LAS VEGAS. Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) presented two $25,000 checks during the American Trucking Assns. annual convention here to the first winners of is new safety award program. The private fleet at Food City had zero recordable accidents in 2008 to win the under-10-million-mi. category in the Volvo Trucks Safety Award. In the over-10-million-mi. category, for-hire carrier Bison Transport was the inaugural winner, reporting 0.19 accidents per million miles traveled.

VTNA announced the new annual program earlier this year to recognize the safest fleets in the U.S. and Canada. Open to any fleet with five or more trucks, it attracted 247 entries divided into the two mileage categories. Winners were based on Dept. of Transportation recordable accidents and the depth of their accident prevention programs, according to the truck maker.

A regional supermarket chain headquartered in Abingdon, VA, Food City has a fleet of 75 tractors and 129 drivers. Its drivers accumulated 7.9 million accident-free miles making deliveries to 105 stores in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.

Food City’s safety program starts with hiring the most experienced drivers and then supporting them with the safest equipment as well as incentives and rewards for continued safe driving, according to Jesse Lewis, sr. vp & COO.

“We feel what we invest in accident prevention gives us a tremendous return on that investment,” said Lewis during the award ceremony.

Based in Winnipeg, MB, Bison Transport operates 1,050 tractors across the U.S. and Canada, handling on average 3,200 shipments a week with 1,400 drivers. Equipment specifications and maintenance are an important element in the fleet’s “intense focus on safety,” according to Don Streuber, president & CEO. An extensive training program for both new and experienced drivers includes time in four driving simulators and 15 different courses. Ongoing risk assessment of each driver and targeted training to help address high-risk behaviors rounds out the program.

“Both of these companies have taken the concept of safety and made it the foundation of their fleets,” said Scott Kress, VTNA sr. vp of sales & marketing. “Volvo is honored to recognize these companies and their employees, and to share our passion for safety.”

The Volvo Trucks Safety Awards will continue as an annual program, Kress said, offering two $25,000 prizes that can be used by the winning fleets to expand their safety programs.