Smoot Brothers Transportation

Customer Spotlight Smoot Brothers Transportation

Three brothers built one company from scratch. When safety and compliance issues threatened to cost customers, they turned to Zonar.

Founders Mike, Matt and Kenny Smoot built their business from the ground up. What started as a one-truck operation is now a transportation company with five divisions, more than 100 employees, 14 owner-operators and 60 trucks running nationwide. It’s also created a sister company, Triple S Transportation, which specializes in hauling hazardous waste.

Most of Smoot Brothers Transportation’s business is moving construction materials, manufactured products, machinery and scrap metal, on flatbed trailers. When contractors need construction materials moved across the country quickly; or area wholesale retail stores need supplies delivered from warehouses on time; or manufacturers need machinery and scrap metal supplies, Smoot Brothers Transportation is usually on their speed dial.

According to Kenny, he and his brothers have always prided themselves on the quick, responsive, friendly service they offered when it was just three of them. The three brothers put a lot of pride into their business, and it shows even today. But they faced challenges that if left unanswered, could close their business.

It was tieme to change how they operate.

The service on which the brothers built the company remains core to the business. “It’s something we’ve come to expect from the drivers we’ve hired over the years,” says Kenny. “After all, our stock and trade is the service we offer. Our customers not only appreciate that, they’ve grown accustomed to expecting it from us.”

Although customers were happy with Smoot Brothers’ service, compliance issues began impacting the business.

According to Kenny, “Many of our customers supply the big home improvement center chains, which have strict policies about sourcing supplies from companies that hire carriers with good safety scores to move those supplies to their stores.” But Smoot Brothers’ safety scores didn’t meet minimum requirements. “While our customers were happy with our service and the friendliness of our drivers, they told us that if our safety record didn’t improve, they would have no choice but to end their business relationship with us.”

Smoot Brothers heard a similar refrain from the its insurance carrier, which also needed to see marked improvements in the company’s safety record.

A new day, a new safety manager and a new safety program.

Smoot Brothers Transportation hired Bob Laumann, a retiring Idaho commercial vehicle inspection officer, as its new safety manager. Laumann set to work addressing the two major areas of concern: equipment maintenance and HoS compliance.

He emphasized the completion and documentation of annual inspections by the company’s maintenance personnel when trucks and trailers were serviced. As a result, the company’s maintenance scores went up. Laumann also hired technicians devoted to equipment maintenance and inspections, especially trailers. He then had the technicians train the company’s drivers on conducting proper inspections to identify safety issues.

To address HoS regulations, Laumann emphasized log monitoring and compliance. He used a computer-assisted program to scan and monitor driver compliance. He also established a driver incentive program that rewarded drivers for violation-free DOT inspections and HoS logs. To further engage drivers, Laumann sent out a monthly newsletter, which provided driver scorecards and encouraged competition.

When Smoot Brothers Transportation received a thorough compliance audit, the inspector found improvements so substantial, the inspector complimented the company. Still, Laumann knew the Smoot Brothers hadn’t reached the necessary level of compliance from a safety and a business standpoint, especially regarding HoS regulations.

Smoot Brothers implements a Zonar solution to finish the job.

“Our score had been impacted by HoS violations involving drivers who weren’t carefully tracking their hours,” said Kenny. “It was also impacted by missing or incomplete driver inspections, which all led to unidentified maintenance issues that weren’t getting addressed in the shop.”

But Laumann knew how to address the issue. “I told them they needed a secure, fool-proof telematics system that could hold drivers accountable for their vehicle inspections and hours of service,” he said. “The telematics system also needed to provide the company’s drivers and dispatchers a way to stay in contact. That way dispatchers always know at a glance where drivers

I told them they needed a secure, fool-proof telematics system that could hold drivers accountable for their vehicle inspections and hours of service.
Bob Laumann, Safety Manager

are and their status. They don’t have to call them and interrupt their rest periods, for example.”

Based on Laumann’s professional experience, and what was needed at Smoot Brothers, he decided Zonar offered the best options, especially with its signature Electronic Verified Inspection Reporting (EVIR) and Zonar Logs Hours of Service application. Smoot Brothers began equipping trucks with Zonar’s 2020 tablet, loaded with Zonar Logs, and Zonar’s EVIR system.

With Zonar’s solution, Smoot Brothers drivers can:

  • Track their hours of service
  • Submit timely and accurate HoS reports
  • Conduct consistent, verifiable vehicle inspections
  • Submit clear, complete inspection reports
  • Focus on their job without being overly distracted by dispatchers, safety messages and other critical correspondence

According to Kenny, “Based on our trial experiences with various other systems, plus what Bob told us, we decided that Zonar was really the best way to go for us.”

Fred Fakkema, vice president of compliance at Zonar, said because the Zonar ZLogs application effectively holds company drivers accountable for tracking their hours of service, Smoot Brothers is in a much better position to comply with the ELD mandate.

“By the time the final rule goes into effect,” said Fakkema, “Smoot Brothers’ drivers will have years of experience using the 2020, making the company’s safety compliance efforts almost second nature. Since the mandate will allow drivers to edit their own logs, creating annotations on entries and edits, Smoot Brothers managers and their drivers will have time to work out the details. For

Based on our trial experiences with various other systems, plus what Bob told us, we decided that Zonar was really the best way to go for us.

example, they will know how to identify the difference between on- and off-hour activities.”

Fakkema said because the 2020 enables fleets like Smoot Brothers to keep compliance processes consistent, drivers can more easily avoid violations during inspections and improve operational efficiency and safety.

Zonar technology makes inspections easier for everyone.

Zonar’s EVIR creates inspection zones using radio frequency identification (RFID) tags placed on equipment in certain areas. When the operator passes the Zonar device within inches of each tag, the device reads the tag and prompts the operator to report the condition of the specified components or area. This makes inspections consistent, reliable and efficient. It also tracks when drivers conduct inspection and how long they took.

The 2020 tablet’s HD camera enables drivers to take video or photos of any faults they find, to include with the inspection report. When the driver returns the 2020 to its mount, the onboard Zonar V3 telematics computer sends the inspection results, photos and video back to a Zonar server, which displays the information on Zonar’s secure Ground Traffic Control web-based portal.

Managers, dispatchers and maintenance personnel can view the results and any photos or videos. If the issue involves the truck’s engine or emission control system, they can use V3’s remote diagnostics capabilities to determine if the vehicle needs to be towed to the nearest repair facility.

Drivers learned to embrace the change.

At first, drivers didn’t see how the solution benefits them. One driver said he’d quit if the company installed ELDs. “But after drivers learned how to use the 2020s and discovered how they make the inspection process and HoS reporting so much easier, they quickly changed their tune,” Laumann said. “Drivers appreciate that they can do their visual inspections is less than half the time it took with paper forms.”

Drivers also like that when they fill out reports, issues are more likely to be fixed. Shop mechanics can more easily locate and repair issues because the electronic inspections result in more complete and accurate forms, coupled with photos and video.

The solution has also reduced the time drivers spend at weigh stations and inspection sites. Because Zonar

Drivers appreciate that they can do their visual inspections is less than half the time it took with paper forms.

provides complete and accurate reports, drivers can offer law enforcement immediate access to the reports on the 2020 tablets.

Zonar helped reduce violations. More benefits to come.

“Still, for those officers who insist on getting paper logs, Zonar’s Ground Traffic Control provides us the ability to email the logs to them in a variety of forms, which they can then print off,” Laumann added

The biggest impact to the company’s operation has been the dramatic drop in the average number of HoS and vehicle inspection violations. Before implementing the Zonar solution, company drivers often received several violations each month. But in the first six months after implementation, that number dropped to nearly zero.

Laumann looks forward to more as drivers settle in to the new way operating. “We anticipate seeing our safety score to really start dropping as the point values for violations issued to drivers several months ago start to fall. Drivers are really starting to see Zonar as a big benefit not only for them, but also for the company.”

Remember that driver who was willing to quit? Per Kenny, “And that driver who said he would quit if we installed electronic logging devices is now the 2020’s biggest advocate.”

Better safety, better compliance, better business.

Just six months after implementing Zonar’s solution, the company’s SMS percentile scores improved. Best news? The company received a clean report following a second compliance review audit by the FMCSA. The inspection officer found no issues and praised the company and its employees for their hard work to improve Smoot Transportation’s safety compliance.

Kenny said he and his brothers look forward to realizing more operational efficiencies and savings from the Zonar devices as they get better at using the information. For now, the company’s primary goal for the telematics devices has been to improve its safety record. “And on that score alone, Zonar has done that and more,” Kenny adds.