Archive for category return on investment

Are electric pallet jacks worth the investment?

By Jena Williams

Electric pallet jack

Electric pallet jack

Recently we were contacted by Bill Smith, Safety and Compliance Manager at Brown Line. They were considering replacing some of their manual pallet jacks with the electric equivalent because they wanted to prevent injuries to their drivers. Bill asked to partner with us because he wanted hard numbers to determine if the safety tradeoff was worth the financial investment.

Keep Trucking Safe staff, including Stephen Bao, one of the ergonomists on our team, met Bill and his team at their loading dock in Mount Vernon to collect data on forces involved in using pallet jacks that were carrying loads ranging from 1,500-2,500 lbs. Stephen used a biomechanical modeling method to calculate load forces on different body parts of the worker during various tasks.

The tasks studied included pumping the pallet jack, pushing or pulling the jack to get it moving, and turning the jack both in the grooved trailer and in the warehouse. Stephen also measured the forces involved in pulling/pushing the pallet jack with a 1,500 lb. load over the dock plate (threshold heights of 2.5 and 5 inches).

As you might assume, these tasks were quite effortless when performed using an electric pallet jack.

Of the tasks tested, the most stressful on the body was pulling the manual pallet jack out of the trailer and up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate. This task was rated at so high a risk to the wrist, elbow, shoulder and ankles by the biomechanical analysis software that likely no one in the general population can perform the task without some injury to these body parts. There was also significant pressure placed on the low back.1

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate.

Pulling the manual pallet jack up the 5 inch incline of the dock plate requires 175 lbs. of force.

The next most difficult task was turning a loaded pallet jack inside a trailer with a grooved floor. This task produced a very high risk of injury to the knee, ankle and wrist with a 2,000 lb. load. Lighter loads significantly reduced the injury risk.

If the decision to use electric or manual pallet jacks were just one of injury risk, electric pallet jacks would definitely be the way to go, but as we know there is more to the story.


There is no force on the body to maneuver a fully-loaded electric pallet jack.

Electric pallet jacks cost about $4,000-$5,000 each and require weekly maintenance and battery replacement ($200-$300) after a few hundred hours. A fully charged battery lasts about 8 hours so there is also the concern that a driver could run out of power.

Maneuvering a fully loaded manual pallet jack.

Pumping the handle of a fully-loaded manual pallet jack requires the application of over 70 lbs. of force. This is a high risk task for the hands and wrists of most people.

Manual pallet jacks cost about $400 each and require quarterly maintenance. Battery replacement isn’t required; however shoulder, wrist or ankle or driver replacement can be significant.

What do I mean by significant?

Consider that each year, 1 out of 13 truck drivers has a work-related injury that results in a lost work time workers’ compensation claim. Additionally, the most common type of injury is a strain, sprain or overexertion, which can result from the types of forces we identified. The median cost of these types of injuries to truck drivers is about $13,000.2 It’s much cheaper to get the electric pallet jack and replace a battery than a driver. In addition, electric pallet jacks can complete a loading job much faster than a manual one so productivity increases, too.

The decisions employers and safety directors make involving investing in safer tools and equipment can feel daunting. It helps to have the numbers in front of you and to draw on the experience of others. Bill mentioned that Brown Line was planning to target the routes with the most hills or heaviest pallet deliveries for the electric pallet jacks and if those worked out they might consider the using them with the rest of the fleet.

We all want to keep our valued workers safe and working. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with electric pallet jacks in the comments.



  1. Results of biomechanical analysis study at Brown Line, Mount Vernon, Washington, Stephen Bao, PhD, CPE, based on measurements taken on May 27, 2014.
  2. Rauser, Smith and Williams 2014. Trucking Industry: Examining Injuries for Prevention, 2006-2012. SHARP Program, report #90-148-2014. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, Olympia, Washington.


Slip into spring?

By Jena Williams


No thank you!

It’s finally spring, and as the old adage goes… April showers bring…well, in Washington they bring May showers and June showers and maybe even July showers.  And all those showers bring slick roads, and loads. This is a great time to check your traction and continue to wear the proper footwear for your job. You can also protect yourself from slip, trip and fall injuries by cleaning up spills as soon as they occur.

Wet loading docks contribute to costly fall injuries each year. Employers, have you considered ways to keep your loading docks dry such as adding an awning? Additionally, remind workers to report worn steps or ramps so they can be maintained. Investing in safety is a wise business decision.

For more information on protecting yourself and your career by wearing work boots, the footwear of the professional truck driver, see these links:

Wear the footwear of the pros!

Don’t let your footwear get you down:

These boots were made for walkin’:

Inspect your boots:

For a fun training on the effects of friction when you wear various footwear click:

Ever wonder how best to invest your health and safety budget?

By Jena Williams

If you like to make data-driven decisions, especially when it comes to investing, you will appreciate this recently released study by the TIRES research team entitled Work-related injuries in Washington State’s Trucking Industry, by industry sector and occupation.

The research makes use of Washington State’s comprehensive workers’ compensation data. One of the key findings is: Non-traumatic musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, back and upper extremities are the most frequent injuries across all industry sectors and occupations in the trucking industry. If you’re thinking good grief, what do all those hundred dollar words mean, I’m with you! So let’s break it down:

  • Non-traumatic means the injury didn’t occur because of a single incident.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders includes injuries to the muscles, tendons, connective tissues, bones, nerves and joints.
  • Upper extremities are limbs, and include the shoulder, arm, wrist and hand.

These types of injuries are sometimes referred to as repetitive motion or overuse injuries and can occur from tasks like throwing straps or tarps, shifting, lifting, pulling or pushing, or driving a vibrating truck for long periods of time without breaks.

Are there ways you can make these tasks easier for yourself or your employees? One way might be to keep the work close to your body and the movements between your waist and shoulders rather than above shoulder level or below knee level. Small tweaks to how a job is done can prevent injuries and save your company money in the long run.

More to come as we delve into what we’ve learned!

If you want to dive into the whole report, it is available here:

Smith, C. K., Williams, J. Work related injuries in Washington State’s Trucking Industry, by industry sector and occupation. Accident Analysis and Prevention 65 (2014) 63-71.

You don’t have to like someone to learn from them

By Jena Williams

That was some of the best advice my dad ever gave me. It got me through many a high school and college course. (Note – teachers are great but sometimes their personalities get confused with the unsavory topics they are teaching!)

Opportunities to learn don’t end when you get out of school either. We learn from experience, colleagues, friends, family and bosses all of our lives. Some lessons are costly, but sometimes, if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone and grab an opportunity, they can be free.

Here’s your chance to grab that opportunity by sending representatives from your company to a free safety training so they can come back with the tools to train your entire team.  Some companies are discouraged because the class is taught by Teamsters Training. But as the title of this blog suggests, this is your opportunity to take my dad’s advice! Since this training is paid for by a SHIP* grant from Washington State’s L&I and not by union funds, there will not be a plug for union membership. You’ve got nothing to lose and can gain a lot!

Doug Stiffarm, Safety Director of Miles Resources in Puyallup, Washington agrees:

“What I appreciated most was that in just two days, we received valuable information, specific to the trucking industry, in a format that makes communicating the message easy for anyone. The information is visually appealing to draw drivers into the safety message. This is very important if an employer has shift drivers who cannot always attend a scheduled safety meeting. I think it’s a wonderful format and Miles Resources has implemented these training materials into our weekly drivers’ safety meetings.”

So what will you get?

The two day class is Safer Drivers: Workers Training Workers and covers both the new CSA program and 50 weeks’ worth of training using TIRES** training materials. Send a key driver that is respected by his or her peers and a safety representative and they will come back with the ability to train the rest of your team every week for a year in 15 minute intervals.

The grant is ending soon so take advantage of this last opportunity:

Spokane – November 12-13
Tukwila – November 20-21
Tacoma – December 4-5
Everett – December 11-12
Tukwila – December 18-19

We all have a common goal, which is keeping workers safe. So, if the training is great, go ahead and grab the opportunity!

For more information or to sign up call 509-545-8297 or These trainings are only in Washington State.

*Safety & Health Investment Projects. For information on how to apply for your own SHIP grant:

**Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis.

What would you do to keep an experienced driver for ten more years?

By Jena Williams


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently published the results of a study: Occupational Highway Transportation Deaths Among Workers Aged ≥55 Years – United States, 2003-2010. The study found that on-the-job highway transportation death rates increased substantially at age 65, especially in transportation and warehousing industries and in transportation and material moving occupations.

It might seem that the finding of this study is, well, obvious. To be blunt, we tend to expect older workers to die more. But I would caution you to dig a little deeper because I think there is some important information to be gleaned here.

Consider that in the general population, these types of deaths only begin to increase substantially at age 75 years.  Why would deaths increase a decade earlier for workers?

There are many possible reasons and theories for this. I’ll present mine here and hope you’ll add yours in the comments.

The editor recommends interventions to benefit older drivers. (I would argue that these interventions would actually benefit all drivers!) The first is that we need to do a better job of selecting and adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers.

There are many other recommendations as well, such as less driving, less nighttime driving, etc., but I would like to explore the idea of adapting vehicles to accommodate drivers a little more.

Consider that before most people buy a personal vehicle, they sit in it and take it for test drive. Generally, people don’t buy a vehicle that isn’t comfortable to them. Unfortunately, comfort may not be a priority when many companies purchase their vehicles. Instead fuel economy, aerodynamics, and cost take the forefront. Plus, a company’s workforce comes in all shapes and sizes, so initially tailoring vehicles may seem nearly impossible.

One might argue that physical comfort doesn’t really have anything to do with crash-related deaths, but I would disagree. Fatigue is fatigue, whether brought on by long hours or awkward postures. It is still worth considering.

As the article states and we already know, “…older workers bring a wealth of skills and experience to the workplace…” I think we can agree that keeping an experienced worker for an additional ten years is valuable in a market with a declining labor pool.

What kind of investment are you willing to make in a skilled worker to keep them around for another ten years?  Would you improve the stairs into the cab? Would you add or improve handholds? Would you improve adjustability in the seat? Would you improve the location of the steering wheel? All of these can be associated with excess strain and fatigue on the body, potentially increasing crash risk.

And one more question, would you ask them what they need to make their job safer and easier?

These are just some of my thoughts. What are yours?

Link to full report:

And for drivers – always wear your seatbelt. Always.

Are you looking to spice up your safety training?

By Jena Williams

What is every safety director’s dream?  Could it be to have an entire workforce of truck drivers that always have safety at the forefront of their minds? Here’s your chance to make that dream a reality. If you are a Washington trucking company, you have the opportunity send a driver to a free training that will teach him/her to encourage other drivers to work safely.

Safety directors have told me that they begin to feel like their workers actually tune out the sound of their voice. It’s true! They speculate that maybe if someone else delivered the training that it might get the workers attention. Well, who are they more likely to listen to? You, or one of their colleagues?

This is where Safer Drivers – Workers Training Workers steps in. And the best part – aside from the time to train, it’s FREE! This training is paid for by a grant from the Safety and Health Investment Projects (SHIP) of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), so it is free to any company in the state of Washington that wants to use it. The topics are Driver Safety and Health and understanding the CSA components.

According to L&I’s Caprice Catalano:

As the SHIP grant manager for this project, I attended one of the 2-day trainings scheduled for this project… Most of the attendees were safety professionals and drivers with at least 15 to 20 years’ experience. While at the beginning of the class there was a typical type of resistance to the “need” to be there… as the class progressed I started to see changes. By the second day I was witnessing an actual safety culture change.

The classes are two days long and presented at various locations throughout the state. Most companies send a safety rep and a regular employee or two. I know you are thinking “time is money, when a driver isn’t driving,” but I encourage you to consider the enormous cost savings if this training prevents even one injury at your company. Imagine the savings over time if it prevents many.

The remaining trainings are:

November 12-13, in Spokane
November 20-21, in Tukwila
December 4-5, in Tacoma
December 11-12, in Everett
December 18-19, in Everett

All classes are 7:00am-3:30pm; locations are yet to be determined.  Contact Tom George for more information or to schedule your class at (425) 306-9870 or The website is:

As an alternative, if you’d like to educate your entire workforce (20-25 participants), the Teamsters Trainers have developed two half-day sessions where they will come out to your company to train on the materials. Some companies have opted for these trainings on Saturdays.

And let me just address a common concern right here – no worries if you are not a union shop! This training is paid for by a grant from L&I and is for all Washington trucking companies. There will be no “plugs” for union membership or anything of the sort. The Teamsters Trainers are just really great at training and won a grant to keep all drivers safe.

This really is a great opportunity to add spice to your safety training. Plus, you’ll get a new spin on very cool safety training materials produced by TIRES! Nah, I’m not completely impartial…

What does it take to achieve three million safe miles?

By Jena Williams

Last week I had the privilege of riding along with Dan Poorman of Gordon Trucking, Inc. He is a super-star of trucking, winning this year’s Truckload Carrier Association’s Driver of the Year Award, and he was recently acknowledged by GTI as a three-million-mile safe driver.

Dan is modest about his accomplishments. “It’s great to be recognized but it also helps to have good equipment to work with that is well maintained,” he said. “GTI is a company that is dedicated to safety and equipment maintenance.”

As important as it is to work for a safe company, I could see by riding along with Dan, there was more to his success than just the company. Dan is a stickler for details, stating, “…develop a routine and stick to it.” He noted that it can just take a second for an incident to occur that has the power to change your life. But by sticking to a routine and always double checking your equipment, you can stay safe.

Some examples that I witnessed: Dan always double-checks that the pegs are locked into place when moving the trailer axles. He climbs under the trailer with his flashlight to be sure the 5th wheel claw is secure. He checks every tire on each new trailer. And when dealing with traffic, he said he doesn’t let it stress him out, noting you can either get upset about the situation or choose not to. The situation is what it is; it’s better to just accept it when you can’t change it.

His advice for new drivers is to request more training time be spent on the tricks of backing into the loading dock. As important as it is to drive down the road, the real test is getting that big rig into the dock.

From a guy with 25 years (22 with GTI) of safe-driving experience, I think this is advice we can take!

Thanks again to GTI and Dan Poorman for taking the time to show me the ropes!

For more information on driving & backing trailers, check out these YouTube videos by Jimmy Cox:

For more on trucking safety see:

Day with the Winners

By Jena Williams


Safety Professional of the Year* – Jill Snyder – Premier Transport Inc.

Friday, July 12, a special awards ceremony occurred at Cheney Stadium just before the Tacoma Rainiers Game. Although, the Rainiers may have lost to Reno 4-1, to us the real winners were the Safe Drivers and Safe Fleets represented there.

Washington is blessed with so many wonderful companies and safe drivers, but the top for 2013 were recognized for having outstanding safety records.

The Washington State Patrol handles the judging based on several factors including the driver’s nomination form, letters of support from outside the company, Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) violations, accident history, and Safety Net (an enforcement tool.)

The companies are determined based on nomination, CSA scores, Inspection Selection System (ISS) scores, accident history per million miles, Safety Net, and specialty.

Awards were presented by Assistant Chief Mike DePalma of the Commerical Vehicle Enforcement Bureau of the Washington State Patrol and Jack Morris, Senior Safety Representative for Great West Casualty Co.

Safe Drivers 


Movers Conference – Russel Wilson – Lile International.


Common Carier Conference – Richard Walsh – Interstate Distributor Co.


Private Carrier Conference – Jeffrey Maas – The Boeing Co.

Safe Fleets   


Private Carrier Conference – The Boeing Co.



Grand Champion (carrier with best overall score) AND Common Carrier under 5 million mile – Associated Petroleum Products



Log Truck Conference – McKay and Son LLC.



Common Carrier over 5 million miles – Gordon Trucking Inc.

*The Safety Professional of the Year is nominated by colleagues in the industry and is selected by an independent committee, not affiliated with the Washington Trucking Associations.

Washington State Patrol Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau:


A great big American thank you!!

By Jena Williams

Perfect timing! As we celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, I’d like to thank all the veterans, soldiers and sailors out there that protect us and guarantee our freedom. Almost 240 years ago, patriots took the first steps, risking and giving their lives for freedom, while today’s servicemen and women fight to protect and keep us free.

Do you have career plans when you return to civilian life? Consider becoming a truck driver! You’ve already got the skill set, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has made it possible for you to jump past some of the red tape.

On July 3, 2013, almost $1 million in grant money was awarded to truck driving schools to retrain veterans and military families to become truck drivers, AND one of the recipient colleges is located in Aberdeen, Washington.

Your country still needs you. Consider a career as a professional truck driver!

For more information on the grants:

More information on Grays Harbor College CDL program:

It doesn’t get much better than this…

By Jena Williams


Saturday was a perfect day for the Washington Trucking Associations’ Truck Driving Championships – the sun was out, and the champions were in top form. Winners in each event will go on to compete in the National Competitions in Salt Lake City in August

I know, I know you all want to know who won…and I promise I’ll get that info out as soon as we have it…

I do have to say though that I never stop being amazed at what these fantastic drivers can do. Millions of safe driver miles were represented and the skill and dedication was evident.

Much appreciation also goes out to the sponsors and volunteers including, but not limited to Boeing, for providing the facilities, Safeway for providing breakfast, Unified Grocers for providing lunch and many other behind the scenes folks. You made it a great event!!

It was wonderful to see friends and families show up to support their drivers.

If you were there…share some memories with us in the comments. If you missed it, put it on your calendar for next year…and maybe we will be cheering you on to the National Championships.