By Sean Kelley
During his 30-plus-year
trucking career, it has always been Al Nunes philosophy that if it
isn't safe, don't do it. But until a few years ago, the president of
California-based A.C. Trucking didn't really have a system to measure
employees safety performance.
Location: Manteca, California
Principal: Al Nunes
Equipment: 25 Kenworth T800s and Freightliner FLDs equipped with
Caterpillar, Cummins and Detroit Diesel Engines; Eaton Fuller 9-, 10-
and 13-speed transmissions; 80 dry vans, 20 flatbed and curtain sides,
and four tankers; 15 owner-operators.
Freight: Consumer and food products, lumber, fertilizer and animal feed.
Challenge: Improving safety record and keeping insurance premiums low.
Solution: Quarterly review and bonus program.
Now, as other trucking companies are facing large increases in
liability insurance, Nunes is watching his rates stay steady and his
company receive awards for safety. Nobody looked at safety records as
close as we do today, he says. Now, we show improvement every year.
Four years ago, A.C. Trucking the A stands for Al, and the C for wife
Carol began a quarterly review system of all its employees, not just
drivers. Bonuses are tied to the review system, which focuses on 10
areas that affect safety and performance. Nunes brought in a safety
consultant to verify the system and tweaked it for simplicity. Now,
drivers, mechanics and office personnel know their quarterly bonuses
depend on their attention to safety.
Given a fleet size of 25 company power units and 15 owner-operators,
Nunes can and does perform the reviews himself. He follows a simple
review sheet and uses the meeting to go over his expectations for his
employees. Drivers are graded on their attendance and observance of
work hours; grooming and proper dress; safety practices and driving
record; attention to company policy; communication; quality and volume
of work; willingness to accept change and direction; appearance of
truck and care and operation of equipment; damage to loads or
shortages; and logs and neatness of paperwork.
Each category has an effect on productivity and safety, Nunes says. He
grades drivers on a line ranging from not satisfactory to superior.
Employees rarely receive grades of above standard or superior for
categories where they are expected to perform well, like attendance.
Under the system, drivers receive points, which are used to calculate
their bonus. Longevity also plays a roll in the bonus structure, which
can reward a driver with as much as $1,500 a year.
Because the program rewards drivers on a quarterly basis, Nunes says
there's an incentive for an under-performing driver to improve
immediately. They aren't penalized for the whole year based on one
quarters performance. Almost always, drivers improve after a negative
review. Nunes hasn't had to use the system to fire drivers, because if
a driver doesn't improve he usually leaves the company.
The attention to safety has paid off, not only in maintaining insurance
premiums, but in recognition and publicity as well. In 2000, the
California Trucking Association named the company as the safest fleet
with revenues of less than $10 million. CTA reviews the safety and
maintenance records of carriers as well as their on-road safety
performance to determine award winners. There are 12 divisional
winners, from which two are selected as safest fleets based on
revenues. Prior to being named safest fleet, A.C. Trucking had finished
first in its division for three straight years.
Nunes credits much of his success to veteran managers like Safety
Director Don Gomes, who has been with Nunes since he started the
trucking company 31 years ago. Gomes was recognized by CTA in 2001 as
the California Fleet Safety Professional of the Year, an award given
based on his professional qualifications as well as his success in
advancing on-highway and workplace safety at his company.
When we started looking to develop a good safety program we brought in
a safety person who was a driver, Nunes says. He believes that its
important that a safety director interact with drivers as often as
possible. Gomes sees his drivers daily, through a window that connects
his office with the driver break room. We put him next to dispatch so
that he sees every driver every day, Nunes says. Its a good opportunity
to talk with drivers about safety.
Nunes also credits his maintenance chief, Vern McBride, with helping to
ensure safety in the shop as well. Although shop safety often gets less
attention in the industry than on-the-road safety, the workers
compensation situation in California makes it especially important.
McBride, who like Gomes has been with A.C. Trucking for 31 years, helps
evaluate mechanics with a program similar to one used for drivers.
Before the safety program was instituted, there were several workers
compensation claims that hurt the business, which is why the shop is
included in the program.
Trucks and trailers are brought in for inspection on alternating
months, and every truck gets a full mechanical inspection every two
months. If there's a problem, its fixed immediately. That attitude is
passed on to drivers and helps keep them out of trouble on the road.
Like drivers, mechanics are
graded in 10 areas, although they are different: productivity; quality
of work; knowledge and skill; work relationship with management and
other employees; punctuality and dependability; innovation and
resourcefulness; efforts to reduce shop waste; attendance; safe work
habits; and care of company equipment.
For 31 years,
Don Gomes, Al Nunes and Vern McBride have kept an eye on safety with
their Northern California trucking company.
The review sheet was more complicated when it was first introduced in
1998, but Nunes quickly pared it down to simple points employees could
quantify and improve on. The effect has been important to the company's
bottom line. Drivers show up at customers clean and dressed and their
loads are seldom damaged or short.
Likewise, trucks are seldom placed out of service because the shop
knows its bonuses are on the line. Across the board, the effort has
impacted safety. Workmans comp claims used to be a big concern in the
shop, Nunes says. But we haven't had a problem there in a while.
But perhaps the biggest benefit for the carrier is financial. We've had
no rise in insurance premiums this year, Gomes says. Its a tool to keep
rates down. That's important for a carrier with just $4 million in
revenue especially since A.C. Trucking lost two of his most experienced
drivers to retirement. Experienced drivers tend to have the best safety
record, but Nunes says individual attention and constant training can
help overcome inexperience.
When you see something they need correcting, you have to correct it, he
says. Its also important to get an employees attention. That's one
reason why Nunes does the evaluations himself. Since I'm able to
evaluate, I have their ear. I can comment on the things they're doing
well and the things they're not doing well.
New drivers aren't eligible for the bonus until they've been with the
company 90 days, and they don't tend to recognize the value of the
program, Nunes says. But once they start getting checks for being safe,
presentable and on time, they buy into it.
Nunes also encourages his drivers to compete in driving competitions
and works with another carrier to practice for CTA's yearly truck
driving championship. The competitions, which focus on skill and
safety, help keep the techniques of A.C. Trucking drivers sharp.
The effort towards safety not only helps keep insurance rates in check,
it helps build business. Customers of A.C. Trucking recognize the
effort, Nunes says, and send as much business his way as they can. You
are as good as you are safe, he says. I can make a truck and driver
look great, but your record is what speaks for you. If a load is
damaged, it doesn't matter what you look like.
The bonus and review program are saving money for the small regional
hauler and helping in other areas, like driver retention, as well. But
the most important function of the program relates to the bottom line:
How well we do as a business is directly correlated with safety, Nunes
For more articles from: Click
"AC Trucking among
By MEGAN McDANIEL
Staff 'reporter of the MANTECA (CALIF.) BULLETIN
For the fifth year in a row,
AC Trucking received top honors from the California Trucking
Association in May at a statewide competition.
Competing against at least
50 other trucking companies from around the region and through-out the
state, the Manteca-based trucking company took first place in their
category at the May 15 CTA conference at the Sheraton Hotel in
Don Gomes, safety director
and a 30-year employee at AC Trucking, was also selected as Safety
Director of the Year, something he never expected to receive.
"I was quite, shocked," said
Gomes of receiving the title for his first time this year. "It was a
AC Trucking competed with
fellow trucking companies who maintained less than two million miles
and had revenue of less than $10 million last year.
Their awards reflect their
spotless record, of having no accidents last year among their 12
owner/operators and 25 of their own drivers.
In addition to their clean
record, Gomes believes his own participation and attendance at seminars
for OSHA and the CHP, along with keeping up to date on the new laws, is
what helped earned AC Trucking their two awards this year.
Taking awards is not
something new for AC Trucking. The company has a history of placing at
the California Tracking Associations annual award ceremony. This is
their eighth year of placing and fifth year of receiving first place,
according to owner Al Nunes.
Last year the company took
the Grand Award, the highest honor given by the CTA, for safety among
Manteca Trucking Company
Founder Earns Honor
Hall of Fame
Albert Nunes founded A.C. Trucking in 1971 with one truck
that he drove himself.
Today, A.C. Trucking employs over 40 people, operates 35
Nunes is among seven inductees for the Class of 2000 in the
and over 150 trailers with revenues exceeding $3.5 million annually.
Manteca Hall of Fame. He is being inducted for business.
Other inductees are John W. Harris, education; Willie
The induction ceremonies and dinner for the Manteca Hall of
Weatherford, community service; Dorothy Indelicato, art; Chuck
Shaefer, government; Chris Carr, athletics; and Don Stewart, at-large.
Fame took place on April 15, 2000, at the Manteca Senior Center.
A.C. Trucking started in 1971 hauling milk. In 1986, Nunes sold that
end of the business and concentrated on hauling freight. To Nunes,
trucking isn't a business - it's family, friendship and tradition. He is
also active in other business adventures: RJS Enterprises, Davis
Nunes Properties, and ABJ Properties.
In 1990, the California Trucking Association awarded A.C.
Nunes received the J.C.I Senate Award from Jaycees in 1978. He
Trucking third place in fleet safety for trucking companies under 2
million miles. In subsequent safety competitions, the Manteca firm
earned first in 1994, first in 1995, second in 1997, and first in 1998.
served on the Manteca planning commission from 1982 to 1990, and
was a member of the private industry council, San Joaquin County,
for three terms. He also serves on various trucking association
His community service includes; helping charter Manteca
League in 1985, president of the Manteca Cowboys youth football
organization in 1993, president of the Manteca Rotary from 1993 to
1994, president of the Manteca Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1976,
Regional Director and Vice President of the California Jaycees from
1977 to 1979, and a board member of the Manteca Rainbow girls from
1989 to 1991.