“Aww, come on.”

That’s the response Bill Kipp sometimes gets from new hires when they find out they’re going on a drive with him. Whether they’re fresh out of school or have years of experience, all his new hires participate in a ride-along.

Kipp is a substation foreman at Rocky Mountain Contractors.

“I want to know fully what they’re capable of before I put a new employee in a truck,” Kipp said.

Rocky Mountain Safety Director Bob Kruckenberg said the company started doing ride-alongs in 2020.

“We consistently drive six million miles a year, so we need to do everything we can to address our risk exposure on the road,” Kruckenberg said. “An employee may have a commercial driver’s license, but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified or experienced.”

While the ride-alongs give the company a chance to ensure employees have the necessary skills, Kruckenberg said the real value is in the conversations that happen in the cab.

Kipp agrees.

“These rides give me a chance to get on a personal level with my employees,” Kipp said. “I’ve found they can approach me easier after the ride-along because they’ve already talked to me one-on-one.”


Two workers standing in front of pick-up
Rocky Mountain Contractors Substation Foreman Bill Kipp, left, conducted a ride-along with Alex Smith, right, when Smith started working with Kipp’s crew.


Alex Smith, a recent new hire, has been in the industry for five years and has worked for Rocky Mountain in the past. After joining the crew on a substation job near Butte, Montana, he did his ride-along with Kipp.

“The ride-along is a good way to share suggestions and get tips from someone who’s done it before, especially for younger apprentices fresh out of line school,” Smith said. “Driving a digger towing a backhoe is a lot different than pulling a camper trailer.”

A ride-along can take 30 minutes or longer, depending on an employee’s experience. Supervisors use a checklist to document how well a driver obeys traffic signs and speed limits and how they handle driving in different situations.

Kruckenberg said it took a little time to catch on, but the program took off in 2021.

“Individuals are going to make their own decisions behind the wheel of a truck, but a foreman stressing the importance of driving safely can go a long way,” Kruckenberg said.

Rocky Mountain designed its ride-along program based on a Liberty Mutual program.

Rocky Mountain Contractors is headquartered in Helena, Montana, and has locations in Kalispell, Billings and Belgrade, Montana, as well as Rapid City, South Dakota.