Some truck drivers for Swift Transportation, a unit of Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. (NYSE: KNX), said they received messages via their onboard computer messaging systems around 7 a.m. Dec. 2 instructing them to chain up and drive in inclement weather to get their loads delivered on time.
“We cannot afford to have you down or the load to be days late due to weather,” said the message, sent by a Swift driver leader and posted by Swift drivers on the Twisted Truckers Facebook page. “If we can drive, we will — whether it be 5 mph or an appropriate speed as long as we are safe.”
The social media post received more than 3,700 comments from truckers responding to the message. Some said they would park until conditions improved while others stated that driving in harsh weather conditions is just part of the job.
Winter weather alerts disrupted much of the Northeast on Dec. 2 after a storm dumped snow, freezing rain and sleet across a large portion of the mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Severe weather was also reported in portions of the Sierra Nevadas and the Cascades in southern Oregon to the mountains of northern Nevada and southern Idaho.
A follow-up message was sent approximately four hours later by the same driver leader to Swift drivers clarifying that he did not recommend drivers be on the road “if the weather won’t allow it or you do not feel comfortable.”
Kevin Quast, chief operating officer of Swift, confirmed the message was sent by one of its “newer driver leaders,” but said the statement didn’t accurately convey the company’s position on safety.
“This was not a company-wide statement,” Quast told FreightWaves. “A newer driver leader with us was a little overzealous with what he was trying to do. We’ve coached him and helped him to understand really what he was communicating and we made sure we are all approaching it the same way.”
A post on Swift Transportation’s Facebook page on Dec. 3, a day after the original message was posted, clarified the mega-carrier’s position on its chain usage stance.
“Chains should be used to get a driver out of trouble and to find the first safe/legal place to park,” Swift’s post stated. “They [chains] are not to be used to make a delivery on time or to get through bad weather.”
Dave Berry, vice president of Swift, said he wasn’t aware of the social media posts concerning the Swift driver leader’s message sent via OmniTracs, formerly Qualcomm.
“Loads can be late, but the priority is the people on the highway and the people behind the wheel of the truck,” Berry told FreightWaves.
Since the merger with Knight Transportation in 2017, Swift is becoming significantly safer than it’s been in decades, Quast said.
“We take safety very seriously and are continuing to improve and work hard to become even safer,” he said.
FreightWaves’ Stephen Oatley contributed to this report