Meets on Logistics of Transporting Flat Glass
May 28, 2009
Improving safety and preventing litigation surrounding the transportation
of glass were among the chief goals of the approximately 20 members
of the Flat Glass Logistics Council (FGLC) who met today in Chicago.
Karl Manrodt, a professor in the department of management, market
and logistics at Georgia Southern University and executive director
of FGLC, opened the meeting by saying that carriers are facing a
number of issues, ranging from needs for newer equipment and capacity
problems to foreign competition and an aging driver population,
as well as the cost of transportation. "Does anyone think it's
going to go down?" Manrodt asked of those costs. "I hate
to tell you, but it's going up
[we're] facing a lot of risk,
rising fuel prices."
Attorney Dan Hitt with Hitt Hiller Monfils Williams touched on
one way of reducing costs and improving safety - by limiting litigation
in this segment of the industry.
Hitt walked his listeners through a case study and as he discussed
the litigation he offered some advice. For starters, he advised
that if there is an accident, that carriers consider abating their
discipline of the driver for a time afterwards until determining
if litigation will arise.
"Why do you make preventability determinations?" he asked.
"The usual answer is we have to use it as a manner to control
our drivers, to show we're paying attention, it's our way of showing
responsibility. That may play a role in the smaller instances but
when you have a major case, consider holding off for a year; hold
off until your lawyer says it's OK to make your preventability determination."
Not that carriers should do nothing about these drivers. "I
think you should put [the driver] through a remedial process, I
think every driver should go through remedial training after an
accident, period," Hitt said. He added, "Don't put the
driver back on the truck tomorrow
don't confuse avoiding
preventability determinations with putting him back on the truck."
This gives the company time to look into the accident and make
a responsible determination of what happened to cause the accident,
before determining how to discipline the driver. "It doesn't
mean you're not going to fire him, it means you're going to go about
this in a methodical way," said Hitt.
Regarding safe drivers, the group discussed what the driver should
do if the shipper puts something on the truck that he considers
"You have to play the squeaky wheel," Hitt said. However,
he added, legally if you think you have a safety problem with your
cargo, "Then you can't drive. You can't." So if the driver
points out a safety issue and then gets behind the wheel without
resolution, that's a big problem as well.
Manrodt noted that in this tough industry most carriers face extremely
high turnover rates, making it difficult to get well-trained individuals
carrying glass, which is particularly difficult to transport. "It's
a very specialized product that requires a lot more expertise [than
one might think] from the driver," he said. He added, of the
difficulty the drivers face, "Most fabricators have no idea."
Regarding those drivers, Hitt noted that in transportation-related
litigation judges are looking at "failure to use due care in
selecting the trucker." When selecting drivers, carriers should
check that they have a satisfactory rating with SAFER/SafeStat (safety
and fitness electronic records system available from the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Administration at www.safer.fmcsa.dot.gov)
and good references. "If they have a satisfactory rating you're
probably OK on that basis alone, but I'd recommend you also check
their references," Hitt said.
Hitt also noted, though, that these stats were never intended to
be for anything other than internal agencies' use, but now are a
"have to" for companies looking to protect themselves.
Manrodt asked if fabricators have, in fact, been using these SAFER
stats and Christine Greer, corporate logistics manager of Guardian
Industries, commented that it's something at which Guardian is now
"If I hire someone, these are the steps I'd have to go through
to bullet-proof myself," Manrodt reminded his listeners.
This question of whether the driver should accept whatever the
shipper puts on the truck led specifically to discussion about how
some manufacturers will add their own separator pads and extra packs,
particularly of thinner glass, which may seem more efficient to
the fabricator doing the shipping, but also may create pressure
points leading to cracks.
"If our goal is safety, maybe we should have a standard at
the loading point for different sizes of glass," said Rosaire
Bélanger, president of Bélanger Express.
"Because it is so thin
there are issues with those
separator pads," commented Greer, in explaining why Guardian
avoids this particular issue.
Craig Brown of Maverick Transportation added, "Everyone does
something a little different because there's no standardization
Hitt agreed that problem should be addressed.
"I would love to see a standardized method or two or three
for these trailers and the kinds of things they're using so we're
not having these conversations," Hitt said.
And while standardization for improving safety and protecting the
industry might be ideal, Hitt summarized that sometimes there are
defects in a pack and "things happen and the pack blows out."
Glass is a very difficult material to transport, after all, he added,
and sometimes this stuff happens.
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