By Steve Vaughn, vice president of field operations at HELP Inc., provider of PrePass

This blog originally appeared on the IdeaXchange.

With the New Year, my mailbox is filled with reminders of what I should accomplish in 2019. The bank sent a 2019 calendar, complete with dates marked in red when key financial actions, like estimated tax payments are due. My insurance agent sent the cheery note that “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”

Turning the page in a calendar is often accompanied by seasonal prompts (think of “spring cleaning”) that can become almost ritualistic. So it is with planning and the arrival of January. But when it comes to safety, there truly is no time like the present. Safety is too often portrayed only as preventing mistakes and responding to problems. Key to successful defensive actions, though, is planning and preparation.

Planning can be simplistically broken down into three steps: One, what you want to accomplish; two, how you want to do it; and three, when and how often you want to do it. The calendar is key to steps two and three. Mark down now when you want a task completed (step one) and the preparation points prior to completion (step two). That’s planning.

But what should you plan for in the name of safety? What is step one?  You already know some of the seasonal challenges your operation faces, such as winter driving. Gather the data about each one and write it down on the calendar on where you encounter problems. And then, also on the calendar, write down when you, your drivers and operations personnel will lay out contingency plans for next winter.

You also know some of the regulatory challenges coming down the road. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is moving toward “item response theory (IRT) for evaluating carrier safety. While technical details on IRT are still in the works, we do know that it will look at a carrier’s safety culture.

Right now is a good time to schedule your company’s team meetings and list exactly the safety messages you will deliver each time. And while you’re at it, make a note on your calendar to get out of your office, away from the phone and paperwork, and go talk to your employees on the dock and in the yard. Finally, mark down the 2019 dates for National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Sept. 8-14, and plan, step-by-step, for your celebration.

There are many other safety-related items you can and should plan to accomplish in 2019.  Here’s one with an immediate business payback. You know when customer contracts are due and new bids expected. And you probably already assure your customers that your operations are safe. This year, plan to share specifics about your company: improved safety numbers; how drivers want to work for you because you are safe (and, thus, you have the manpower to meet customer needs); and how your safety allows you to qualify for electronic bypass like PrePass, allowing more timely and reliable service to the customer. Planning is required to gather and include those safety specifics – but that little bit of planning can be very rewarding!

This emphasis on planning may read a bit like a New Year’s resolution. Yes, it is. “Resolution” is composed of the prefix “re-,” meaning to do again, and the word “solution,” meaning what brings the desired outcome. You already know what safety outcome you desire – resolve to achieve it by planning.

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations for HELP Inc., the provider of the truck weigh station bypass system PrePass as well as toll payment and trucking data visualization technology. He previously served with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.