Keeping the Budweiser Moving, Safely
By the time owner Herbert Schilling of LaFayette, La.-based Schilling Distributing Co. called on Tim Kirsch to overhaul the company’s safety and risk management programs, the company faced a warehouse full of longstanding problems on those fronts.
On Jan. 1, 2014, Kirsch was named safety director, reporting directly to Schilling. The most immediate and daunting challenge for Kirsch was to reduce the large number of fleet accidents that had been occurring annually among the company’s 100 vehicles.
“Driver evaluations and observations are something that I created,” Kirsch said.
“Whenever we hire someone in a driving position, they have to be evaluated by myself before we turn them loose to drive a company car,” said Kirsch, who previously had been human resources director.
“Whenever the trucks are on the road, I randomly find someone and follow them and observe their driving, of course without them knowing.”
Between April 2014 and April 2015, fleet accidents declined by 70 percent at the company, which distributes Anheuser-Busch products, along with soft drinks and water.
Another Kirsch initiative has him riding in vehicles with company drivers.
Kirsch also instituted a rigorous policy banning cellphone usage in company vehicles, in warehouses or in customers’ facilities.
Under Kirsch’s leadership, newly rewritten safety and risk management goals were implemented:
- Stick to core values; safety is at the forefront.
- Achieve zero incidents.
- Become an industry leader in safety.
- Continue to be a good steward and partner to the LaFayette community.
- Adopt an “It Starts With Me” attitude.
“It’s all about the employee and being safe. In just about every conversation or meeting that we have, we mention safety,” Kirsch said.
The new multi-faceted plan of action included safety training, safety meetings, new employee orientation, driver evaluation, distracted driving programs and defensive driving training. This was done with help from Schilling’s broker (HUB International) and insurance company (Travelers).
“Whenever the trucks are on the road, I randomly find someone and follow them and observe their driving, of course without them knowing.” — Tim Kirsch, Safety Director, Schilling Distributing Co.
Positive results were felt within a year. In addition to the dramatic drop in fleet accidents, insurance costs decreased by over $500,000. Fuel costs dropped due to taking some vehicles out of action.
Miles driven decreased and workers’ compensation claims were cut by 85 percent.
A new corporate safety mission was rolled out corporate-wide.
“From an actionable items standpoint, all new hires were oriented before starting work,” Kirsch said.
“A formal, standardized and documented orientation is now used.”
When Kirsch took over the safety and risk management functions, access to insurance markets was shrinking.
“The markets that were willing to underwrite were issuing large premium increases and unappealing large deductibles on both occurrence and aggregate levels,” said Harper Johnson, New Orleans-based vice-president and senior risk consultant for HUB International.
But as Schilling’s safety and risk management dramatically improved, so did its insurance condition.
Johnson said Kirsch is extremely hard-working and perseverant, with the ability catch small details while also keeping the big picture in view.