Don Osterberg

Don Osterberg, Retired US Army Colonel and former SVP of Safety, Security, Driver Training, Regulatory Compliance at Schneider National

Portland, Oregon–I recently had the privilege of speaking with veteran safety expert
and retired United States Army Colonel Don Osterberg to discuss his safety strategy during his tenure at Schneider International as well as the future of safety & technology in the trucking industry.  Earlier this week I shared our conversation about creating a safety culture. Today the safety expert delves into the world of trucking safety and technology.

Safety Knowledge to Safety Learning

What are the best tools available to safety directors today?

“First you need to answer this question: What is keeping safety directors and safety managers from embracing these new tools? Here’s what I know:

“Trucking is highly disaggregated as an industry: everything from large carriers with management processes in place to a mom-and-pop with one truck.

“Looking at an industry as a whole most would characterize it as a ‘knowing’ industry. People who have been successful in the industry have been so as a result of what they know, not necessarily what they’ve been willing to learn. They develop a ‘kit bag’ housing the sum of all their professional experiences. And, for the most, part their pattern recognition and instincts are pretty good.

“I used to say ‘it’s what you don’t know that will hurt you.’ Now I believe it’s what you absolutely know to be true that isn’t true that is going to hurt you.”

“Today’s safety professionals have to embrace their cognitive limitations and understand that technology is far faster and often more capable than we are.”

The safety veteran went on, “They will have to embrace a learning culture and learning approach, to say ‘I will be defined less by what I know, and more by what I’m willing to learn.’ It’s a value shift from having the right answers to asking the right questions.”

16_07-07 Trucking Data Highway

Every truck on the road creates miles of data. Who has the time to interpret it all by herself?

“At Schneider we had a platoon of statisticians and engineers capable of translating data into intelligence for us. We know small carriers can’t afford that, but today they don’t need to: they can go to suppliers who can provide that capability for them.

Technology for Trucking Safety

“There are a lot of suppliers out there—I certainly count Vigillo among those—who have developed very sophisticated data analytics capabilities. They recognize that small carriers don’t have the resources or capabilities to put together internal scorecards and predictive risk tools.

“One thing I especially admire about my friend Steve Bryan (Vigillo’s CEO) and what you folks at Vigillo do is that you translate complex [data] into pretty simple, easy-to-see, aha-moments with data analytics.”

The ‘so-what’ of what you’re looking at bubbles to the top.”

Other tools like SmartDrive (of which Osterberg is a board member), he says help to measure and analyze critical events. “You can see that a driver had a hard brake, but you don’t know why.” Osterberg emphasizes that video monitoring gives a deeper understanding of what happened.

Osterberg’s closing words:

When in doubt, do something. Get in, don’t wait for a mandate. Be proactive. That’s always my message to carriers: don’t wait for the DOT to tell you what to do.”

About Vigillo LLC

Founded in 2007 by a team of statisticians and nimble software engineers with a talent for deciphering complex information and delivering it in an at-a-glance scorecard format, Vigillo specializes in taking copious amounts of data and turning it into factually reliable and usable information. Leading the industry in trend-setting concepts for fleet safety and business compliance issues for the U.S. commercial transportation industry, Vigillo’s Suite of CSA Scorecards is the most widely used CSA reporting system in the industry today.  Operating on the philosophy of “if you can measure it, you can manage it”, Vigillo presents data in such a way that companies can quickly and clearly understand and address their most critical safety and compliance issues. For more information on Portland, Oregon-based Vigillo, visit