Driver of the Year Embraces Safety Technology

March 29, 2018
Driver of the Year Embraces Safety Technology
TransAm Trucking over-the-road driver Denise Ponds accepts her Driver of the Year award 
as Lytx VP of Safety Services Del Lisk looks on.
 

When the dispatcher called Denise Ponds to tell her she’d been named Lytx Driver of the Year in For-Hire Trucking, she thought he was joking. The temps outside were below zero, so she joked back: “Yeah, and I’m sitting on the beach.”

Later that night, it sank in. “I sat in my room and cried,” she said. “Because I have tried to teach my girls and granddaughters that they can do anything they set their minds to. I hope they learn from this and feel inspired. It shows them I’m not just preaching it. I’m living it.”

Indeed she is. Ponds, a long-haul driver for TransAm Trucking, has made a name for herself as one of the fleet’s safe drivers. Last year alone she clocked more than 130,000 safe miles, and in the three-and-a-half years she’s had a CDL trucking job, she’s tallied nearly 400,000 safe miles.

How has she done it? By being vigilant and embracing safety technologies.

Safety Technologies Enhance Her Own Awareness

“I talk to Gladys every day,” Ponds said of the nickname she’s given her DriveCam video event recorder. “It’s made me more observant. If I’m driving the way I’m supposed to, Gladys isn’t going to go red, meaning I’m not going to trigger the video event recorder with an unsafe driving event.”

And she doesn’t trigger it. Her employer has taken note, too. In nominating Ponds for Lytx Driver of the Year, TransAm’s Thomas Young noted that Ponds “takes safety seriously, and her record proves it.”

For all of 2017, Ponds had no collisions, late arrivals or issues with her electronic logs, helping her avoid costly DOT fines for non-compliance. What’s more, she didn’t have to be coached on a single DriveCam event, meaning she had a stellar safety record. They’re amazing feats, considering Ponds spends weeks at a time on the road as a long-haul truck driver.

Ponds attributes her impeccable record to attention to detail and a deeply rooted safety mindset that originated during her 15-year career as a nursing assistant. As a solo driver, the DriveCam program makes Ponds feel more secure, and she’s quick to use the safety tech to her advantage.

For example, when an aggressive driver clipped her mirror, Ponds captured the incident on video using the DriveCam’s manual switch. “He didn’t do any damage, fortunately, but if he had, I would have been prepared with video evidence,” she said.

Ponds so staunchly supports the use of video telematics and road safety technology that she’s ordered additional cameras to increase the visibility of what’s happening outside of her truck—in much the same way the Lytx Video Services program works.

“When people see big trucks, they see big dollars,” she said. “Some drivers check their brakes on me, trying to cause a collision. It happens a lot. So I don’t hesitate to record when I have someone around me driving aggressively.”

Aggressive Driving on the Rise Since the ELD Mandate

Cars are the main culprits when it comes to aggressive driving, whether they have new car safety features or not. But since the ELD mandate went into effect in December 2017, Ponds is seeing more commercial drivers driving aggressively. “It’s getting to be ridiculous,” she said. “Drivers are pushing it. They don’t think they’ll be able to get the miles that they had when they were doing paper logs, and they don’t have patience.”

But Ponds loves electronic logging devices, saying paper logs are cumbersome and time consuming. “There’s always a chance your papers could be damaged. And heaven forbid you spill something,” she said. “If you spill, that’s a DOT violation because your book’s messed up. So ELDs make my life easier and keep me consistent.”

Ponds uses a Garmin device for her electronic logging. It reads her messages aloud and doubles as a GPS fleet monitoring device. The technology is so integral to Ponds’ morning routine, she’s even given it a nickname—“Fred.”

“I start my pre-trip by telling Fred, ‘We’re not getting lost today, and I tell Gladys, ‘We’re not going to turn red,’” Ponds said with a laugh.

So far, her routine has paid off in an impeccable safety record, and she has no plans to change it. After all, having the support of safety technology lets Ponds focus on what she’s best at—driving.

“My view changes every day,” she said. “Knowing that gives me a sense of freedom. I plan to keep driving for as long as I’m able.”

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