Independent truck operators Tom and Debbie Berkel have been driving for Louisville, KY-based Mercer Transportation for 26 years, so they know a thing or two about driver loyalty. Qualified to haul hazardous materials, the Berkels are also extremely safety conscious.
“Mercer is really strict about safety, even stricter than DOT,” Tom Berkel told FleetOwner, “but we appreciate that. For instance, Mercer requires replacement of brakes sooner than the DOT. At the scales, they tend to just wave us on because Mercer has such a good safety reputation. We were at a weigh station in Colorado once and I asked the inspector why he pulled the truck ahead of us aside and not ours. He said, ‘Mercer’s stuff is always right, so we don’t worry about you.’ That means a lot; it makes our job easier.”
Mercer uses Qualcomm to track its independent contractors and when they haul hazardous materials for the U.S. government, as the Berkels sometimes do, then the government makes use of that Qualcomm system for tracking, too. “Mercer tracks us all the time and the government also tracks us if we are hauling for them,” explained Tom Berkel. “Tracking makes us feel safer. The Qualcomm unit even has a panic button feature. If something happened, say if we’d been on the bridge that collapsed, at least people would know exactly where to start looking for us. I am all for any safety feature or program available that works.”
“Other drivers we meet sometimes complain about safety strictness,” added Debbie Berkel. “At Mercer, inspectors check out your equipment every six months. Tom takes pride in the fact that they’ve never found anything on our truck more than a minor problem in 26 years. If they did find something, though, we would be grateful. The safer you can be, the safer you can help keep everybody else on the road—all those other people out there on the highway with you.”