Communication challenge

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I recently returned from my annual Naval Reserve Training, conducting a multi-national, NATO exercise, Northern Light 03, off the coast of Scotland. My mission involved communicating information to officers from ten European nations, most who spoke English as a second language. The challenge – getting the same message across to so many diverse backgrounds, languages and cultures – at times seemed overwhelming. Repetition and constant clarification eventually led to a remarkably successful joint military venture.

Fleet executives face a similar challenge as they absorb information about the complex, multi-faceted hours-of-services rules and prepare to get that information through to all the moving parts in their organizations.

Bob Stranczek, president of Harvey, Ill.-based Cresco Lines Inc. agrees that repetition and clarification will be necessary to get the message across to his employees. “We’ll use every vehicle we have, newsletters, safety meetings and one-on-one driver training. But it’s going to require huge effort to translate the relevant parts of the changes to the individuals most likely affected,” Stranczek says.

The second-generation owner of a 220-truck company, Stranczek says he’s also bringing the message to his shippers. “Everyone’s got to get on board with the new rules. I need my shippers to help me successfully implement the requirements. My message to them is that they will have to get my drivers in and out. The burden is on the whole to help the individual parts,” he says.

With such a broad range of educational backgrounds, personal experiences and vested interests, getting this message across will not be unlike trying to coordinate a multi-national exercise. The same principles – strong leadership and constant thorough communication – ultimately will determine a successful transition. Strancezk believes the new hours rules and their impact on the industry represent the industry’s single greatest challenge right now. He’s reading everything he can get his hands on about the rules, attending conferences and association meetings and talking to other fleet executives. “I’m getting as much information as I can, so I can communicate the message I need to get through. It’s going to take a coordinated effort to translate the requirements into policy everyone understands,” he says.

Whether you are explaining an American figure of speech to a German naval officer or describing intricate regulations to a confused truck driver, the challenge is the same: get the information and then get the message through to all concerned parties. Not an easy task, but crucial to a successful operation.