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For 55 years, trucks bearing the name Hardy Brothers Inc. have been traveling from the rolling hills around Siloam, N.C., to east and west coast destinations. Founded in 1965, the carrier hauls dry freight to western states and brings fresh produce to eastern markets.
“A large part of our long-term success has come from the professionalism of our 100 drivers and 25 office and shop personnel,” says Ryan Hardy, the fleet’s vice president. “They do far more than talk a good game. Every day, they’re taking steps to provide quality service for our customers.
“Another vital part of our culture is a focus on safety,” Hardy continues. “Over every mile of every day, our main goal is to ensure that our drivers arrive home safely to their families after each trip. It’s always been a company-wide top priority.”
The emphasis on safety at Hardy Brothers is supported by investing heavily in technology as well as focused programs for drivers, technicians and office employees. “Whether it’s our drivers or other motorists, a human life is priceless,” Hardy says. “We invest in safety because we believe it is the right thing to do. If our investment saves one life or prevents one accident, it is absolutely worth it.”
Hardy also believes that continuing education is a key to a safer operation. The company, he notes, holds quarterly training sessions for its drivers and technicians. Drivers also have access to an array of online safety videos related to all aspects of trucking, from how to recognize and prevent fatigued driving to installing tire chains. There is a generous bonus program as well, and safety plays a large role in whether a driver is eligible for the bonus each period.
“Even though we train our drivers to be as safe as possible, we can’t control everyone and everything on the highways,” Hardy says. “It only takes a split second for an accident to occur, so we’ve also been equipping our fleet with several active safety technologies.”
For its 53 Kenworth T680 tractors and 115 Utility 3000R refrigerated trailers, Hardy Brothers has been spec’ing Bendix ADB22X air disc brakes as standard on all axles. ABS with Bendix ESP (Electronic Stability Program) technology is in use on tractors and trailers as well.
“It’s well documented that air disc brakes can shorten stopping distances and virtually eliminate brake fade,” Hardy says. “For us, they also provide value through longer friction life and quicker pad changes than drum brakes.
“It’s been well worth the higher cost of air disc brakes because of the shorter maintenance time they require and the longer intervals between brake pad changes,” Hardy continues. “It’s a no-brainer, really. In addition to the performance advantages, air disc brakes are a huge time saver, which means they make even more sense in terms of our investment in safety systems.”
Investing in safety
Hardy Brothers has also equipped its 32 newest tractors with Bendix Wingman Fusion driver assistance systems. “We plan to spec these systems on every new tractor from now on,” Hardy relates. “A couple of our drivers have told us that Wingman Fusion has engaged and likely prevented some rear-end incidents.”
Bendix Wingman Fusion gathers input through radar, video and the vehicle’s braking system, combining and cross-checking the information from sensors to deliver rear-end collision mitigation and adaptive cruise control, along with following distance, stationary object and speeding alerts, lane departure warnings and active braking.
“Wingman Fusion also helps our drivers learn how to correct unsafe behaviors and avoid some crash situations,” Hardy adds. “The system’s forward-facing camera captures video of severe events, and along with data makes that available for driver coaching on the Bendix SafetyDirect web-based platform.”
Also on the newest tractors at Hardy Brothers is the Bendix BlindSpotter Side Object Detection System. The side-radar system, which operates independently of Wingman Fusion, is designed to alert drivers to vehicles or objects in adjacent lanes to help mitigate sideswipe crashes.
The impact of all these safety technologies is obvious, Hardy notes. And another reflection of the success of all the company’s efforts, he adds, was being honored recently with a Safety Achievement Award from FS Insurance Ltd.
Benefitting all parties
“For safety and other aspects of our equipment, we work closely with suppliers,” Hardy says. “That benefits all parties. Hardy Brothers is able to make better specification choices, and gains a better understanding of how a product works and how to use and maintain it properly. Suppliers are able to see their products functioning in real-world applications, which provides valuable performance data.
“For example,” Hardy continues, “fuel is our second-highest cost, so we work with manufacturers to spec our equipment to be as efficient as possible. As a result, we order trucks with aerodynamic front and side fairings, a wheelbase that optimizes trailer gap, automated manual transmissions and low rolling-resistance tires. On trailers, we also use low rolling-resistance tires as well as side skirts.”
Hardy Brothers also takes great pride in the service procedures it employs to keep its fleet running reliably and efficiently. The carrier maintains all of its equipment in-house under the direction of Justin Lewis, maintenance director.
“Our technicians service each truck every 5,000 miles,” Hardy relates. “Our maintenance program allows us to run our equipment longer. We also have less downtime, which is crucial in freight transportation. Downtime is costly to a trucking company in many ways, but with the right specs and service programs, and manufacturer support, we never really have to worry about it.”
In many respects, the Hardy Brothers business model established more than five decades ago has been a success. The third-generation family-owned company actually has roots that go back further to when Ryan Hardy’s grandfather, Ralph Hardy, purchased a 1948 International truck to deliver lime to area farms. That operation then expanded to dump trucks, and eventually to hauling produce on the east coast.
Hardy Brothers may be based in the quiet surroundings of north central North Carolina, but the message it sends every day about its dedication to professionalism and safety is loud and clear.