I heard from James Griffith here in middle Tennessee recently following publication of a small item in local news in Sparta, Tenn., about the ceremony for Griffith’s Conard Transportation fleet’s first-annual Jeanne Mannes Safety Awards. The program, which recognizes three top drivers for their safety performance over the course of a year, paid out significant bonuses in addition to recognition to top drivers Darren Isenberger ($5,000), David Smithson ($2,500) and Hal Wagner ($1,000).
That’s something in and of itself, but lots of companies have driver rewards programs. What’s perhaps most interesting is just where this particular program originates. It’s named in honor of a local woman who died after one of Conard’s company drivers was at fault when he hit her car at an intersection. Mannes was a 76-year-old mother, former nurse and active church member in the community. At the time of the crash, she was “on her way to a memorial service for her daughter, who’d passed away,” Griffith says. Against the advice of company lawyers, he adds, “we talked to the surviving family, and ended up being very good friends of the family.”
The safety awards are the culmination of that relationship, ultimately, and how it put the company on a path toward, in Griffith’s words, “the good side of this thing. Number 1, it made us a lot safer. We’ve been able to step out and recruit better people because of this.”
Conard runs 40 trucks 24/7, he says, employing 60 drivers.
The awards ceremony “was a moving occasion,” Griffith said, bringing together Conard drivers and personnel with the Mannes family and also Tennessee Highway Patrol officers who “investigated the accident, the prosecutor and several members of the FMCSA who did the post-accident audit.
“I’m really proud of our guys who got the awards.”