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Safety First: Route of Honor

With temperatures cooling and daylight hours dwindling, fall is an excellent time to review your safety programs, training and procedures, waste equipment, and OSHA/DOT compliance to help ensure one of your trucks is not involved in a preventable accident, and that your workers do not suffer an injury or illness.

As part of this review, solid waste haulers and local governments that perform waste collection are urged to participate in the Environmental Industry Associations’ (EIA) Driver of the Year (DOY) program. Each year, EIA recognizes the safest drivers in the solid waste industry in seven categories: large residential, large commercial, large industrial, small residential, small commercial, small industrial and public sector.

The program honors drivers who uphold the field of solid waste management as an honorable occupation and who conduct themselves and operate their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner. It is a great way for companies and municipalities to recognize their safest drivers. All nominees receive a gift package and certificate of appreciation, and finalists receive a personalized plaque. The winner in each category is honored in person at WasteExpo at the EIA Inspirational Awards Breakfast. Each winner also receives a commemorative gift and a $1,000 cash prize.

The cutoff between the “large” and “small” categories is 50 collection vehicles, so smaller haulers are not competing against drivers at the large national companies. In the past, we have not received an overwhelming number of small company nominations, so if a small hauler nominates one of its drivers, he or she stands a good chance of being a finalist, and even a winner. You don’t need to be a National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) or EIA member to nominate one (or more) of your drivers.

Just nominating one of your drivers can have a positive impact on your safety record. That driver will certainly be extra careful to avoid accidents while his or her nomination is being reviewed! Moreover, according to several haulers I’ve spoken to, a nomination also makes the other drivers drive more safely, in hopes that they will be nominated the following year.

For me, watching the DOY winners receive this award at WasteExpo is one of the most fulfilling moments of the year. These drivers are generally unaccustomed to speaking before large audiences, but many of them take full advantage of their moment in the sun to thank their families and coworkers. A few become very emotional and have trouble saying anything at all; it’s a special moment for them and their companies. Your drivers deserve to be considered for these prestigious awards. It is something that the winners remember for the rest of their lives.

The DOY nomination forms will be available by the end of September and must be submitted by Dec. 2, 2011. EIA plans to announce the winners on March 2, 2012, which will give them plenty of time to make travel plans for WasteExpo in Las Vegas in May 2012.

I look forward to once again watching them receive their awards, and hope your drivers will be among them.

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