“There’s no competition when it comes to safety.” That has become the backbone and unofficial motto of the Safety Leadership Summit, an initiative led by and involving some of the nation’s largest commercial tire dealerships. In October 35 safety personnel gathered near Charlotte, N.C., to share best practices and ideas on how to make their employees, workplaces and the industry as a whole, safer.
The summit is the brainchild of Russ Devens, director of safety and risk assessment at McCarthy Tire Service Co. Inc., and Tony Mullen, director of risk management at Snider Tire Inc.
The two men were introduced when a shared insurance company representative suggested they connect. Their scheduled one-hour meeting extended more than three hours, and at the end of it they decided they needed to get other commercial tire dealers in on the conversation. That day, the idea of the Safety Leadership Summit was born.
“I quickly realized his problems were my problems,” Mullen said.
Their first event in 2019 brought together 21 safety-focused representatives from 14 commercial tire dealerships. The pandemic prevented an event last year, but the group reconvened in October 2021. Snider played host to 35 representatives from 15 dealers and commercial manufacturers, along with four more supporting companies.
And this year, T.J. Trum, general counsel for Pomp’s Tire Service Inc. joined Devens and Mullen in organizing the event after attending the inaugural summit. Tire dealerships chip in to sponsor meals during the day-and-a-half-long event, and Snider has served as host since it’s near the airport in Charlotte.
There’s an agenda and presentations by a few select companies who present safety solutions, but the real gold of the meeting is the conversation between dealers. Modern Tire Dealer had an exclusive seat at the 2021 summit, and dealers talked about everything from OSHA inspections to technology, and how any new initiative might affect the ongoing critical shortage of commercial tire technicians.
Keith Jarman and the team from AME International LLC demonstrated the proper use of jacks and jack stands and cribbing when lifting oversized pieces of equipment. Steve Ohar from Federated Mutual Insurance presented info on the latest claims trends. Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training at the Tire Industry Association, gave an overview of the group’s plans to update some of its training modules.
Rich Cannon, vice president of human resources at Snider Tire, opened up a discussion related to COVID-19, which had been job priority one for many in the room over the past 18-plus months. Every dealership was concerned with what might happen with the potential rule that all employers with 100 or more workers require vaccines, or require the unvaccinated to produce weekly negative COVID tests. (The rule was announced Sept. 9 by the White House, but so far the details remain unknown.)
Leigh-Ann Stewart, the safety manager for Kal Tire, led off a discussion about how the company handles its incident reports. The company’s dashboard was a bit startling to some in the room, with dozens of new reports, but she noted it represented the company’s global footprint — including 250-plus stores and six off-the-road tire retreading facilities in Canada, the U.K. West Africa, Chile and Mexico.
And each report isn’t a catastrophe; some are requests for equipment repairs or replacement. “We can’t get better if we don’t know what’s going on,” Stewart said.
Devens says since the first event in 2019, the conversation and sharing of best practices between dealers has continued. They’re constantly swapping ideas or asking for resources via a group e-mail chain.
He says, “Some say they feel like they’re on an island,” when trying to find a solution to a problem. And Mullen says some things Snider was considering or products they were testing have since been tabled after learning of problems that popped up for other dealers on the same road.
Trum says many of the tire dealerships participating in the summit are independently owned, and family owned. They consider their workforce a family. “They care about their people (and work toward) ‘how do we send our people home safely?’”