Spotting the red flags of driver turnover

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City of Vail, Colo., will work with the Colorado Motor Carriers Association on education, engineering and enforcement of existing laws to reduce noise on Interstate 70 instead of banning compressed engine brake use.

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) introduced a bill (H.R. 3563) that would increase criminal penalties for container cargo thieves and create a database containing all information regarding cargo theft, helping state and local officials coordinate anti-theft efforts.

Schneider National Inc. has achieved ISO 9001:2000 certification, covering the design, development and execution of customer-facing processes at its Green Bay, Wis., and Farmington Hills, Mich., locations.

Federal Communications Commission last month decided to move forward in licensing an exclusive radio spectrum for use on roads at very short ranges. The technology, called dedicated short-range communications, or DSRC, expands the range of options for implementing intelligent vehicle systems, the Department of Transportation said.

E-FoodSafety.com, Prescott, Ariz., obtained funding and other arrangements to have its second truck sanitizing facility operational by mid-January, which is 90 days ahead of schedule.

Transportation Technical Services (www.ttstrucks.com) has published the 2004 edition of the National Motor Carrier Directory, which contains information on firms operating 1.2 million trucks and tractors and 2.1 million trailers and posting $192 billion in annual revenue.

“I’m fixing to quit,” is a common driver refrain heard by most operations managers. Like the boy who cried wolf, drivers use this phrase so often that no one really pays attention. Even so, the declaration makes clear a driver’s dissatisfaction.

Most drivers don’t warn their carriers when they are really about to quit. That’s too bad. Too often, managers are left saying, “If only we had known he was unhappy, we may have been able to save him.” Well, maybe he was trying to send the message.

A friend argues that before an experienced driver quits, he signals his unhappiness with actions this friend calls red flags. He believes that by training people to recognize red flags, carriers often could prevent a driver from turning over.

Most drivers fall into a pattern. They visit the same group of people whenever they are in the terminal. They want a certain outbound load and pester dispatch for it. They always ask for a cash advance on Tuesdays.

A red flag occurs when a driver falls outside the normal pattern. You notice the driver is in the terminal keeping to himself. He doesn’t seem to care which load you put him on. He wants his cash advance now instead of waiting for Tuesday. Maybe he is just having a bad day or he doesn’t want to look anyone in the eye because he is quitting. He doesn’t care which load he gets on because he is waiting for the call from the new company. He wants a cash advance now to help pay for going to the next orientation.

Another form of red flag is the unexpected request. A good example is a senior driver out of the blue asking to get home Wednesday night. Maybe he really needs to get home. Or maybe he has seen some drivers get home early and wants to see if the company will do the same for him. Good drivers often test management to see where they stand. Often, an inexperienced dispatcher fails the test by taking the senior driver through 20 questions as to why he needs to be home. A driver who has given years of good service believes that when he makes a reasonable request it should be granted no questions asked. In this case, the driver may be looking for that final straw to convince himself that it is time to find a place where he is respected.

Finally, the driver may wave a red flag by lodging a complaint to someone outside of operations. It could be the receptionist, someone in payroll or the maintenance department. When a driver who normally doesn’t complain starts, something is on his mind. Often what he is complaining about and his real problem are not connected. Usually, it revolves around pointing out other things wrong at his current employer. He may be justifying a decision to leave in his mind.

If you employ dozens of drivers, it is important to get everyone on the team to recognize when a driver is sending up red flags. Once a potential red flag is identified, it is important to react quickly. When a good driver starts breaking his pattern, tell him by phone or leave a message that you are glad he is working for you and hope he will swing by and visit you soon. If there is a festering sore point with the driver, you have opened the door to talking about his concerns. If occasionally you misread a signal, remember it never hurts to tell any of your employees that they are appreciated.

Sometimes, you will lose a driver no matter what you do. Or you simply will delay the inevitable by a few weeks or months. But you will save some drivers. For others, your reaching out could lead to the driver coming back when he finds out the grass wasn’t all that greener at the other carrier.


FAST PROGRAM LAUNCHED AT MEXICAN BORDER
The Free and Secure Trade (FAST) Program, which has operated at the Canadian border since September 2002, was inaugurated on the U.S.-Mexico border Dec. 4. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge noted Mexico’s importance as a trading partner during a brief speech at the Bridge of the Americas in El Paso, Texas. “I anticipate the same degree of success with FAST on the Mexican border as we’ve seen on the Canadian border,” Ridge said in a statement.

The program, which allows participants quicker passage through the border, is set to expand to other U.S.-Mexico border crossings over the next few months. Manufacturers and carriers participating in U.S.-Mexico FAST are required to use high- security mechanical seals on all containers or trailers destined for the United States. These additional security efforts are hoped to hinder drug smuggling.

To be eligible for FAST, carriers, manufacturers and importers must participate in another customs and border protection antiterrorism program, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. The C-TPAT program requires companies to have security plans approved by customs officials.


GRAPHICS AWARDS DEADLINES BUMPED
The deadline for submission of photographs for the 2003 Commercial Fleet Graphics Awards has been extended until Jan. 31, 2004. For the first time, CCJ and the National Private Truck Council are taking digital submissions. For a copy of the entry form and instructions, contact Tyler Alexander at talexander@randallpub.com or (800) 633-5953.

Or to download the entry form and instructions, visit www.ccjmagazine.com and click on the entry form link under CCJ Special Info.


SCHNEIDER LOGISTICS STREAMLINES GM TRANSPORTATION SOURCING
Through streamlining equipment selection, Schneider Logistics was able to save a major customer, General Motors Service Parts Organization, $3 to $4 million a year, the logistics provider says.

Schneider Logisitcs is responsible for delivering GM auto parts to dealers and processing centers in Michigan and Toledo, Ohio.

Under long-term, single-source agreements, Schneider Logistics selected Penske Logistics to provide truck carrier services and XTRA Lease to provide trailers. XTRA Lease will provide 1,000 dry van trailers in a multi-year lease and another 200 trailers during an initial period. Also, Schneider Logistics took on 500 XTRA Lease rental trailers, which will be pared back as efficiencies are gained.

Previously, Schneider employed up to 10 carriers using approximately 1,700 trailers to serve the GMSPO account. By going with Penske Logistics and XTRA Lease on a sole-source basis, Schneider streamlined that operation considerably. For example, by selecting XTRA Lease as its sole trailer provider, Schneider expects to reduce its trailer fleet size to 1,000 within three years.

“We’re operating in a very competitive environment, and we aggressively sought a solution that would help us improve asset management to control costs,” said Steve Kowalkowski, vice president, automotive for Schneider Logistics.