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Feature Stories

NEWS | June 21, 2019

How Data Driven Analysis Can Reduce Operational Risk

By Capt. Jerry Duong 184th Sustainment Command

The 594th Transportation Company (594 TC) deployed to Camp Arifjan Kuwait in November 2018, serving under mission command of the 129th Support Battalion, a combat sustainment support battalion, 300th Sustainment Brigade, to provide linehaul support to Operations Spartan Shield and Inherent Resolve.

From a safety standpoint, the Company got off to a very rough start. In only the first month of operations the 594th TC suffered three vehicle accidents, with the last collision resulting in the destruction of a Freightliner M915A5 Tractor.

The company’s leadership began analyzing the root causes of the high accident rate. As they analyzed the accidents, it became clear that the pairing of a less experienced driver and the less experienced truck commander was a common factor in all three events. They realized that to properly mitigate the hazard posed by a risky pairing, they needed to develop a system to ensure each vehicle had the at least one highly experienced Soldier as either the driver or truck commander.

The 594th created a program called the Operational Soldier Tracker (OST) to provide leaders at every level a comprehensive and unbiased assessment of each Soldier in their organization and ensures each truck has a skilled driver or truck commander.

The OST is a Microsoft Excel document which combines quantifiable data such as miles driven, time in grade, number of deployments, as well as leader assessments of the Soldier's character, proactivity, and proficiency. The tracker gives each factor a numerical weight, which when aggregated scores each Soldier’s skill on a scale of one to ten, ten being the most skilled and one being the least. When the convoy commander creates each mission roster, the OST scores automatically populate - which in turn allows the platoon and company leadership to see the experience level of each vehicle’s driver and truck commander. This process allows the commander to ensure at least one experienced Soldier is in each vehicle.

In addition to ensuring proper driver and truck commander pairings, as the 594th TC continued to refine the product the leadership was able to use the program to facilitate two other important functions.

First, as the company updated the OST with new data and Soldier assessments, the leadership began to compare the new versions of the OST with the original. This practice allowed the leadership to analyze the change in scores over time and thereby identify positive or negative trends in each team, squad, and platoon. This trend analysis assisted the company in evaluating each leader’s effectiveness in training his or her Soldiers, and more importantly, to provide relevant feedback to each leader. The company leadership reviewed the trends at every level and ensured both quarterly counseling and evaluation order of merit lists took these trends into account. A thorough assessment of these trends demonstrated what a leader did to grow and develop the talent in the squad. That leader’s supervisor now had the tool to start a healthy conversation with the leader about how to get his or her team, squad or platoon to the next level of performance. As a whole, the company saw the average score rise from four to six on the ten point scale.

Second, the leadership used to tracker to help determine future training glide paths. This practice of training selection operated under the guiding principle that a Soldier’s skill gaps are operational hazards. Poor understanding of the company safety standar operating prcedures or inability to properly secure a load to a trailer are examples of a skill gap which, until corrected by training, could easily cause an accident, injury, or death. The company’s leadership used the OST to identify skill gap trends across the unit and then design training events to close those gaps.

For example, they developed a “truck obstacle course” which focused on reducing reaction times, securing loads, and negotiating close turns. As with all the training events 594th TC conducted, the team went to great lengths to establish universal grading criteria for the event. These grades for each Soldier were entered into the OST which increased or decreased the Soldier’s operator score based on their performance. Over time, this practice allowed the company to tangibly track the increase in proficiency of the Army motor transport opertatior population.

The 594th’s effort in collecting data and turning it into actionable information greatly informed both training and manning decisions, resulting in the company’s accident rate dropping to less than one percent.

With some adjustments, any Army unit could use the OST to apply the same risk mitigation and training methodologies to its Soldier population, no matter the MOS. While no system completely removes the variables of an operational environment, the OST’s success is proof that a data-driven information collection system can empower a leadership team to make drastic steps in the prevention accidents and mitigating both risks to mission and risk to force.

A detailed walk-through of the OST and how it was built is available here: