Ann Danko, Director of Safety and Compliance, Reliable Carriers

“I was born with diesel flowing through me,” says Ann Danko, director of safety and compliance at Reliable Carriers. She says it with a laugh, but it could be true. Her grandfather worked for C&O Railroad for 44 years, and he operated a small fleet of dump trucks. Her parents were owner-operators called the Driving Force, delivering expedited freight.

With more than 30 years of transportation experience, Danko is a driving force all her own. She’s spent the last nine years at Reliable Carriers, the largest specialized auto transporter in the United States. Reliable is a place where customers expect the best and people like Danko are quick to deliver it. 

In a recent interview, she talked about everything that sets Reliable Carriers apart from the competition, including the company’s safety culture — which she champions.

Safety starts at the top

We’re never stagnant. That mindset starts with our owner, Tom Abrams, who gets the word out that fleet safety comes first. It has to come first, because we’re a rolling billboard. Our brand is our reputation. So the safety culture starts at the top and is universal throughout the entire company.

Recruit and reward professional drivers

We have about 300 drivers. They’re specialized car handlers. They operate a piece of machinery that is 80,000 pounds, 75 feet long, and they take it up and down the roads all day, every day. They drive in inclement weather, construction, and heavy traffic. You name it, they’ve seen it. We have drivers who have been working here for 30 years or more. There’s something to be said about that.

Recently, someone called with a compliment for one of our drivers. So I thanked him for how he’s behaving on the road. I wrote him a thank you card and put $100 in there. 

People always pick up the phone when there’s something to complain about. Very rarely do you see people picking up the phone to say “Thank you for doing a good job.” I believe in thanking our drivers. It gives them a boost.

Spark a little competition

Our drivers are competitive. We use driver scorecards, and they track their scores closely. A driver just called to say, “I dropped a point, why?” They want to know how they can get better. You know what we do when we have a driver call? We do a deep dive to find out why they dropped.

Were there too many hard braking events, too many speeding events? We look into it and let the drivers know. And you know what happens? The next week, they’re better. And the week after that, they’re better. They want to improve, so they do. And we definitely hear them talking proudly about their scores in the driver’s lounge all the time. A little friendly competition is good for everyone.

Use technology to have visibility, be proactive and coach

The AI dash cams we have show exactly which drivers to coach, and which behaviors to coach them on. Through our fleet dashboard, we track fleet safety performance on big screens right in the office.  

Our drivers live and work all over the United States. So when an unsafe driving event happens, we call the driver and coach them over the phone. That’s our first line of defense. Motive gives us real-time alerts to let us know exactly what’s happening on the road, and we take it from there.

Emphasize the positive

When a driver gets a compliment, I enter that into our systems. I don’t want to just look at the negative. I want to look at the positive and see the overall picture. I know some people focus on the negative, but that doesn’t boost morale. That doesn’t make drivers want to go out and do their best. You gotta give them positive feedback. Motive helps me do that.

Keep learning

For 63 years, Reliable Carriers has made a name for itself delivering vehicles to celebrities, auction houses, and everyday folks. During the pandemic, when other fleets were pinching pennies, we ramped up our investment in safety technology.

We’re always looking for ways to improve. And Motive is right there with us. Right now, we’re testing side and rear cameras on our trailers, and they show us exactly what happens in an incident. Having side and rear cameras in addition to the forward-facing AI Dashcams gives us four views and nearly a 360-degree view of what’s happening in our fleet. It’s really opened our eyes, and we can’t wait to install them throughout our entire fleet.

Safety drives profitability

We’re not a manufacturer. We don’t build anything. We’re about service and being on time, damage free. Having a strong safety culture helps us remain profitable. It helps us continue to be the largest specialized auto transporter in the whole United States.

Learn more about the safety culture at Reliable Carriers and see what makes their program so successful.