03/12/09

  05:59:05 pm, Categories: efficiencies , Tags: driver recruiting, driver retention

I thought this week I'd talk a little about an issue that until recently was towards the top of every trucking industry issue top-ten list: driver recruitment and retention.

According to the ATRI (American Transportation Research Institute), the issue was in one of the top two spots of their Critical Issues In The Trucking Industry from 2005 to 2007, after which it slipped behind fuel costs and economy to #3. Ironically, it's likely that the economy has actually helped this situation, driving people that have been forced out of their jobs to find work where it's easy to find, especially given the relatively short training time to get a steady pay check coming in.

According to Department Of Labor, the nationwide unemployment rate for February of 2009 was 8.1%. There are more people looking for work right now than there have been in recent memory. How may the trucking industry draw some of these unemployed people into the fold, and then retain them?

Please allow me to throw out a few ideas.

Drawing Them In

Contact Your Local Unemployment Agency

A phone call to your local unemployment agency could be the easiest way to find driver candidates, and is surely the cheapest. There are many displaced workers at the moment, many of which may simply have not thought about truck driving as an option they have. Your local phone book will have the phone number for your local agency, or use an online resource such as www.whitepages.com.

Local Advertising Campaigns

Your local newspaper or radio station could be a good resource for placing an advertisement for a driver opening. They may even make you a deal, given a probable lack of content for their help wanted sections.

There's always the online sources, and if your not set on having drivers that reside locally, they're probably even more effective than conventional means. I personally stay away from most of the big online recruiters because of their high listing fees, but a bit of browsing will reveal other sites that have decent visibility and a reasonable price.

Referral Program

I've talked to some trucking companies that have started an incentive program for current drivers that bring on new help. You may or may not be in a position where this would be effective or affordable, but it may be worth some thought. There are many ways to structure this without having to raise the referrer's pay rate, such as credits that go towards hotel stays, electronic goods, etc.

A Miniature Job Fair

You could have a day a month where you welcome people that are interested in exploring a driving career to your office. Give them a tour of your facilities, provide a light lunch, maybe even have a driver take them for a short ride around town in one of your nicer trucks, insurance company willing of course. The one-on-one time that the interested parties would spend with a driver would likely arrest any uncertainty they may have regarding the career, and your existing driver would probably enjoy the time as well.



Keeping Them

So one or more of the above methods works, and you've hired yourself a brand new driver or two. Now what, how do you keep them from leaving the truck at a truck stop in Timbuktoo and taking a plane ride home?

Train Them Well

Get the new driver started off on the right foot. He or she need to be told what they should expect from their new career, as well as exactly what you expect of them. Everything from time away from home, to layover potential, to the difference between a lot of lizards and a lot lizard, should be explained to them in detail.

When done correctly, no new surprises should regularly be sprung on your new recruits, although there will certainly be exceptions that you cannot prepare for in advance. When do you expect them to check in with you? What situations merit verbal communication with their dispatcher? Frustration on both sides will be alleviated if the ground rules are set at the get-go.

The necessity to train your new drivers on the safe operation of their equipment goes without saying.

Communicate With Them

Let your drivers know how good of a job they're doing. Or just talk to them occasionally. Keep in mind that humans are social creatures, they need a little bit of conversation from time to time. You're busy, but 5 minutes here and there will keep up that rapport that could mean the difference between a happy driver, and one that is trying to decide if he is going to quit when he gets back to the office or not.

When trying to decide if it's worth the time you'll need to invest in the driver, keep in mind the time that it takes to get a replacement into the truck.

Bring Them Home

With some exceptions, most drivers would like to have a little time at home occasionally to rest, take care of personal business, etc. If possible, keep track of how many consecutive days your drivers have been away from home, attempt to route them in a way that gives them a day or so home at a somewhat regular interval. Good trucking software can help you track how often this needs to occur, as well as how often you're hitting this goal. (ALMOST made it through the post without a shameless plug.)

Reduce Their Downtime

Doh! Nobody likes the truck to be sitting, especially the driver. When this is unavoidable, at least keep your driver honestly informed about how long it will likely be before he's back on the road. The typical driver dislikes being stuck somewhere slightly less than not knowing how long they'll be there, and the feeling of being given the runaround that accompanies that.

Improve Their Lives

There are some perks that can be given to your drivers that will likely not effect your bottom line, or very little at least. A little consideration here and there could go a long ways. Recognition of how hard they're working for you, whether formal or informal, makes them feel like they're an invaluable part of your team (they are!).

If nothing else, give them the address for the TruckMaster Fuel Finder™ and let them choose a truck stop every once in awhile that has some fun amenity that they'd like to try out (last shameless plug, I swear!).


I'm certain that none of these ideas are novel, but hopefully spelling out a couple helps someone at some point think of something that they haven't before. If so, we've done our job.

Greg Dodson
President
TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc.
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company™

02/20/09

My job allows me the opportunity each week to talk with hundreds of people in the trucking industry. They represent a broad spectrum of companies from single truck owner operators, mid-sized trucking companies, large contract carriers, private fleets, and non-asset based operations. Some of the people are just venturing out into the trucking industry for the first time, but the majority of them have been in the trucking business for at least a decade or more. With few exceptions despite the negative news reports, and mountains of statistical data declaring how horrible the economy is these people are tenaciously optimistic. While acutely aware of their business challenges, they are creative, and motivated to overcome them.

Times like these always bring about new opportunities. Manufacturers and distributors are constantly evaluating their supply chains in search of increased efficiencies. Where a larger carrier may have had a dedicated fleet, decreased demand may open up an opportunity for a smaller carrier, or a brokerage firm with the right mix of capacity to fill the gap. Staying in contact with your customers, networking, and being prepared for opportunities has never been more important. New business are sprouting up where larger and/or less efficient companies have failed. New opportunities are all around us. If we're too busy complaining or watching the news we will miss them. History has many stories of people that have made their success during the worst economic times. These successful people were not sitting around complaining with the masses.

Customers do not want to hear gloom and doom from their vendors, they want to know they are financially viable, and have an efficient operation that provides excellent customer service. As a service provider this is your opportunity to not just survive but thrive. Your attitude with your co-workers, employees, vendors, and customers will directly affect your success with them. Where others may be constantly complaining about the economy and barely making it, be optimistic and let them know how well you are doing. Share your successes with them. Is a customer going to remember another person sharing how horrible things are, or will they remember the person who was optimistic and positive.

Finally, we need to continue to invest. Invest in our people, our equipment, and our systems. This may not be in just dollars, but in time. Staff need to know we are optimistic about the future so they can help look for opportunities, and stay productive. Most trucking companies already know the importance of maintaining their equipment. Almost nothing is more expensive then an equipment failure. It is also true for the often over looked office equipment. Empowering your people with a positive environment and efficient systems is more important now than it has ever been.

Please provide us feedback on how your company is staying positive and thriving in this time of opportunity. Attitudes are contagious, and you never know who your positive attitude is going to infect.

TruckMaster is where positive attitude can be found. Call or write us today and find out for yourself.

Kurtis Brown
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Operation

02/01/09

  09:48:49 am, Categories: regulations , Tags: driver fatigue

We have heard a lot about driver fatigue and its role in causing accidents on our nation’s highways. But what are the real figures? Is driver fatigue really a problem?

Saferoads.org claims: "Each year truck crashes kill over 5,000 people and injure almost 150,000 more on our nation's roads and highways. Nearly one in four passenger vehicle deaths in multiple-vehicle collisions involve a large truck."

Attorney Jim S. Adler claims: "Truck driver fatigue is a significant cause of 18-wheeler accidents, leading to at least 750 fatalities and 20,000 injuries per year."

What a swing! 750 fatalities compared to 5000? 20,000 injured compared to 150,000? Which of these is correct or are they figures pulled from a hat?

Plainly stated, this analyst believes both are designed to make the trucking industry look like a monster storming the road of North America with half-crazed, half-dazed and overworked drivers. I am not writing to bash Saferoads.org or Mr. Adler. I am not writing to suggest that all truck drivers are driving within the legal limits as outlined by the Federal Department of Transportation (US DOT). What I am suggesting is that the trucking industry as a whole is safer now that it has ever been.

The US DOT modified the hours a driver can work (driving and non-driving hours) on a given day in 2005. (The complete rules may be found here.) Succinctly stated, a driver may drive up to 11 hours in a 24 hour period and may work no more that 14 hours in a 24 hr period before he is required to have a minimum of 10 hours down time. This 14 hr-day rule is good unless you exceed 70 hrs in 8 consecutive days, and then the driver is in violation.

The trucking industry is the only industry that penalized a driver for taking time off. How many of us can think of someone we work(ed) with in our 9 to 5 jobs that staggered in on Monday exclaiming they were so tired from the weekend that they needed to come to work to rest. Did we send them home or tell them they couldn’t work until they were actually able to work. How many of us in our daily 9 to 5 jobs are required to record start-stop times for every activity we do. I don't mean punching a clock when we get in and when we leave for the day – I mean punching a clock every time we change what we are doing.

What does this have to do with driver fatigue? Simple, most drivers today follow the US DOT rules without any problems. The number of "tired" drivers is fewer now than ever on our roads. Yes, we have some "bad apples" out there that we need to find, educate and/or remove before they become applesauce. But unlike the law profession where 99% of all lawyers give the rest a bad name, in the trucking industry 1% of drivers are giving the rest a bad name.

Whether 750 lives or 5000 lives are lost each year in accidents with big rigs, we in the transportation industry want to bring that number to zero. If we all work together, if we all try harder, and if we all work smarter it can happen.

How can we eliminate driver fatigue? Follow the DOT regulations. Drivers, refuse to drive when you are running low on hours. Trucking companies: refuse to put your drivers in jeopardy; listen to them, they really are thinking with the company’s best interest at heart. Buyers and consumers: don't ask the impossible of the trucking companies that serve you.

Is driver fatigue a problem? Yes, but it is getting better.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc.
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company™

01/14/09

  01:50:00 pm, Categories: regulations , Tags: new intermodal rules 2009

New Intermodal Carrier Regulations

On December 17, 2008, the FMCSA issued the Final Rules for the "Requirements for Intermodal Equipment Providers and Motor Carriers and Drivers Operating Intermodal Equipment". These new regulations will go into effect on June 17, 2009. Both Intermodal Equipment Providers (IEP) and carriers/drivers that operate or provide intermodal equipment (IME) will be required to know and start implementing these new regulations by that date.

You can read the full text or the Frequently Asked Questions for these new regulations by going to the FMCSA website at this location.

These new rules will require all IEPs to:

  • Register with FMCSA
  • Mark each IME with a DOT ID number
  • Establish a systematic inspection and repair program
  • Maintain maintenance documentation
  • Provide a means to respond to driver reports about defects and repair any defects before equipment is taken over the road

Carriers and drivers that use IMEs will also be required to:

  • Inspect all intermodal equipment prior to accepting the load
  • Report any damage or defects to the IEP
  • Ensure any defects are repaired by the IEP prior to taking the IME over the road

These new regulations will take some training and additional time for the inspection, but should make the IMEs much safer to operate. If you are either an IEP or a carrier/driver operating IMEs, you should become knowledgeable about these new rules now, so you can train your employees and implement them as you are required.

Craig Sorensen
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

01/02/09

  03:13:00 pm, Categories: efficiencies , Tags: tractor-trailer trains

Are Tractor-Trailer "Trains" the answer?

The escalated fuel prices of 2007 and 2008 sent a large number of smaller trucking companies and owner-operator entities either out of business or in to hiding behind big corporate logos.

As the economy slowed in the latter half of 2008, we saw a significant decrease in fuel prices, but we did not see a significant increase in smaller trucking companies and owner-operators. The companies that were forced out of business by the fuel prices stayed out of business.

The Associated Press reported on January 1, 2009 that the National Commission on Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing, a federal commission to finance highway construction and repair stated:

“With motorists driving less and buying less fuel, the current 18.4 cents a gallon gas tax and 24.4 cents a gallon diesel tax fail to raise enough to keep pace with the cost of road, bridge and transit programs.

In a report expected in late January, members of the infrastructure financing commission say they will urge Congress to raise the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon and the diesel fuel tax by 12 to 15 cents a gallon. At the same time, the commission will recommend tying the fuel tax rates to inflation.”

This analyst fears with the current recession and an increase in government taxation, there will be more trucking shortfalls and fewer trucks to haul available freight.

As a trucking industry, how do we cope with the cost of insurance, wages, fuel, etc. and continue to make ends meet during these economically trying times?

In the 1980s, as the full force of deregulation became apparent on the common carrier side of the industry, 27-foot double and triple trailer combinations began to dot the roads, streets and byways of the US highway system. By 2000, we saw more double trailers and even more triple trailer combinations as common carriers struggled to produce a profit.

In some western states, ‘Rocky Mountain Doubles’ (48 or 53 foot trailer with a 27-foot ‘pup’ combination) are more prevalent now than ever before, and ‘turnpike doubles’ two 48 or 53 foot trailers) are also being seen. In California and other states in the US, multiple trailer combinations are not allowed off the Interstate Highway System. While in Alaska, four and five trailer combinations are permitted.

The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA), although not opposed to these types of combinations, does warn that special training is required for a truck driver to be able to safely operate these vehicles on today’s highways.

A report by the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology (NIATT), suggests that a study conducted by Woodrooffe and Associates and focused on comparing the safety performance of LCVs (Longer Combination Vehicles) with other vehicles in Alberta, Canada found LCVs to have the lowest collision exposure rate of all vehicle classes.

A study published by Transportation Research Board suggests that although the fatality accident rate for multi-trailers is higher than that of single-trailers, it is not significantly higher (1.66 times, or just under 10 accidents per 100,000,000 miles traveled). This may be due to the fact that multi-trailer operations are currently restricted to the safer Interstate Highway System. One of the major causes of tractor-trailer accidents is driver fatigue not the size, shape or length of equipment - an item to be addressed in at a later time.

It is the opinion of this analyst, with proper driver training and with stricter adherence to current log book and other government regulations, tractor-trailer trains are a viable option for reducing the cost of transportation while getting more goods to market.

Dale Clark
TruckMaster Solution Provider
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company

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