Building a New Facility – Follow Up

I spent some time this week talking with Jarit Cornelius, the Vice President of Asset Maintenance and Compliance at Sharp Transport.  One of the topics was my recent articles on site selection and building a new facility.  Jarit is very involved with the Technology & Maintenance Council and currently is the Vice Chairman of the S.5 Study Group (Fleet Maintenance Management). He mentioned that the TMC has developed Recommended Practices for New Facility Development.  This was a result of many consultations among various industry experts and real-world experience.

Some of the relevant Recommended Practices (RP) when looking at a new facility include:

  • RP 510A – New Facility Development offers a great overview of what steps are needed to design a shop either from scratch or renovating an existing one. It offers guidelines on things like layout, energy efficiency, how to calculate or estimate the number of services required and much more.
  • RP 518A – Fuel Station Planning offers similar guidance for developing on site fueling stations.
  • RP 512A – Mechanic Staffing Determination – provides a formula to calculate the number of mechanics required to adequately staff a heavy-vehicle maintenance shop
  • RP 513 – Estimating Number of Service Bays – gives an analytical methodology for estimating the number of service bays required in a facility
  • RP 515 – Maintenance Shop Design Considerations – a listing of critical elements that should be considered in the design
  • RP 517 – Managing Environmental Compliance – guidance on compliance education/training, self audits and record keeping.

These have undergone many updates and amendments over the years as the study group constantly looks at new and upcoming technologies and how to integrate them into individual shops.

Other Recommended Practices offer guidance from the following study groups:

  • 1 – Electrical
  • 2 – Tire & Wheel
  • 3 – Engine
  • 4 – Cab & Controls
  • 6 – Chassis and Brake Systems
  • 7 – Trailers, Bodies and Material Handling
  • 8 – Cost Control Methods
  • 11 – Sustainability and Environmental Technologies
  • 12 – Onboard Vehicle Electronics
  • 14 – Light & Medium Duty and Specialty Trucks
  • 15 – Specialty Trucks
  • 16 – Service Provider
  • 22 – Onboard Data Systems

Copies of the entire Recommended Practices Manual are available at https://www.atabusinesssolutions.com/ATA-Store/ProductDetails/productid/3921373 where you have your choice of hard bound books, CD or PDF formats.  You do not need to be a member to purchase these manuals.

The Bounce-Back Driver

Guest Article by Steve Hitchcock, COO of Duncan and Son Lines, Inc.

I’ve been with Duncan for almost 8 years now.  One of the most perplexing things I have observed is the number of “bounce-back” drivers we’ve had.  What is a bounce-back driver?  It’s a driver who leaves us, but then later decides to come back.  Why is this phenomenon perplexing to me?  There are a few reasons.  All of them beg questions.  First, why are drivers leaving in the first place?  If they are unhappy and they leave, why do they come back?  Is there any way for us to get in front of this to keep them from leaving in the first place?  I think I’m finally starting to fill in these blanks.

Drivers (and all employees for that matter) can weigh many things when they decide on an employer.  And it’s important to note that they choose their employer every single day.  These factors (not an all-inclusive list) are what they should consider when deciding where to work: pay, commute, supervisor relationship, co-worker relationships, how rewarding the work is, advancement opportunity, work schedule/flexibility, time off, home time, benefits (med/dental/ancillary), being in-the-know, equipment, work culture, access to senior leadership, etc.  Not every employer is a good match for every driver.  Companies are seldom going to be good at everything on that list.  If a driver really values something that the employer doesn’t excel at, it’s a bad fit.  Hopefully the things we’re not good at are low on the totem pole for our drivers- otherwise, they’ll leave.  So, what’s the deal with the ones who leave, but then come back?  I think there are three main reasons for the bounce-back driver: burnout, a specific pain point, and not considering/ranking everything they value in an employer.

We have drivers leave because of general burnout.  We run the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.  It’s a great regional gig that gets our drivers home every other night.  The downside is the ports themselves.  There’s down-time.  There’s bad traffic.  The port terminal personnel don’t always treat our drivers with courtesy, professionalism, respect and dignity that they deserve.  We have drivers who get burned out on port work, quit Duncan, spend some time away and re-charge, then come back with a fresh outlook.  We offer some ways for our drivers to take a break from the ports, but they don’t pay as well as running the ports.

Sometimes drivers leave because they have a specific pain point that they are frustrated with.  It might be their dispatcher manager relationship, pay, the work schedule, or something else.  It eats at them until they find something else.  That something else is the promise of greener grass.  They make the leap and, often times, solve that problem.  Maybe our pay or lane was their issue, so they move to the promise of better pay or a better route.  But then they realize that they don’t get home often, or their schedule isn’t flexible, or they don’t connect with the manager.  Many bounce-back drivers have expressed that they just traded one pain point for another- or multiple pains.

Drivers also leave because they just didn’t know what they really valued.  They didn’t consider all of factors when choosing which company to drive for.  No job is perfect.  But they needed to ask themselves if the good outweighed the bad?  Generally, these bounce-back drivers got stuck on one or two negative aspects of the job and forgot about the good parts.  We are lucky that sometimes their next employer shows them the things we do well by failing at them.  Once they start considering all the aforementioned factors- and once they start ranking them by importance- they get a clearer view of what they need to look for in an employer.  This is when we bring them back home.

As an employer who competes every day for drivers, the ball is in our court.  We need to make sure that our employees know about and consider everything, not just one or two things.  We need to celebrate, communicate, and market all the things we’re good at- both internally and externally.  We need to be honest and upfront with ourselves, our employees, and potential employees about areas we’re not as good at.  We’re not for everyone, and that’s OK.  It’s our job to make sure that every day, when our drivers decide who they are going to drive for, that they make an educated, well thought out decision.

Finding the Ideal Facility – Part 2 – The Building

Now, let’s turn our attention to the building itself.  The first thing you need to do is determine what activities will go on in it.  Obviously, you will need some office space for your operations and admin staff.  You might need some warehouse or cross-docking space.  A shop area is probably on your list as well.  Here’s a few things that you may not have been thinking about:

  • Space for your drivers while they are waiting for maintenance on their trucks or while they are waiting to be dispatched.
  • Do you need to provide showers or other amenities for the drivers?
  • What about file storage space for those documents that have a retention period?
  • Will there be lockers, or a change room required for any of the staff, such as mechanics?
  • Lunch room and any meeting/conference spaces
  • Washrooms – both placement and the number of them
  • Parts and equipment storage
  • An IT room with adequate power and cooling
  • Adequate clearance in any shop or warehouse areas to allow for their safe use

Develop your list of things that you must have but at this point, try to keep things general.  Many design engineers will tell you that good layouts develop from the general to the specific, not the other way around.  Don’t go in with a set idea of where things will be as they will act as constraints on where other things can be put.  Knowing what areas should be adjacent to each other is good but getting too many specific items such as “the tire machine should be here, and the parts room should be there” will likely result in a suboptimal design.  Next, determine what activities will occur in the facility, both now and in the future.  As an example, if you think your warehouse activities will grow over the next few years, you may want to place it at the back of the facility so that future expansion is a possibility.

Determine what areas are the priorities.  Many designs focus on the front end where the main entry and the offices are.  However, other areas may have more of an impact on your revenue stream, such as the cross-dock area or the shop.  Sometimes it is better to start with the rear of the facility and work your way to the front.  One question that needs to be asked before focusing on any individual department or area is “How does it impact the movement of people and/or product throughout the entire building?”  A way to look at this is the product to be handled will determine the warehouse and equipment needs.  Equipment locations determine workflows. Eventually you will need to put the pieces together on paper and determine what area needs to be adjacent to each other.

Some other considerations at this stage include the following:

General Building:

  • Try to anticipate any future needs by designing spaces to be potentially converted or expanded.
  • Anticipate any future loading docks, truck space and car parking and leave enough space for them
  • Include enough structural capacity to handle any additional rooftop equipment, such as additional HVAC units.
  • Avoid block or poured cement walls as much as possible to allow for future expansion. Ideally a curtain wall construction is used so that the outer cladding can be removed, and a new section added with a minimum of disruption.
  • Try to specify the use of energy efficient items such as LED lighting and proper insulation. These will cost a bit more in the construction phase, but they tend to have a lower overall cost of operation.  LED lights also tend to last longer than other options, reducing the amount of building maintenance required.
  • Try to avoid dark colors on the outside of the building and roof as these will result in additional cooling capacity. A more neutral color will also be less restrictive if the building needs to be remarketed in the future.

Warehouse Space:

  • Consider what products may be stored in the facility and include enough fire protection based on the anticipated fire hazard.
  • Allow for adequate circulation paths in both the warehouse and the shop areas. In the warehouse this includes walkways as well as paths wide enough for forklift trucks to safely operate.  In the shop this includes walkways for staff to circulate, safely move required parts to their service bays and allowing for the required number of egress points.
  • If possible, separate shipping and receiving areas to avoid congestion both inside and in the yard.
  • Ensure that the floor slab is capable of handling not only today’s uses but allow for potentially heavier loads in the future.
  • Use pallet racking that is sufficiently rated for the products being stored. Racking should also be considered to maximize the warehouse’s capacity and utilization as well as to maintain proper laneways for both people and materials handling equipment.

Office Space:

  • Try to anticipate any future computer or telephone locations. Cable drops are much easier and less costly to install before the wall cladding is installed.  If the exact locations are not known, consider running cables that are coiled and secured in the drop ceilings with enough extra length to allow them to be installed relatively quickly.
  • Allow for natural lighting in the design for as many workspaces as possible.
  • Take into consideration any fumes or smells that may infiltrate into the office areas. In some cases, the mandatory fire breaks may be enough but additional ventilation or air barriers may be required if the shop or warehouse must be adjacent to the office space.
  • Looking specifically at the office area, consider having the structure capable of supporting either a mezzanine or the ability to add an additional floor above it if expanding to that end of the building is not feasible.

Shop Space:

  • Shop bays should be designed with enough space at the sides to allow for both the storage of tools and equipment as well as the safe passage of employees.
  • Where possible design shop bays in a drive through configuration. This will not only minimize the need to shunt vehicles around but also reduces the need to back vehicles out which can result in a visibility issue.
  • Allow space for shared equipment, such as tire machines, bearing presses, etc. so that mechanics can access them without having to move vehicles that are being worked on.
  • Consider the use of either a lift or a pit for doing fluid or tire changes to minimize the reliance on jacks or jack stands and to provide a more efficient workspace.
  • Ensure enough airlines and/or fluid delivery lines are placed in each bay as retrofitting these is costlier than installing them during the original construction.
  • Orient the overhead doors to allow for ventilation during warm weather but at the same time try to avoid orienting them directly into the prevailing winds. This allows the doors to be left open when the weather allows it while minimizing any snow or rain infiltration into the bays.

This is not intended to be a complete list but gives you an idea of some of the unique things for our industry that should be taken into consideration.  Make certain to look at any other items that make you different and ensure that those needs are put into the design.

As much as possible use an architect and/or engineering firm that has experience with truck terminals and repair shops.  They will understand some of the ways that industry works and what questions they need to ask of you.  At the end of the day it is more important to spend a couple of extra days planning up front instead of having to bring in a construction company to retrofit something a short time later.  Getting it right the first time is always less expensive in the long run.

Finding Incentives to Locate Your Facility in a Specific Jurisdiction – A Resource Guide

Last week we discussed looking at the differences between jurisdictions in terms of taxes and any incentives that are available to you.  We received many requests for more information.

Note – the following is provided for information use only and is not to be considered as tax planning advice.  We also make no guarantees as to how up to date the information is or to its accuracy.  Please consult a professional familiar with the jurisdiction(s) under consideration.  Also, the following tools are offered as examples and no endorsement of the provider is being made nor should it be implied.  The author has no financial interests in any of the organizations presented.

A good place to start to look at different states’ overall tax climate is the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index (click here).  Their index is designed to show how ell states structure their tax systems and provides a roadmap for improvement.  All states levy a property tax, but their analysis provides a way to look at the overall tax burden.  Some states do this by foregoing one of the major taxes – either corporate income taxes, individual income taxes or the sales tax – at the state level.  It is possible for a state to levy all the major taxes id they do so with a low rate over a broad base.  The worst performing states tend to have nonneutral taxes with comparatively high rates.  A four-year comparison chart allows the user to see what the trends are for each state while a separate table shows the state rankings for each major tax type, so you can see how the ranking was reached.  An interactive web tool (click here) is also available to look at adjacent states at a glance.  Clicking on a state will bring up the ranking for that state as well as the overall ranks of the neighboring states.  A further click through allows you to learn more about a single state’s tax structure and average rates.

Financial advisors SmartAsset provide both an income tax calculator (click here)  and a property tax calculator (click here).  The property tax calculator estimates the property taxes for a given zip code location and assessed value.  While this is for residential properties, it will give you an idea of how that county and state compare to the national average.  This is not a direct proxy for commercial property taxes, but it will give an idea of if that municipality is a relatively high or low tax jurisdiction.

Locations Economists Biggins, Lacy, Shapiro & Company, offer both an interactive map as well as a pdf version of state economic development incentives (click here). Topics such as available tax credits, special zoning, grants, job training, tax exemptions and more are provided on a state-by-state basis.

Online journal Area Development provides several resources for a company considering a new facility, from site selection, facility planning among others.  They provide individual state resource pages that offer information on financial incentives, business taxes and economic development contacts.

Software provider BS&A offers an online search tool to find existing property and any other local taxes (click here).  Simply pick the state, county and municipality and then run a public record check on the address under consideration.

A comprehensive listing of contact information for both state and district economic development agencies can be found on the U.S. Economic Development Agency web site (click here). Simply click on the state to get links to each available level of economic development agencies.

Finally, check both the website of the municipality that you are considering as well as it’s local chamber of commerce.  Many will provide how they calculate and assess property taxes, but some will not.  If no guidance is provided they will have contact information that you can use to phone the appropriate department directly.  The local chamber can also provide information on local programs and incentives that may be available to you.

Finding the Ideal Facility – Part 1 – Picking the Location

When trying to create the perfect facility there are many different things to consider – site location, site layout, building layout, lighting, security, etc.  There also is no such thing as a “universally perfect” facility.  Each company will have a slightly different priority list and even within the same company you will find differences at each different location.  As an example, a facility in Miami will have different priorities compared to one in Minneapolis.  The Miami location will need to worry about hurricane proofing while Minneapolis must worry about things like snow load.

In general, we have several common items that need to be considered:

  • Site location and size
  • Building construction type and layout
  • Required infrastructure
  • Parking for employee vehicles, tractors and trailers
  • Environmental considerations
  • Political/social considerations

This week we will focus on the site location and size.

When considering the ideal site, the following should come into your planning process:

  • Size of the lot.
  • Shape of the lot
  • Proximity to an Interstate
  • Proximity to your customer base
  • Commuting distance for your employees

Regarding size, you will need to calculate how much space that the fleet to be domiciled at that location requires, including space to maneuver vehicles without causing any damages.  Assume 80 feet for a tractor trailer combination.  That means you need a minimum of 133 feet (80 feet + 53 feet), and more likely 150 feet between rows of trailers to allow for enough space to pull trailers in and out of the rows.  Additionally, you will need about 10 feet in width for every trailer. As an example, if you have 90 trailers and the lot is 350 feet wide, you will need to have enough room for 3 rows of 30 trailers (allowing enough space for a laneway at both ends).  You will then need approximately 450 feet in length to fit the 90 trailers.  This is before we find space to park the tractors, put up the building, etc.

Tractor parking is a little more of an art as highway tractors can be anywhere from 20 to 29 feet long depending on the wheelbase.  Day cabs will run about 5-6 feet shorter.  For tractor parking in a tight yard, consider using angle parking as it will shorten the width needed compared to straight on.

There are a few other major considerations with a site:

 

  • Being close to your customers as well as an Interstate (or other major highway) means that you will be minimizing unpaid miles – this is a cost that needs to be considered when choosing a site as it is effectively a fixed overhead charge that will eat into your profit on almost every trip.
  • The physical shape and landscape of the property. Ideally the lot will be either square or rectangular.  This will reduce the amount of wasted space that reduces parking capacity.
  • What is the natural drainage of the lot? Will it need significant ground preparation and a catch basin system?
  • Are there any waterways or aquifers in the area? Those could result in restrictions put on your ability to refuel in the yard as well as the storage of items like used oil or anti freeze.  You may need to construct a berm for any spill containment.
  • Zoning – ideally any site you select will already have the proper zoning from the municipality. Having to apply for a variance or zoning change will result in additional time and expenses as well as injecting some uncertainty into the project.   The municipality may reject your application, especially if it is a jurisdiction that has already shown hostility to our industry with things like parking restrictions or traffic bylaws that require trucks to reroute.
  • What is the planned use for surrounding properties? Will those uses have a potential impact on your planned operation?
  • If you think that you may need to expand in the future, gain an option on an adjacent lot. Otherwise you could find yourself land locked in the future.
  • What is the tax structure in that municipality? Pay attention not only to the rate but how the value will be calculated.  It is not uncommon for nearby jurisdictions to have vastly different property taxes on similar sized and priced lots.
  • What services are currently available for the property and what will be the buyer’s responsibility to provision? Pay attention to things like natural gas and fibre optic availability as the cost to have these brought to your property can be high.  Without some form of reliable high-speed internet, you could find your staff unable to work effectively. What sort of electrical service can you get, and will it be enough to power your planned operations?
  • Were there any previous uses that may require environmental remediation? Remediation can be very costly. Take this into account if buying a property that has already been used as a terminal.
  • What sort of soil does the lot have? The soil composition may impact the footings required for your desired building.  How stable it is may impact the amount of earthworks are needed before you can use the property.  The soil can also impact any environmental concerns (example – a fuel tank leak in sandy soil may go down several feet until it hits bedrock or clay.  It may then run for hundreds of feet underground.  If you need to do a remediation this could easily cost hundreds of thousands of dollars).
  • Surrounding neighbours – will your drivers be coming and going at all hours or will they mostly be operating during daytime hours?
    • What sort of surface the yard has have an impact here. If you have a dirt or gravel parking area you may run into a dust issue, resulting in the need for periodic applications of some sort of dust abatement product.
  • There needs to be adequate parking for both your staff and any visitors.
  • The building that houses the terminal should have enough room for future expansion without causing onsite traffic flow problems.
  • Are there any location specific needs, such as where to pile snow in northern states? If you have a facility in places like Buffalo you will either need to leave aside space to pile snow, have some sort of melting system or have someone in place to truck it away.
  • In northern states, there may be a need for plugs to operate block heaters in the winter months.

This list in not exhaustive and may differ depending on the location you are searching in.  The take away is you need to do your homework before you start looking.  Spend the time up front to know what you are realistically looking for will allow you to have a list that you can use to compare different options against each other. If you are not sure of what you need, enlist the help of an expert.  Many commercial real estate brokers will have people on staff that can give you the necessary guidance.

A final point – not all real estate brokers are equal.  Don’t just go with the person who helped you buy or sell your house.  A residential specialist is unlikely to have the skill sets or supporting services to help you through the maze of regulations that you will face in the commercial/industrial marketplace.  Go with a commercial real estate agent from the start as they will be knowledgeable about things like zoning or acceptable uses as well as knowing the questions to ask and have the resources to let you get things right the first time.

Next week we will look at how to design your ideal terminal building.

Retention Action Plan – Stage 2 – Laying the Ground Work

SOPs for 2018 and Beyond – Start Improving Now!

Many of us have a procedures manual that sits on a desk somewhere, collecting dust and probably only used when a new employee comes on board.  At a previous company we had one that was called Big Red.  It was in a 3-inch red binder (hence the name) and it was so detailed that it included specific screens, keystrokes and entry fields for many processes.  It should have been a great resource, especially for new hires, people covering for vacations or for those processes that only happened a couple of times a year (such as inventory counts or year end processes). The problem was that it was a static document and a lot of the time it showed how a process “should” be done, not how it was done.  Missing would be things like customer-specific items (such as company A requires a consolidated invoice).  They can also be lagging people finding a better way to do something, making some pages out of date as soon as they are published and distributed.

The reality is that unless you are ISO certified it is unlikely that you are doing many reviews or audits of your SOPs.  It can easily happen – most of us run lean staffing levels, there is always something customer-related that is “top priority” and various other reasons that cause us to push a review off.    However, if you are trying to maintain a culture of continuous improvement failing to update your SOPs is a lost opportunity.

Think of the changes that could happen in a year.  Upgrades to any of your ERP, Accounting, HR, Payroll or Shop systems.  New regulations that may require different record keeping. New customer requirements that have been implemented across the board.  New training that has shown employees a better way to do something.  These are just a few examples, we can all think of many more.  Now think of how many are documented.  How many of those are handled by only a single person? Now what happens if that person leaves the organization?  So why is the SOP review considered to be something that can be put off yet again?

So how do we make sure that our SOP documents are effect and up to date?  Consider having them on an intranet site that is only accessible to your employees.  This will help make it more easily accessible, which should result in it being accessed more often.  Being more visible should result in discrepancies being identified more often and more quickly.

When writing your SOP, make it as detailed as possible.  An SOP should be something that you can give to almost anyone within your organization so that they could take over the process and complete it.  One of the best ways is to have a few different views of the process with each one getting progressively more detailed.

Step One – Flowcharting

Show the process as part of a flowchart.  Allow the audience to see how that one process fits into the larger organization.  Many processes may seem trivial or “just busywork” to the person doing the tasks.  By displaying how that process fits into the larger picture, you can increase employee satisfaction by showing them that a group of tasks helps to contribute to customer satisfaction and the company’s success.  Alternatively, the diagram may bring to attention processes and tasks that do not contribute value and are candidates for either re-engineering or elimination.  If the process is to satisfy the requirements of a small number of customers, now would be the time to have your account managers approach those customers to ensure that the process is still being used or perhaps needs modification.  There is no use trying to optimize a process only to find out that the audience for it has changed their requirements.

Being as detailed as possible will assist in doing an optimization for two reasons – one, it allows an auditor to identify unnecessary tasks; and two, it forces you to check if those are still the required steps.  As an example, an accounting process may call for 8 tasks to occur in a specific sequence.  However, your accounting software has been recently updated and three of those tasks are no longer needed because they can now happen as part of a single command instead of running them individually.  The new SOP should reflect the reduced number of steps.

Step 2 – Checklists

The next step is to create a checklist that provides more detail than the flowchart.  This should have enough detail that an experienced operator will understand what steps are required, but not quite enough that a new employee would be able to do the process without additional information.  For example, a very simple invoicing process may look like this:

  • Ensure that all load documents and data for the billing period have been entered
  • Ensure that all proof of deliveries have been scanned into the system
  • Perform the invoice run
  • Determine how the customer wants their invoices and either e-mail them or print and mail them

At this point assume that the process will be performed by a competent employee and this document is just to assist them in assuring that all parts of the process are carried out.  If they have not already been involved, make sure that all the relevant stakeholders are onboard with the process as it is currently documented.  This allows them to buy into the process and identify and redundancies or improvements.  Identify pain points within the process.  Know where things currently break down and determine with the stakeholders how to correct them.

Step 3 – A Detailed SOP

The last step is put together a detailed document that spells out all the tasks and sub-tasks that go into that process.  This is where you document specific screens, fields to be entered, etc. This document provides enough detail that a new employee could use it to complete either a process or some of the tasks that make up that process.  An example of a task from above could look like this:

  • Log into Dispatch system
  • Go to Invoicing module
  • Run XYZ report to identify any probills missing information
  • If no missing information, go to 6.1.11 performing a billing run
  • If there is any missing information go to probill screen, etc.

Getting into this level of detail will further allow the identification of changed or redundant steps.  It also provides a high degree of risk management because the knowledge of how to run a process is fully documented.  This means that if an employee has an accident and is on short or long-term disability, or just goes on vacation, how they performed their job is not just stored in their head.  Another employee will be able to step in and backfill for them.  It also allows for easier transitions when an employee is transferred or promoted.  Having a detailed document means that the new person does not need to take notes (because they can easily access the document) and can focus on learning the task instead of writing things down.

A few final tips:

  • Use simple and easy to understand language in all steps.
  • If jargon or specialized terms must be used, provide a definition for the reader.
  • Keep sentences short or use point form, especially in the most detailed document.
  • Use the active voice. Utilize terms like “identify”, “direct”, “evaluate” or “review” to get the point across without requiring interpretation
  • Avoid ambiguity, such as using terms like “periodic”, “typical” or “should” as they do not give any consistent direction or execution
  • Be careful around important terms. Remember that “may” allows the user to decide. “Must” is always mandatory and “should” is always conditional. Make certain to use the proper term!
  • Use bulleted items or lists to focus attention and slow the reader’s pace. Long dense paragraphs are more likely to be either ignored or only skimmed over. Make it so that people can scan the document to quickly find the information that they need.
  • Use revision numbers and archive previous versions. This ensures that should you ever have to go back to (or defend) a previous process you have the necessary documentation.
  • At the same time, ensure that employees only have access to the most current documentation. You don’t want to make changes to a process only to find out later that an employee was using an out of date document.
  • Use a consistent format for all processes. Having your operations team use one format and accounting using another will just lead to confusion and time will be wasted by having to figure out how the other team formatted things.

The final thing is must be a living document that someone is the process owner and then updates it whenever situations change (such as software updates, regulatory changes, etc.).  Concurrently the process owner should be looking for redundancies and efficiencies every time the document is reviewed.  In the end you should get more done with less wasted effort, resulting in not only an improved bottom line but also in more satisfied employees who know that they are contributing value.

Retention Action Plan – Introduction

The Top 5 Leadership Absolute “Don’t Do’s” When You’re Focusing on Reducing Driver Turnover!

  1. Here is a harsh reality: you simply stating that the company is going to take on and beat driver turnover will at best be received with reluctant hesitation and/or apathy. This should not come as a shock but if you are approaching 100% turnover (or higher), it is not likely that your people believe too much of what your management team is saying. So why not look for (or create) a bell weather moment? Winston Churchill was credited with saying “never waste a good crisis”. You should pick when to reveal your company’s new driver retention initiative wisely. If you can tie it to a critical event, good or bad, then you need to determine out how to do that. In my past we decided to train all the “inside the walls” employees on customer service. When people start to realize how their actions affect those around them they start to quickly get the picture. When we finished the training, driver retention was a natural extension and the transition was easy.

 

  1. Do not take the issue of your company’s high turnover on as a challenge until you can wrap your head around the fact that you did everything necessary to cause the turnover you have now. The point here is that if you don’t take ownership of the issues neither will your people. Excuses for turnover are far too common and easy to come by in trucking. We have all heard them repeatedly over the years. Remember that the blame game does not solve anything. The only way to get off to a good start is to state that you’re determined to turn the corner on your company’s turnover and that from now on the responsibility for every driver that leaves or is fired from your company is on you and your people. There is an opportunity learn from every single failure. Take that failure personally. No one goes to work in the morning with the intention of failing. These are people’s families that we are messing with.

 

  1. Don’t keep your people in the dark about what you’re doing. Use every channel possible to let them know what is going on in your business. For your company to turn the corner on driver turnover you will need the assistance of everyone in the business. What is discussed must be the priority. Think about this: I give you information because I trust you, I value your input and I need your help. I don’t share information because I don’t particularly care about your opinion and I don’t think your input will bring value to this initiative. Want your people to be more engaged when they come to work? Let them become part of the solution, share as much information with them as possible and then ask them for their help.

 

  1. Do not try and impose your own personal values on people. If you or your senior managers developed a value statement and then took it to your people and expected them to respond positively to that statement, then you are in trouble – it just won’t work. A strong values statement can be the cornerstone of your retention objectives but only if it reflects your collective values and that you plan on following through with it. Here is the question to pose to your people – what would your perfect company look like? One paragraph from each person is all that is needed. Do it as a team that is working towards a common purpose.

 

  1. Do not get impatient. This is change and change will scare people. However, being patient does not mean turning a blind eye to behaviour that is counter to the company’s goals. Being patient means coaching and talking the talk. If that individual who refuses to change crosses the line again and again you will have to take the steps necessary to get the right people in those roles. These are tough decisions, but they are entirely necessary for you to succeed. Stay determined!

 

Safe Trucking.

RJH

TCA Retention Coach

Turbocharge Your Recruiting Efforts

Having reviewed the recruiting practices of hundreds of carriers, the majority leave me completely underwhelmed. Almost everywhere I go, the model is essentially the same – cast a wide net, and hope you catch a couple. No successful entrepreneur would ever recommend a business strategy were you simply copy the same model, strategy and tactics of almost ALL of your competitors. Although most of the fine people I get to work with have good and honorable intentions, many fall far short of being as effective as they could (and should be). Within the carrier I ran, 50% of all our new hires were sourced through on-road recruiters – your fine and hard-working drivers. This is likely similar to the results from the carriers reading this post, however more and more are coming via social media channels and initiatives (which is an extremely big part of your recruiting and communications strategy – something we will talk about in depth in future posts).

Today, let’s focus on arming your on-road recruiting warriors with the tools they need to succeed. First you need to figure out a proper training program for the interested participants. That training will likely include elements such as a conversational sales course. You don’t need to develop that training program in-house, in fact it would be fool-hardy to do so. We are big fans of online training. For sales training, there are hundreds of courses available on Udemy for peanuts. Find your favorite, make it the standard. Combine this external training with a tip sheet which will include all the items you would want a prospective driver to be aware of, which could potentially work at your business. These items could include the lanes you work, company’s values statement, its social support, its pay structure, equipment (type, average age, replacement schedule etc), history, and most importantly a personalized un-scripted message about why your on-road warriors continue to work for your company despite thousands of competing offers.

In our business, we also had decals made for the side of their trucks calling attention to the fact that the driver of the vehicle was an on-road recruiter for us. We had business cards stating the same, and they had our value statement printed on the back. They had the recruiters name on them and a direct line to our recruiting department.

Further, there were two other key elements to the program, first our philosophy was that when an on-road recruiter brought a prospective new driver to our company we would go through the same criteria for pre-employment, as we would any other driver coming to our business – no exceptions. If we decided that the driver was a good fit for us we paid the recruiting fee to the on road recruiter immediately, mile one. If that new hire quit or was fired shortly after – that was on us, not the on-road recruiter!

The second element was recognition, when an on-road recruiter brought a new hire in the doors, we celebrated in our newsletter on social media, and at company events. Everyone likes a pat on the back when they succeed, and we did it loudly We had special plaques made for the best recruiters, we had one gal who was an O/O at our company, bring in six new drivers one year. They made an additional twelve thousand dollars through this program. I know some TPP members who have drivers making $30,000 to $50,000 per year in referral fees alone – wow!

Need some help turbocharging your retention efforts, take this free survey today – www.tcaingauge.com/retentionscore.