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Trucker Rocha win in national safety program
A Ceres based trucking company has received national honors for its safe driving record.

Rocha Transportation, located at 2400 Nickerson Drive, off of Whitmore Avenue, won a grand prize in the category of trucking companies with a total annual mileage of less than 25 million miles. The honor was given by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) at its 36th annual National Fleet Safety Awards, sponsored by Great West Casualty Co.

TCA presented the award to Rocha corporate secretary Corrie Toste at the an awards banquet held March 6 in Kissimmee, Fla.

"Success in the trucking industry stems from safety, and Rocha Transportation is living proof of this," said Chris Burruss, TCA's president. "The carrier has demonstrated excellence in all aspects of a superior safety program, from its hiring procedures, to safety incentives, to the way it inspects and maintains equipment."

Sam Cross, Rocha's safety manager, said his company emphasizes safety to its 60 drivers and 10 independent contractors. The company wants its 48 trucks, which mostly drive products for Gallo Winery and its subsidiary G3, to arrive safely to and from loading docks and yards. The firm runs about 175 to 200 loads a day, including 50 to 60 trips to the Port of Oakland.

"Our accident rate is really low," said Cross. "Because of our volume, one accident and I'm out of the running for the award."

The company won the same award in 2005 and 2008.

He said prospective drivers must demonstrate a willingness to be accountable for actions and can learn from their mistakes.

"Teflon people, or those who have a ready excuse for everything and for whom nothing sticks, need not apply here," said Cross.

No one drives for the company, he said, without a minimum of two years Class A truck driving experience and no more than one to two tickets in last three years.

Rocha's extensive safety program, which is updated quarterly, calls for managers to study accident frequency ratios, average claim amounts, insurance premiums, and other safety statistics. Everyone, including each driver, is made aware of the costs of accidents and how each accident affects the company.

"We give them a choice: do you want a raise or want me to spend my money elsewhere and we have been fortunate in that everybody wants a raise."

Rocha has budgeted over $100,000 for a driver training simulator, which manufacturers have said is unprecedented for a small company. Last year, the company trained or retrained all of its drivers in defensive driving techniques.

A new "dash-boarding" process allows Rocha to identify driver productivity, efficiency, and profitability. Management will soon begin meeting with drivers twice per year to review dash-board results and offer additional training if necessary.

Rocha also invests in annual employee safety celebrations at Bay Area amusement parks to reward good driving.

Cross said his company operates a yard off of South Ninth Street but ultimately plans to build a yard on the site of the former Ceres Drive-In. For now it plans on spending capital on new blue and white trucks.

"Eventually we will get around to it," said Cross.

The company is owned by Henry Dirksen, who purchased it from Ed Rocha in 2000.

Sharing the honors were Bison Transport of Winnipeg, Manitoba, which won TCA's grand prize in the category for truckload companies with a total annual mileage of 25 million or more miles.

Both Rocha and Bison were selected from among 18 division winners (determined by accident frequency only) that were previously announced in January.

Rocha will be recognized a second time during TCA's upcoming Safety & Security Division Annual Meeting, to be held May 20-22 in Norman, Okla.