Power to move

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The mood was optimistic and upbeat at this year’s Truckload Carriers Association annual meeting at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando, Fla. The theme, “Power to Move,” was especially appropriate for the robust economic conditions. Fleet owners flocked to seminars covering topics that ranged from safety measures and ergonomics to running an ecologically “green” business.

It’s no surprise that Commercial Carrier Journal’s Commercial Carrier University seminar – “Insurance Exclusions, Are You Really Covered?” – packed the room. CCJ’s contributing editor Henry Seaton, senior partner in law firm Seaton and Husk, discussed how trucking companies can ensure that liability and cargo insurance policies square with their companies’ operations so that there are no gaps in coverage. Despite a beautiful afternoon in Orlando enticing people to the pool or golf course, a standing-room-only crowd was engaged by a discussion of such fun topics as indemnity, exclusions and vicarious liability. As always, thanks to our friends at Firestone for sponsoring CCU, which has brought business education to our readers for more than six years.

Just as popular as our insurance seminar were the driver-related sessions. In fact, the room was overflowing – people actually stood outside the door listening – at the roundtable discussion about driver retention from the driver’s perspective, moderated by Linda Longton, vice president of editorial for Randall-Reilly Publishing. This perennial issue is as crucial in good times as it is in tough times. Some industry experts estimate carriers pay $60,000 a year or more in order to attract and retain drivers.

The panelists – all drivers from major fleets – gave frank answers to Longton’s questions about what motivates them to stay with their company and what would entice them to leave. Most of the answers emphasized the value they place on safety and what it means to them when their company rewards and recognizes their safety efforts.

Dora Colvin, a driver for CFI who was named TCA’s and Truckers News Company Equipment Driver of the Year, runs team with her husband. She said the new hours-of-service rules (the 8/2 split) have made their job more difficult, and that a lot of CFI teams have quit because of it. On the other hand, Dan Beber of Warren Transport likes the new rules and says it’s working out just fine for him. “I enjoy 34 hours off and restarting the clock,” Beber says.

What really struck me was not so much that the drivers had real answers to what makes them tick, but that fleet owners packed the room to listen. The power to move freight begins with the power to attract and retain professional drivers – a point not lost on show attendees.