It’s no mystery what’s most important to Phil Byrd, president and chief executive officer of Bulldog Hiway Express. “All of our employees know that we will never, ever compromise on safety or compliance,” he says. “We will always operate as a safety-first company.”
What’s also apparent is that those aren’t just words to Byrd. In several ways, he is quick to explain, the Charleston, S.C.-based flatbed and heavy-haul carrier is focusing on safety in every aspect of its operation.
Bulldog Hiway Express has a safety record that speaks for itself. In 2015, the carrier had only two reportable accidents as its equipment traveled 11.6 million miles. “We have a .2 per million mile accident rate over the past decade,” Byrd relates, “while the industry average in our market segment is .35. Also, in 2015, the 40 trucks in our heavy-haul division had no chargeable accidents.”
Byrd also notes that Bulldog Hiway Express maintains what he calls “an impeccable CSA score” and that the company has been recognized for its safety efforts. Included are the 2016 Fleet Safety Award and Fleet Safety Zero Accident Award from the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association along with three Grand Safety Awards in South Carolina. Currently, the company is in the running for several upcoming ATA safety recognitions.
Always ready to give credit where it’s due, Byrd points to the Bulldog Hiway Express safety team led by Jerry Peterson, director of safety and training, along with Chris Blackwell and Bob Lewin.
“One of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made was hiring Jerry Peterson,” Byrd says. “He came on board 20 years ago as a driver after a distinguished 22-year career in the U.S. Navy, and 16 years ago he left the driver’s seat to drive our safety program.
“All three of our safety team leaders are retired military,” Byrd continues, “and the training they received is positively impacting everything we do. They run everything with order, precision and accountability. What these guys learned in the military is making our company a truly a one-of-a-kind performer in the industry.”
Low turnover rate
For Byrd, another indicator of success at Bulldog Hiway Express is its low driver turnover rate of less than 10%. “The average tenure of a driver at our company is 15 years,” he reports, “and we believe that is the result of respecting and caring for our people and their families. For example, we include our drivers in key decision making processes for equipment, routes, customers and company policies.
“We aggressively offer pay rates and incentives that help with driver retention,” Byrd continues. “Recently, we installed EpicVue in-cab satellite TV systems in every truck. It’s a great product that improves the quality of life for our drivers on the road. We also have Driver of the Month, Driver of the Quarter and Driver of the Year recognition programs, and a program that rewards drivers with points that can be used for a variety of prizes.
“We also include our drivers’ families, sometimes sending a gift certificate home with a note saying how much we appreciate their hard work,” Byrd adds. “Last but not least, we have an open-door policy. Every driver has a phone number they can use to call me day or night if they have a problem or concern.”
Having top-notch drivers starts with quality screening and hiring practices, according to Byrd “Since our turnover is so low, we can be particular about who we hire,” he says. “Drivers have to be a good fit for us and vice versa. We may even consider 50 candidates before hiring one driver.”