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Updated Sep 29, 2021

Shifting the driver paradigm: Winning with equipment, technology and culture

Join us in person at the the 2021 CCJ Solutions Summit, Nov. 30 - Dec. 2, in Chandler, Arizona. CCJ Summit assembles fleet executives, thought leaders, industry analysts and leading suppliers to explore ways equipment, technology and corporate culture can shift the driver paradigm and overcome your No. 1 challenge: Cultivating a qualified workforce.

Don’t miss your chance to collaborate and socialize in-person with your peers at the picturesque Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass.

Labor shortages in the post-pandemic recovery have put a chokehold on many industries, especially transportation, where the demand for capacity is tighter than ever. Most freight market indicators, like the ton-mile index published by supply chain economist and Michigan State professor Jason Miller, hit record highs in Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 with no signs of slowing down.

Motor carriers are struggling to recruit and retain more drivers to meet demand. To address this challenge, the question that boardrooms and C-suites are trying to answer is “what drives the driver?”

Rachel Lovell recently participated in a board of directors meeting for Milan Supply Chain Solutions, which was mostly a brainstorming session to find ways Milan could separate itself from the competition in the minds of drivers.

[Related: What do drivers want? CCJ’s survey of drivers reveals satisfaction with carriers’ COVID response, unhappiness with pay and government regulations]

“No idea was shot down,” she said. “We threw it all out there to think about.”

Lovell is vice president of people operations at Milan Supply Chain Solutions (CCJ Top 250, No. 159), a Jackson, Tennessee-based carrier that operates about 400 trucks and more than 1,000 dry van trailers.

Milan used to be known as Milan Express until it divested its less-than-truckload operations during the Great Recession in 2010. Today the company has local, regional and over-the-road truckload service in the Midwest and Southeast.

One of the most important areas of emphasis, Lovell said, is that drivers understand they are important and are not just working for the company. They are “producing for a bigger picture.”

This became clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. When states closed schools, restaurants and other in-person events in March and April of last year, “drivers didn’t stop,” she said. “We are trying to make this as safe as possible, but…if drivers stop, in three days the entire U.S. stops. They are the reason people were able to survive through the pandemic.”