Smoot Brothers Transportation (SBT) was founded in 1988—with one truck—by Mike and Matt Smoot. In 1991, Kenny Smoot, who is now the vice president, joined his brothers in the company. SBT has since grown to more than 50 trucks and can be seen on highways across the entire continental United States and Canada. The fleet currently has approximately twenty owner/operators and leasers on staff. In addition, SBT has created a sister company, Triple S Transportation, with trucks specially outfitted for HAZMAT transport.
In May 2008, prior to the Federal Motor Carry Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) rollout of the Compliance Safety Accountability (CSA) program, the company hired Bob Laumann to head up a new Compliance Safety Accountability “citation avoidance” program.
According to Laumann, “I was ready to retire from 28 years with the Idaho State Police, where I was assigned to the Commercial Vehicle Safety program, involving all types of roadside inspections as well as Safety Audits, Compliance Reviews, etc. A mutual friend, who knew I was looking for work and an opportunity to move from law enforcement into the trucking industry to promote safety, referred me to Smoot Brothers Transportation. At that time, Smoot Brothers Transportation was having some safety compliance issues, which were adversely affecting business. I was hired by Smoot Brothers and given the assignment to fix the safety issues.”
Laumann, pictured right, knows from his past experiences that every company is different; each has its own unique personality, as well as its own strengths and weaknesses. With that in mind, he notes, “I try to use information learned from my experience in enforcement, and lessons learned from each company and situation to gain understanding to help other companies. My focus from the beginning was identifying issues within the company and with drivers to develop a program that addressed those issues. As is common, the effort required a change in the safety culture of the company management, which then filtered down throughout the company.”
Smoot Brothers currently operates about 60 trucks, 14 of which are owner-operators operating under Smoot Brothers authority. There is one office/yard, located near Brigham City, Utah, and one shop where the majority of maintenance and service work is completed. Laumann discovered that the main areas of concerns that needed to be addressed were equipment maintenance and hours of service compliance.
Focus on inspections
As Laumann started to address some of the maintenance issues, related to fleet trucks and trailers, he emphasized completing and documenting annual inspections every time the units are serviced.
“Technicians were provided additional training, and I personally inspected equipment in the yard. These simple improvements made a dramatic effect on our maintenance, drastically improving safety performance. With the introduction of the CSA program by FMCSA, maintenance needed even more attention,” Laumann says. “We have emphasized driver inspections of equipment, hired technicians to focus especially on trailers, and provided training to those mechanics to help them better identify safety issues.”
To address hours of service issues, the fleet focused on—and placed more emphasis on—log monitoring and compliance. “With paper logs, this can be very time consuming and difficult,” Laumann admits. “We used a computer-assisted program to scan and monitor compliance. We established an incentive program to encourage driver compliance. The incentive program included rewards for violation-free DOT inspections, and for driver’s daily logs that are found to be violation-free as indicated both during DOT inspections and after our own internal audits.”