The Trucking Industry’s Commitment to Driver Safety: Interview with Fenn Church
To recap National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and, as our alliance with the trucking industry continues to grow, we connected with one of our company partners, Church Transportation & Logistics, Inc.. We discussed how the industry has evolved when it comes to safety. And we talked about our new Protected by 43 Key Seconds truck decals that the foundation now offers as part of our 43 Key Seconds initiative.
Fenn Church is the President and owner of Church Transportation. The company, located in Birmingham, Alabama, was founded in March of 2000 and currently operates 65 tractors with 71 total employees. He has also been a past President and Board Member of the Alabama Trucking Association for over 19 years. We are honored that Fenn was able to take the time to meet with us for a Lutzie 43 Partnership Spotlight.
You started Church Transportation over 22 years ago and have grown into a very successful company. Can you give us a little background on how you achieved this success?
Just like football, growing a company is hard work, and failure has never been an option for us. There is a great deal of liability in the trucking industry. You need to make sure the equipment is maintained and working properly. We survived the recession in 2008-2009 when our expenses were higher than our revenue. But we made it through and continued to grow.
2021 was a good year for us. We purchased 69 new trucks, and we are waiting for 25 of them to still arrive. Honestly, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to start something, but – you do need to be able to push forward and weather the tough times.
How have you seen the trucking industry change or evolve over the last 22 years with regard to safety?
It is truly unparalleled. We now have automated technology that can stop a truck without the driver stepping on the brake pedal. Traveling 40 mph or less it is designed to stop in traffic without making impact. The Bendix Wingman Collision System is something we have on all our trucks. It is an active cruise with a braking system that can help our drivers maintain a safe following distance. When the distance between our driver’s truck and the vehicle they’re following starts to close, the Bendix® Wingman® ACB system provides warnings and keeps the vehicle 3.6 seconds behind the vehicle in front of it. When cruise control is engaged [automated]actions, including brake applications, help your driver keep their distance.) (link in the blog post). This type of technology helps to keep drivers safe and alert.
We also have automatic transmissions instead of manual. This prevents a driver from running into issues with the shifting mechanisms on their automatic transmissions. These vehicles are two-pedal designs and are considered much easier to manage than manual transmissions. Automatic transmission is safer because there’s less to think about and distract someone on the road. It also is safer because it works with the Bendix Collision Avoidance System and downshifts the gears for a controlled stop.
With safety being top of mind for Church Transportation, how do you ensure your drivers and employees are practicing safe driving habits?
When it comes to our drivers, we are all about training and holding them accountable. Another technology we have installed is SURECAM dash Cameras. They are forward-facing cameras that are activated by g-force. When this happens, we receive an email with the footage to ensure our drivers are doing all they can to prevent a crash. Not only does this help our drivers stay alert but it is a great coaching moment for our drivers as well.
How did you first hear about the Lutzie 43 Foundation and its 43 Key Seconds initiative?
I had heard about the Lutzie 43 Foundation through both Kevin Savoy at Greenbush Logistics and the Alabama Trucking Association. What really impressed me is that Mike Lutzenkirchen himself called me to discuss having Church Transportation partner with the foundation. I remember when his son died, and it was just an incredible loss to the entire Auburn family.
You’ve recently partnered with Lutzie 43 through the “Protected by 43 Key Seconds” truck decals. How does the mission of Lutzie 43 and 43 Key Seconds align with Church Transportation core values?
The Foundation’s mission transitions well into the trucking industry. We didn’t hesitate to partner with the Lutzie 43 Foundation. I believe the Lutzie 43 Foundation is making an impact, and I hope the Alabama Department of Transportation (DOT) adopts the 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative. The DOT requires pre-trip and post-trip check-ups of all of our trucks, and sadly a good percentage of drivers across the state do not take these necessary steps.
We mandate our drivers to take these steps to ensure the vehicle is up to standards, similar to taking 43 Key Seconds to ensure all drivers are prepared before they start their vehicles. The 43 Key Seconds key, lanyard, and checklist serve as a reminder to our drivers to follow the rules and practice safe driving. We also go over the Foundation’s mission during our new employee orientations. We want our drivers to get safely from point A to point B, but we also want them to know that we care about them.
As for the new “Protected by Lutzie 43” foundation decals, we recently installed them on 36 trucks, and we plan on ordering more. It is a reminder not only to our drivers but to all drivers on the road to stay alert through the 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative.