbor Freight Lines for giving me the opportunity to ride along with one of your best!

I’ll never stop being amazed by the variability of this industry, the complexity of the process and how hard you all work to make it look easy.

So many of us don’t realize the dedication of truck drivers to getting all we need, where we need it and on time.

So to the rest of the motoring public, from Jim and all the other hard working drivers out there – give them space on the roads.  Check out the No-Zone for more information on driving safe around trucks. Always remember that if you can’t see the driver in a mirror, the driver can’t see you.

FMCSA Share the Road Safely, No-Zones:

Drivers – We appreciate you!

By Jena Williams

This year, the National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is September 15-21. Even though we appreciate those “who bring it” all year, many companies are taking the opportunity this week to host special events to celebrate their drivers.

Will you be in Yakima, Washington this week? If so, be sure to stop in at the Gearjammer Truck Plaza*on Thursday the 19th for an event to celebrate drivers. They’ll be giving away burgers and prizes!

Many people don’t take the time to think about all the truck drivers out there whose job it is to bring us all we need in our daily lives. Truck drivers work much longer hours than most people, battle all kinds of weather on the roads and are hypervigilant drivers to protect those of us willing to risk our lives cutting them off in traffic. In the winter, they put tire chains on and off, sometimes multiple times a day, as they go over and back across the mountain passes. They are dedicated to doing good work and we truly appreciate them.

Do you have a story to tell about an awesome truck driver or trucking company? Please share it with us in the comments section. Employers – here’s your opportunity to brag about your drivers. We know you’ve got stories to tell.

Good stuff. Trucks Bring it. (Trucks driven by drivers!)

If you are not a driver, thank a driver. And give him/her a little extra space on the roads. Check out the No-Zone for more info:

Here’s a little something from to, well….Keep you safe!

*Gear Jammer Truck Plaza
2310 Rudkin Road
Yakima, Washington 98903-1609