The latest public brouhaha over airline safety should motivate tire dealers to review the kind of "conscience" their businesses possess. Part of that conscience must be clearly defined service goals and expectations. A dealership operating without well-defined, well-enforced goals—essentially, a conscience—is flirting with disaster. Here's why.
At first glance, you may think the airline tragedies dominating the headlines have nothing to do with the automotive services your dealership offers. Look closer and I believe you'll see an ugly parallel to the image problems hounding our industry.
Simply put, some mistakes or accidents are easily rationalized as being just that: mistakes or proverbial acts of God that simply happen. But other accidents shake the very foundation of a business by raising questions about the conscience or standards of the companies involved.
I'm referring to issues that make the average consumer wonder, "Who's in charge here? What's the work ethic here? Does the boss really care about me, the customer who pays the bills?"
Let's recap a tragic episode that happened recently: A crew attempts to land an airliner in the midst of a vicious thunderstorm about which they have had repeated warnings. They cannot stop the plane in time and slide off the runway, killing the pilot and several passengers.
Later, the black boxes confirm that vital air brakes, which should have been deployed as part of a routine landing, were never activated. Any pilot will tell you that's the equivalent of forgetting to depress your car's brake pedal as you're approaching the garage wall!
Records also confirm the crew had worked a legal but exhausting 12- or 13-hour workday. Critics question the impact of fatigue on the crew's decision-making.
Whether you're talking to pilots, flight instructors, or the man on the street, the episode raises one fundamental question upon another. Although there was ample warning and ample time to abort the landing, the crew seemed hell-bent on trying to land anyway.
Then the fact surfaces that this same airline embroiled itself in a legal battle with one of its pilots who refused to fly in dangerously icy conditions.
You can't help but wonder what kind of conscience this airline's leadership has. Does it promote passenger safety or push pilots to make the schedule no matter the cost?
Military people say the squad or platoon reflects its leadership. If so, then what do these instances say about this airline's leadership, goals and values? If values are in place, how hard does the boss try to implement them among rank-and-file workers?
In a more-recent tragedy, everyone on board an airliner died when the crew lost control. Apparently, these men tried valiantly to bring their ship in safely but could not. Subsequent research raised questions about a critical control component that helps the pilot keep the plane stable. Records confirm that the component on the doomed ship was initially condemned during a routine maintenance check. But a second inspection determined the worn part was still serviceable because its wear was within limits.
Furthermore, one of this airline's maintenance shops was under government scrutiny.
Once again, the facts raise more questions than they answer. My personal experiences with this airline have been overwhelmingly positive. But the thought keeps nagging at me: When push comes to shove, have the rank-and-file workers been conditioned to err on the side of safety or on the side of the almighty dollar? Compared to the cost of this tragedy, what would it have cost to replace that borderline control component?
Most Tire Business readers run dealerships and service shops that are relatively small compared to a major airline. So it's not unrealistic for bosses to issue written, sensible safety guidelines for all service procedures.
It's not unrealistic to personally and repeatedly urge all workers to err on the side of safety when servicing and repairing vehicles. After all, when it comes to setting a safety agenda, statistics show it's far more dangerous to drive on our nation's roadways than it is to fly the friendly skies.
It's also very realistic to personally emphasize that safety decisions are a matter of good conscience—above and beyond whatever local vehicle inspection rules dictate.
Unlike these unfortunate airlines, don't give anyone the opportunity to second-guess your goals or your dealership's conscience!