What Do Our Drivers and Athletes Have In Common? This Stunningly Simple Safety Measure

Baseball, soccer, football, track – if you’ve played any of these sports you’re quite aware of how important cleats are. They keep athletes’ feet from slipping and provide great traction on wet grass or in mud.

This winter was one of the worst ones we’ve had in a very long time, and Steve Wadhams (our co-owner and president) wanted to ward off a rash of slips and falls among our employees. At a trade show he ran into a company who had, at one point, started thinking: If cleats could provide good traction to athletes on the field, would they not work just as well on ice for drivers? It seems they were right.

Why Cleats?

Some of our drivers, like the milk haulers in our ETW division, have to face some icy or slushy conditions on their daily routes to the dairy farms. Our ARG or RIST drivers come across slick convenience store or truck stop parking lots that have not been sanded or salted.

It’s important to us that our drivers are safe at all times. Slipping on ice can be a serious problem. It can result in broken bones, stretches, strains and bruises. That’s why when Steve saw some prototypes at this trade show last spring, he thought cleats would be a great way to keep drivers safe on winter ice.

We did a trial run with about a dozen of our drivers and the results were very positive. So we went ahead and purchased around 600 pairs—enough for all the drivers in our three divisions.

Ice Traction

The cleats we opted to buy have a rubber webbing that is pulled over the boot. The rubber is made of a special compound that remains flexible even in very low temperatures. The heel and toe straps are also extra thick so it is easy for the driver to pull the cleats on and off between their stops. There are also six tungsten carbide spikes set in a 360° pattern that provide our drivers extra stability and improved traction on slippery surfaces. And, they’re small enough that they can be stored in the glove compartment when not in use.

10 Seconds to Safety

We can all take time to adopt new procedures, and nobody really likes to be told what to do, so naturally some drivers were initially resistant to the strapping this extra equipment on to their boots. We noticed during our observations that many drivers didn’t take advantage of the product, so the terminal managers instated a policy making it a mandatory safety precaution.

Well, it’s all going well, with a majority of our team enjoying wearing them now. For example, one of our milk haulers, Paul Elkins, says the cleats help tremendously when you have to walk on ice to get from your truck to the milk-house.

And really, it only takes about 10 seconds to pull them on. It’s really a matter of getting used to the extra step. Our drivers know we want them to wear the cleats for safety’s sake. It provides them with that extra bit of confidence, and helps to reduce the risk of pulled muscles, broken limbs and potential back problems.

Protecting Our Greatest Asset

Our terminal managers also handed out safety literature on the cleats to reinforce our intentions—that it is a proactive approach to work safety.

Our drivers are the backbone of our industry, and our clients depend on them to pick up their daily perishable items like milk or any of the other goods that we transport. That’s why it is imperative that we keep them as safe as we possibly can.

Don Guay

Don Guay

A 23-year veteran of the New York State Troopers, Don Guay spent six years with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit doing roadside inspections. Today, he uses his experience and training to ensure RIST drivers and equipment adhere to the highest standards. As safety manager, Don is responsible for overseeing inspection reports, safety department checks, investigations, and training. He jokes that he left the “dark side” and came to the good side, representing and protecting RIST drivers, our customers and their freight, and the general motoring public. Safety is more than a checklist; it is our top priority.