Archive for the ‘Company’ Category

Fuel Bonus

Posted by

MPGLast year we adopted a fuel bonus that pays both quarterly and annually for our top fuel performers.  Why do we do this?  You save us money…and we share the savings.  It’s a win/win deal.   It’s that simple.  Isn’t it every company driver’s job to save fuel costs by improving their mpg?  Certainly.  All employees have the duty to save the company money.  If they don’t are they really doing their jobs?  But some excel…and they should be rewarded for the extra effort.  What about owner operators?  You are self-employed.  You buy your own fuel.  Your bonus is the additional profit you make by saving fuel.  Every contractor can win.

It is easy in such a low price fuel environment to quit worrying about fuel.  Yet fuel is, and will always be, one of the highest costs of running a truck.  It is also one of the things a driver can control.

Let’s look at some facts.  ACT buys around 5,300,000 gallons of fuel per year.  That is a bunch.  Pennies add up to real money.  If a contractor drives 120,000 miles per year and gets 6 mpg, he will purchase 20,000 gallons per year.  A contractor with the same miles that gets 8 mpg will purchase 15,000 gallons per year on the same mile for a savings of 5,000 gallons every year.  Over the 4 year life of a truck that is 20,000 gallons saving.  At $2, that saves $40,000.  At $4, that saves $80,000.  Big numbers for sure.  Multiply that times 300 trucks.  You can easily see why we are so focused on fuel.  We currently are paying way below $2 per gallon.  Not too long ago it was $4.  I asked a fuel expert once what he thought fuel prices were going to do in the future.  He smiled and said, “They will change.”  He was comical but right.

Either way with gallons such as these, it doesn’t take much savings in mpg or savings in fuel price to make a real difference.  Did you know that most all of our company drivers use our fuel optimization program?  Did you know that only 30% of our contractors do?  Our cost of fuel for company drivers at the pump is about 4 cents per gallon less than contractors because of this.  Pennies matter.  Don’t leave them at the truck stop.pennies

There is some controversy about automatic transmissions.  Some like them and some don’t.  However, we see that if a low performing driver is getting in the low 6 mpg and we put them in an automatic, they jump to the high 7s without changing a thing.  That is money we cannot overlook.  Of course that driver could change their habits and get that and more.   But some won’t do it.  Trucks are changing every year and getting better.  Drivers will need to constantly learn how to drive for mpg with new trucks.  They all drive differently.  Forget your old school cowboy driving.  It won’t work today.

There are a few minor changes to our 2016 fuel bonus that takes different trucks into account.  Even though a driver can get from 6 mpg to over 9 (as we have seen) in any of our trucks, some do better on average than others.  So we have come up with three categories for the bonus.

Group #1- 2013 KW T660s and T680s

Group # 2- 2014 KW & Freightliner Manual Transmissions

Group # 3- 2015 (and newer) KW and Freightliner Auto Transmissions

Drivers in the top 25% mpg in each group with a minimum of 25,000 miles in a quarter and employed the entire time and at the time of payout get a bonus.  There is another $2,000 bonus for the top annual mpg overall.

So what can you do to earn that extra bonus?

Slow down.  Speed is a habit and frame of mind.  Change it.  You’ll adjust.  Don’t get in a hurry.  Relax.  Don’t follow so close.  Anticipate things up the road.  Our high mpg drivers get great miles, safer and with a lot less stress.

Use your cruise.  Don’t try to outsmart the truck computer. Let it do its job.  You’ll not only get better mpg, but your truck will pull better too.

Keep tires inflated, including the trailer.  Balance your load.  Why pull a sled?

Keep the trailer gap as small as possible.  Wind is mpg’s enemy.

Bobtail as if you were loaded.  Don’t idle.  Use your APU for its intended purpose, heating and cooling, not cooling that ham sandwich in the refrigerator, 24/7.

Talk with folks at the shop and other high mpg drivers to see what they recommend.  Don’t stress out on the mpg for each trip.  Look at the averages.  All high mpg drivers get heavy loads, windy days and bad conditions.  As long as I have been here I have always had drivers who get good mpg and miles and those who don’t.  Guess which ones I think of as great drivers?

Happy and Smart Trucking!

Tom

Distracted Driving

Posted by

texting

This year you will see a renewed effort at enforcing our “no texting” policy.  Recently, we had a DOT recordable.  The truck had DriveCam.  What we saw is a driver (ex-driver, I might add) who ran into the back of a truck who was stopped in traffic with its hazard lights on.  Our driver hit the back of it doing 65 mph and applied his brakes at impact.  Why?  He was looking at his cell phone the entire time.  This is dumb and dangerous.  Professional drivers don’t do this.  The vast majority of our professional drivers wouldn’t even think of doing this.  This driver had only been with us three weeks.

Every good carrier in the industry prohibits texting.  The problem has been finding a way to enforce the rule.  Event recorders open up a window into this type of behavior that we didn’t have before.  Now that we can see why the accident or near accident occurred, we can do something about it… and we will.  This is one of the benefits of inward facing cameras.  It shouldn’t be hard because everyone can make the decision and New Year’s Resolution to leave the phone down.

Our policy is “hands free” only.  This mirrors the federal rules which prohibit texting and provide severe penalties, up to and including loss of a CDL for drivers who text.

FMCSA has published new rules that restrict texting and the use of hand-held mobile phones by truck and bus drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).  Research commissioned by FMCSA shows the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving than for those who do not. Texting drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, this equates to a driver traveling 371 feet, or the approximate length of a football field (including the end zones)—without looking at the roadway!

What exactly is “Texting”?

Texting means manually entering text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.

Texting includes (but is not limited to), short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a call using a mobile telephone, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication.

What does this rule mean to you?

Fines and Penalties – Texting while driving can result in driver disqualification. Penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow or require drivers to use a hand-held communications device for texting while driving.

Disqualification – Multiple convictions for texting while driving a CMV can result in a driver disqualification by FMCSA. Multiple violations of State law prohibiting texting while driving a CMV that requires a CDL is a serious traffic violation that could result in a CDL driver being disqualified for up to 120 days.

What are the risks? – Texting is risky because it causes the driver to take his/her eyes off the roadway. Dispatching devices that are part of a fleet management system can be used for other purposes, but texting on a dispatching device is indistinguishable from texting on another text-capable device, and is therefore prohibited.

At ACT we always go above and beyond for safety.  When you talk with someone at the office you will hear them ask, “Are you hands-free? Are you safe to talk?”  We respect your efforts to do the right and safe thing.  Conversations can always wait for a safer time.  Here are some other common sense things for you to consider.  Even though we allow hands free phone usage, as does the FMCSA, you should keep you conversations short.  And there are times it is better to not be on the phone at all.  Think about times of driving in bad weather, in traffic congestion, driving in construction zones, in schools zones or any other situation which requires your full and undivided attention.  Super pros will say, “It can wait.”dislike-157252__180

Most of our drivers respect this common sense rule.  But a few don’t.  Texting is not a mistake…it is a something one decides to do.  Event recorders will show us who these folks are.  We will be bringing violators into compliance, and for those who won’t, they need to drive for another company.  Safety and Compliance is a core value here.  Core values are not only important to the team, they are non-negotiable.  When someone violates a core value, we will throw a flag.  We value your safety and those who share the road with us.

Is this a double standard for truck drivers?  Perhaps, but you are the professionals.  You are always held to a higher standard than the four wheelers.  Good professionals welcome that.  And at ACT we are always getting better.

I appreciate what you do.  At ACT, you can count on the fact that the drivers you associate with are the best.  ACT professionals raising the standard as is our tradition.

Happy and Safe Trucking!

Tom

 

Thoughts for the New Year

Posted by

new-years-day-1111888__180

It is traditional to make resolutions at the end of each year for the next year.  Goal setting is an important part of success.  As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going,  you’ll end up someplace else.”  As people who navigate every day for a living, we all know that we plan our day with the destination in mind and work our way back from there.

What are some good goals for us to consider for 2016?  Here are a few ideas…

Improving customer service.  Drivers all want miles because they are paid by the mile.  So is the company.  Drivers are often shocked when I tell them that I don’t have any miles.  It’s true.  I don’t make anything, I don’t ship anything; the customer does.  The customer has the miles.  They give the miles to us and we in turn give them to you.  So what is the secret to good miles?  Obviously, it is critically important to keep the one who creates the miles, the customer, happy so they keep giving them to us and give us more.

Keeping the customer happy is even more important in a soft freight environment.  When carriers have more freight than they can haul, as happened in 2014, we see new customers call us.  On the other hand, when freight is soft, customers get lots of calls from truckers and brokers.  In fact, it is a sure sign to them that they have the upper hand in rate negotiations.  When freight is busy, the customer has to figure out how to secure enough capacity to haul its freight.  On the other hand when freight is soft, the customer has to decide which of the many carriers calling to use.  If you were in this situation what would you do?  You would pick the truckers with the best rate and the best service and reject the others.

All of us can always improve customer service.  This is a great New Year’s resolution to ensure all of us get the miles we need.new-years-day-972294__180

It can wait.  We all want to be safe, both for ourselves and others.  One of the most dangerous things on the road today is the use of cell phones while driving.  You see it with the four wheelers each and every day.  Our policy is “hands free” only.  Common sense will tell you that there are times when we ought not to be on the phone at all; congestion, bad weather, school zones, constructions zones and other dangerous conditions.  Event recorders teach us all through film review how easily any distraction can be unsafe.  Let’s all resolve to put that phone down…it can wait.

8 mpg.  Even though we are seeing low fuel prices we haven’t seen in years, fuel is still the largest expense for a trucker.  A contractor will buy 15,000 to 20,000 gallons per year.  We buy 5,300,000 gallons per year.  You can easily see why saving a couple cents at the pump or improving your mpg 2/10’s saves a lot of money over time.  Our trucks will get between 8 and 9 mpg from fuel conscious drivers.  Some get over 9 on an annual average.  Whether you are a contractor or employee everyone’s job is to save money so we can take more home.  Pick one or two habits to change for the year.  Speed is the biggest.  Slowdown 2 mph and see what happens.  Check, really check, your tire inflation.  Use cruise more.  Keep your trailer gap and tight as possible.  Balance your load.  If you pick one or two of these for a resolution you can make a big difference.

Planning.  Sometimes we get in such a hurry that we forget to plan.  You maximize your and our miles and improve customer service simply by planning your trip before you leave.  There is so much now available on the internet to help you.  “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

Review your budget with those at home.  This is a great time of year to sit down with your spouse and do a budget.  This is especially important for truckers.  Your miles will vary each week and in different times of the year.  Your check is not the same every week.  But your bills are.  You can control your expenses.  Sit down and make a plan.  Use last year’s miles as a base.  Be sure to allow for savings for the inevitable slow times or the times something goes wrong.

I hope some of the tips can help you make 2016 a great year!

Happy and Profitable Trucking!

Tom

2016-The State of the Freight

Posted by

 

Gosh, what a change a year brings.  We started 2015 coming off one of the craziest trucking years for freight in the history of trucking.  In 2014, a combination of weather, strikes at western ports and a supply/demand balance that finally shifted to the carriers, allowed ACT and many carriers to raise rates significantly for the first time in a long time.  We were busier than I have ever seen and we simply couldn’t cover all the loads.  The timing couldn’t have been better because this coincided with the most severe shortage of good drivers in the history of trucking.  Raises to customer means we can raise drivers which we did…several times.  The way this works is we get the increases from customer, then we increase driver pay. In many ways this was a perfect storm for ACT and its drivers.

2015 was much different.  Although our numbers show that we delivered a similar number of loads as 2014, the freight seemed softer.  Throughout the trucking industry, carriers, economists and industry analysts talked about how it was softer.   Yet, the memories (and lessons) of 2014 were still fresh in the customer’s minds and again we were able to increase rates and driver pay.  As we conclude 2015, we know that customer’s inventories are bloated and normally this is bad for truckers until this is worked off.  Yet, we had some record weeks leading into Christmas.  Now some customers are feeling like they can get rate reductions.

So what is going on?  If we could all predict that we would make a fortune.  But there are some things I can say with confidence.  For one, I know that when it is slow here at ACT it is slow everywhere.  How do I know that?  Because we have extensive contacts throughout the trucking industry and are in touch with those folks on a regular basis.  We have Wall Street analysts call us on a regular basis to find out what is going on.  At the same time we pick their brains for what they know and what they hear from other carriers and shippers.  We keep current with all the industry and economic publications.  So we are plugged in…at least as much as you can be.  What we have seen throughout the years is that whatever we are feeling is usually what others are feeling.  I will say that others have been feeling slow.  Fortunately at ACT, although things are slower than 2014, it seems that we are doing a little better than most companies.

We are also tuned in to the seasonal aspects of trucking. We know that January and February are usually bad months.  We do have a lot of winter friendly freight.  Batteries and insulation do well during the winter.  By March our three home improvement store retailers are usually gearing up nicely.

It is important that drivers understand the state of the freight.  In the past, I have often seen what I call the “Spring Migration.”  We see our turnover go up and our recruiting go up.  What is going on?  Well, after it has been slow for a while drivers start leaving….not just here but everywhere.  So as our trucks empty of drivers who know ACT, they fill with drivers who don’t.  This really adds punishment to the pain for drivers who job jump when it gets slow.  The freight conditions are similar at the carrier they leave to go to as it is for the carrier they leave.  The go from a system they know to one they don’t.  And they waste a week in orientation.  All this costs that driver money.  And it doesn’t change their problem, which is that they did not store their nuts for the winter.

What can we expect for the first quarter of 2016?  We know that customer’s inventories are too high.  When this happens, they quit building things until their inventory is lower.  This hurts manufacturing.  All manufacturing indexes are down to their lowest levels in years.  What is the solution?  Eventually their inventory sells out and they must start building and shipping again.  We have a strong Dollar.  This hurts manufacturing because many customers sell their products overseas.  When the Dollar is strong their price is higher.  Thus fewer people buy their products and fewer are made.

One highlight in the economy is the price of fuel.  This is one of those things that helps some and hurts others.  If you work in the oil industry you are probably hurt and laid off.  If you don’t you have seen your disposable income rise as you spend less of fuel.  70% of the economy is consumer spending so anytime consumers have more money that is a good thing.

Automotive and housing are great right now.  Good for us as we are involved in automotive and insulation other items such as flooring and appliances.

So all in all it is mixed bag.  We are adding salesmen to make sure we are out finding the best freight 52 weeks a year.  We know the winter is slow for everyone.

At some point electronic logs will become a big deal and reduce capacity.  That leaves more freight for us.

All in all, I think 2016 will have decent freight….not like 2014, but pretty good.

Happy New Year and Happy and Safe Trucking!

Tom

The Last Cowboy

Posted by

This is the last cowboy song:
The end of a hundred year waltz.
The voices sound sad as they’re singin’ along.
Another piece of America’s lost.  The Highwaymen

 

SLEEPING DRIVER

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on Dec. 10 announced its long-awaited final rule requiring that interstate drivers use electronic recording devices intended to enforce hours of service regulations, and reduce driver fatigue and paperwork for motor carriers and drivers.  “Since 1938, complex, on-duty/off-duty logs for truck and bus drivers were made with pencil and paper, virtually impossible to verify,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This automated technology not only brings logging records into the modern age, it also allows roadside safetyinspectors to unmask violations of federal law that put lives at risk.”

In preparation for this announcement the FMCSA required some changes in how our electronic logging devices (ELDs) work, which I’m sure you have noticed.  To save yourself trouble learning these changes, be sure to plan your time carefully and follow these tips:

Turning your truck ignition to “off” will help protect your duty status.
Do NOT log out of the system to circumvent the system.
Do NOT use off duty driving to circumvent the system.
Be proactive on managing your duty status in the system.
The criteria for personal conveyance has not changed.
As always, if you have issues or specific questions, you can contact our Safety team for further assistance.

One of the most important core values at ACT is that of “integrity.”  Integrity means doing the right things always, even if nobody is looking, even if nobody will ever know.  We have a long history of being proactive on safety and compliance and a long earned reputation of being “by the book.”  We were an early adopter of ELDs.  When I say we are “by the book,” it is more than lip service.  We are “by the book,” no kidding, no excuses, no exceptions.  We may not like all the laws and regulations we operate under, but we follow them.

There are many benefits to this culture.  We sleep well at night.  We know that of all the problems we can have in trucking, violating the law is not one of them.  We fear no audit, whether that by the DOT, the IRS or any other agency.  We know we are legal so they can come in and look at anything they want.  It makes drivers more miles.  We don’t run backroads to avoid scales.  We don’t spend a lot of time in the chicken coops.  Our CSA scores are low and most of the time an ACT driver will get a green light at the scales.  How much time and how many miles does that save?  A lot.

We deployed ELDs a long time ago and our drivers learned how to use them.  There is a learning curve.  At first a driver may lose miles.  But they soon learn that with good time management and planning a driver in a company with a “by the book” culture can get as many or more miles on ELD’s.  Many of our drivers like the convenience and say they would never go back to paper.

ACT’s rates to customers and our pay to drivers are set so that the company and the driver can make good money running legally.  This is a big advantage going forward as the entire industry adapts to ELD’s.  All the good carriers now use ELDs.  But there are many cowboy trucker or “sport truckers” who don’t.  Why don’t they?  For many it is because they run illegally.  When we bid against these outlaws, they are the ones who put in cheap, below cost, rates.  Why?  Because they make it up on illegal miles.  These are also the companies who pay drivers cheap and coerce them into running illegally.

Recently the FMCSA published a rule prohibiting coercing a shipper, broker, carrier or receiver from coercing a driver into running illegally.  For us, this is a big “duh!” but for many this is a big threat of large fines.  No longer can a shipper or carrier put everything that goes wrong on the back of the driver.  We applaud the regulation.

BOOTS

Running cowboy is about to end.  It is often the outlaw competition who put in cheap rates.  Well, no more.  Our rates determine how much we can pay drivers and we always want to pay more.  The cowboy’s world is about to change and this will be to our competitive advantage.  They will be forced to do things legally.  Their costs will rise.  They too, will now have the cost of doing things right.  No longer can they cut corners at the expense of the driver.  They will have to get their rates up not only to make a profit, but to keep their drivers.  Their drivers are not paid enough to run “by the book.”  The business model of these outlaws will change dramatically.  Many will not be able to adjust quickly enough to stay in business.  Those that make the adjustment will have to price their services and pay their drivers responsibly.  We think this is a good thing.  Shipper and receivers who waste a driver’s time and expect him to just deal with it are in for heavy changes too.  As everyone goes to ELD’s the focus will be on driver’s precious time.  They will have to change how they do things.  Our long time investment in integrity is about to pay off.

Happy and Legal Trucking!

Tom

Working as a Family Team

Posted by

 

family-591581_1920

The biggest challenge for truckers and their family at home is balancing financial responsibilities and home time.  We all agree that family is the most important thing.  So it is very important that we take the time to talk about this, plan and get it right.  Each family has different needs so it pays to work together with those at home as a family team to come up with a plan that works.  The job of a trucker’s spouse is harder than our job.  Truckers know that there are two things Momma needs:  a good paycheck and you.  The dilemma is that you have to be away from home, not at home, to run miles.  But the bills don’t care.  They just keep coming.  So what is the answer?

Let’s look at things from the trucker’s spouse’s perspective.  In most trucker households, the spouse at home pays the bills.  The bills are the same each week.  But the trucker’s pay is different each week because he or she is paid by the miles and the miles are different each week. Because of this, financial planning and home time planning are critical to your family’s success.

Every trucker can relate to that tense conversation with the spouse on Friday.  It is tense because that is payday and the day bills are paid.  If the settlement is low, while the bills stay the same, this is stressful for all.  Due to the nature of a trucker family’s life and the way truckers are paid, it is critical that the family work together as a team to plan their finances.  It is always better to manage your money than to let your money manage you.  Do you think a person can go broke making $200,000 per year?  Do you think a person can save money making $40,000 per year?  What is the difference?  The difference lies in managing expenses.  This is an area that you do have control over.  Therefore, working together as a team to come up with a family budget is mission critical.  If you find that your average pay is not enough to meet your expenses, the only logical thing to do is cut the expenses.  You should plan your expenses to be no more than 80% of your average pay check.  This allows for extra money from good weeks to get you through the weeks when miles are low.office-620822__180

This budget should take into account the fact that miles are different each week.  All trucking companies are subject to the ups and downs of break downs, annual reviews, preventive maintenance, things that go wrong and freight fluctuations at different times of the week, month and year.  All trucking companies are subject to the same economy.  When it is slow, we always see some drivers quit and go to another company.  The driver will say, “I have to do something.”  The driver has to do something but it is much smarter to do something that works instead of something that doesn’t work.  If it is slow here, I assure you it is slow everywhere.  No trucking company has a corner on the economy.  So the driver quits, perhaps hurts his or her DAC, goes to another company he or she knows nothing about, and wastes a week in orientation.  The driver then learns it is slow there too, and the cycle of poor decisions repeats.  If you work as a team with your partner on a plan so you control your finances and budget, you are prepared for slow freight times.  You can make more here than other places because our pay is top drawer and you have learned the system and know how to make the most of it.

boy-926103_1920

What is the problem from the home time side?  We can all agree that over the road truckers don’t get as much home time as they should.  Is home time important?  You bet.  We work to support our family, not the other way around.  Since truckers are gone from home most of the time it is critical that we get them home and that they make the most of this time.  If that Friday conversation about money is a happy one, then the quality of home time will be better, because the financial stress is removed.  If a trucker family is financially solid, it is so much easier to go home.  But if a trucker family is financially stressed, the trucker stays out longer to get out of the hole.  But this causes family stress.  Smart families know the freight flows.  They work as a team to have the trucker out more during good freight times and home more during slow freight times.  They not only plan home time, but they are flexible too.  If they get behind in a budget, then either change the budget or do some catching up on the road.  The smart families know that proper money management is the key to adequate and quality home time.

If there is anything we can do to help your family, let us know.  We value family.  We know home time is mission critical.  We care about the ACT family and we care about yours.  Let’s all be smart about it.  It is what we are all working for.

Happy Trucking!

Tom

New ACT Total Rewards Program

Posted by

A top priority for ACT is to improve how we recognize and reward Company Drivers and Independent Contractors for the awesome things they’re doing every day. We are extremely happy to announce that ACT has created a customized rewards and recognition program called ACT Total Rewards.

We believe our new program will inspire as well as reward our drivers by providing exciting options of how they collect and redeem their reward points. Since they’re the “driving force” behind our company, this program has been designed strictly for them! The rewards program is available beginning Monday, November 2, 2015.

ACT Total Rewards

Stay Metrics, a trusted third party company for ACT, will manage the program. Drivers will be asked to participate in surveys designed to give us responsible feedback. The surveys will be done in the strictest of confidence, and only the statistical data will be provided to us – no driver names. Participants’ input is highly confidential, highly valued, and greatly appreciated.

This data is very important for us, and we will use it to identify areas that need attention and improvement. This data will also assist our Senior Management team in its decision-making process.

The entire program is managed online through the personalized ACT Total Rewards website at ACTTotalRewards.com. The site provides everything drivers need including reward points that have been earned. When drivers are ready to redeem points, they’ll use this site to order selected prizes. Awesome! There’s even a Wish List feature that tracks progress toward desired items. (Prizes will be subject to customary tax withholdings.)

Each driver’s personalized welcome page will summarize points earned; along with any rewards they may have redeemed so far. Information on additional detailed points can be found on the My Account page.

ACT Company Drivers & Independent Contractors, here’s how to easily access the ACT Total Rewards site:

First time login – go to ACTTotalRewards.com/invitation. Enter your Driver Code and create your password.

For all future logins – go to: ACTTotalRewards.com

Beginning November 2, 2015, just log in, click on the link for the annual survey, complete the survey to earn 4,000 points AND be entered into three weeks of random drawings!

ipad

Drawing Dates and Prizes:

  • November 6 at 2:00 PM CST – Apple iPad
  • November 13 at 2:00 PM CST – 24” Flatscreen TV
  • November 20 at 2:00 PM CST – 24” Flatscreen TV

And even more reward items:

ACT reward items

This is just one more way that ACT is improving the overall experience for our hardworking drivers. THANK YOU for the sacrifices you make being on the road. Now, collect some points and bring home some prizes. Be safe!

Brandon Kohlwes, VP Operations

Regular Doctor or Emergency Room?

Posted by

 

dr

Here at ACT, we have many specialized positions that are tailored to meet the needs of drivers, customers, and other stakeholders.  Unlike other carriers our size, ACT has made the investment to run three shifts in Operations with 24/7/365 coverage.  Other companies just send someone home with a cell phone or force their front line managers to be on-call 24/7.  We believe running three shifts is necessary to make sure our drivers and customers are taken care of as well as letting our day time Driver Support Managers, Customer Service Reps, and Planners maintain a work/home life balance.  This work/home life balance upholds one of ACT’s Core Values:  Family.  One of the most important positions that often gets overlooked is the role that keeps the Operation moving after business hours.  I am talking about our After Hours Team consisting of Leland Hughes (Department Manager), Chris Marshall, Caleb Williams, John Monzingo, Mahogany “Wood” Collins, Bob Dinning, and Cindy Sandahl.

These individuals work diligently all through the nights and weekends to ensure that driver needs and customer needs are met.  Do you ever wonder, “What do those folks on nights actually do?”  Well let me answer that for you:

  • ACT receives, per week, an average of 604 phone calls from 1700-0700.  The second shift (M-F, 1300-2300) averages one phone call every 7 minutes.  Imagine taking a phone call every 7 minutes for a 10 hour shift.  That is about 86 phone calls per night per person.
  • Each After Hours person is responsible for FOUR boards or roughly 150 drivers at a time.  This number of drivers equates to a WHOLE LOT of satellite messages to sort through and respond to… while taking a phone call every 7 minutes.
  • Here in Liberty, electricity can be pretty spotty during bad weather.  We lose electricity quite a bit.  In the event of poor weather, After Hours personnel are in charge of running outside, checking fuel levels on generators, starting the generators and plugging everything in to keep our servers and computers alive and the lights on… while sorting through a whole lot of satellite messages and taking a phone call every 7 minutes.
  • In the event of an accident involving ACT, an After Hours person takes down all of the crucial information about the event while trying to coordinate with local law enforcement and hazmat crews if needed, while trying to contact and alert key managers for ACT at home and the customers involved… while trying to keep the lights on, sorting through a whole lot of satellite messages, and taking a phone call every 7 minutes.
  • Upset drivers call at all hours to unload their minds onto After Hours personnel.  Chances are the person taking the call cannot do a whole lot to fix the problem, but they will still take the brunt of negativity that should be reserved for their daytime Driver Support Manager… while handling emergencies, keeping the lights on, sorting through a whole lot of satellite messages, and taking a phone call every 7 minutes.
  • Customers track their shipments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Customers request empty trailers all hours of the day.  Customers will email and call to get updates on where their shipment is and if it will be on-time.  Some of these customers are very respectful, but some are upset about a load potentially running late or not having a trailer immediately available to preload.  After Hours has to gather as much information as possible to respond to the customer… while calming down an upset driver, handling emergencies, keeping the lights on, sorting through a whole lot of satellite messages, and taking a phone call every 7 minutes.
  • This might not surprise you, but trucks breakdown all hours of the day.  Chris Marshall is our After Hours Breakdown Specialist.  He gets calls from drivers that are broken down as well as getting calls from vendors looking for payment and approvals to work on trucks.  Chris handles these calls and tracks down invoices while helping the rest of the After Hours team by tracking customer loads, calming down an upset driver, handling emergencies, keeping the lights on, sorting through a whole lot of satellite messages, and taking a phone call every 7 minutes.

I think you can see where I am going with this.  Our After Hours folks wear every hat at this company at the same time and are constantly in motion in order to keep drivers moving and safe.  So, I’d like to ask you to please be respectful of their time.

Before contacting After Hours, ask yourself, “Is this an issue for my regular doctor or for the emergency room?”

You see, your Driver Support Manager is your “regular doctor”.  This individual is tasked with getting you miles, getting you home, and meeting your needs.  If you have an issue regarding some of these items, it’s best to wait and talk to your Driver Support Manager who can affect changes to improve your experience at ACT.  After Hours can’t increase your overall miles, they can’t get you consistently better home time… but your Driver Support Manager can.

ER

If the issue at hand is something for the “emergency room” then you need to engage our After Hours team.  They are here to serve you with an immediate need or respond in the event of an emergency.

Don’t take offense if you are in a conversation with a member of our After Hours team and they have to abruptly end the call.  This is not because they don’t like you, don’t care about you, or think that your needs are less important.  It is because they have to handle a breakdown, track a customer load, calm down an upset driver, handle an emergency, keep the lights on, respond to messages, and answer a call every 7 minutes.  Please be respectful and courteous to this team.  They keep the ship afloat while the day time team gets much needed rest to keep the engine moving during the day.  This is one of the highest stress jobs in the organization so please do what you can to make it as easy on them as possible.  Maybe even offer a thank you out of the blue to them… they will appreciate it and will ride the rest of the night on your kind words.

As always, thank you for all that you do!

Brandon J. Kohlwes, Vice President of Operations

 

 

 

I Got the Trucker Blues… Lord, What Can I Do?

Posted by

happysad

Born under a bad sign
I been down since I begin to crawl
If it wasn’t for bad luck,
I wouldn’t have no luck at all..
Booker T Jones

Ever had a bad day in trucking? Did you expect anything different? The reality is that truck driving is a difficult job which requires a lot of discipline, patience and perspective. When I speak to an orientation class, I always ask “Have you ever had one of those days that started off bad? Perhaps a dispatcher or shipper said something that hit you wrong? Perhaps you had a problem at home?” In every case, all the drivers in the class can relate. I then ask, “What happens with your little problem as you drive the next 500 miles?” Again, everyone in the class knows the answer. The problem gets bigger and bigger with each passing mile until, at some point what started as a little problem, something that is a part of life and a part of trucking, has become so big that the driver no longer controls the problem…the problem controls the driver. I have even seen situations where this went on so long that the driver becomes unsafe, because he is distracted.

Why are drivers more prone to this than others? The answer is that they just have too much time to think, and overthinking can lead to real stress, loss of perspective and loss of judgment. Do you worry a lot about the fuel mileage on that last load? Do you find yourself worrying about that rude driver you saw two hours ago? Do you find yourself stewing about that one shipper that held you up? Are you getting upset that a driver manager didn’t get back with you? This leads to tunnel vision. When you find yourself thinking about things such as these, you may be overthinking.

keepcalm

Put things into perspective. We all will experience bad things… it is a part of life. Zoom out and look at the big picture. How are things going on average? How was your MPG that week or that month? How were your miles that month? For the year? I have seen drivers with good miles stressed out over one load and they don’t even know they had good miles. Sometimes drivers really stressed over one bad day, when on the whole they are doing real well. Some get mad and quit, some quit badly, like abandoning a truck. What happens to their problem now? They leave a company they know, waste time in orientation with a company they don’t know and get a bad reference on their DAC. I have learned a good lesson to live by, that is, whatever you do when you are mad is always wrong… always. And if you have a problem with overthinking and stress, changing jobs won’t help you. You’ll just end up taking your thinking habits with you and the cycle with repeat.

If you find yourself in this vicious cycle, here are some things you can try:

  1. Look at the big picture. Zoom out from the issue stuck in your mind and see how things look from a broader perspective.
  2. People tend to vent to someone who can’t help them. Maybe they complain on the CB, or on Facebook or to other drivers. What good does that do? Nothing. Communicate with those here whose job it is to help you.
  3. Go over your long term goals and plans.
  4. Fix it. Separate the world into two lists: one list is something you can fix and the other is things beyond your control. If something is beyond your control, let it go. Your worry is wasted energy. Redirect that energy on solutions to things you can fix.
  5. Get moving. Sometimes it’s best to do something to break the overthinking cycle. Take a walk, read, do something.

The best thing you can do is recognize when this is happening to you. Get away from blame, denial and excuses. These are success killers. Call us. We are here to support you.

Happy Trucking! -Tom

Pinching Pennies

Posted by

pennies1

In trucking, we think a lot about pennies. We charge our customers in cents per mile, and our drivers are paid in cents per mile. Sometimes, it is easy to get into the thinking that “It’s only a penny.” A penny may not seem like much, but added up over a fleet our size over the miles we run; it is a lot of money. For a driver running 120,000 miles per year a penny is $1,200. Last year, our trucks ran almost 32 million miles. Do the math … each penny spent is $320,000, and conversely each penny saved is $320,000. This highlights the truth behind Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” It is the job of everyone on the ACT team to make our pennies and to save our pennies.

The largest expense in trucking is fuel. We purchase approximately 5,300,000 gallons of fuel per year. Each penny saved on a gallon of fuel represents $53,000 per year. If we save a lot of pennies that adds up to a whole lot of money, which keeps the company financially sound.

Why do you care if we are financially sound? You should. We have a lot of stakeholders that require good financial performance. Investors don’t invest just for the fun of it. Every company has investors. They expect a return. If they do not get a return, they consider putting their money elsewhere. Trucking is a capital intensive industry. Buying the trucks and trailers for a company our size requires a whole lot of money, much of which is borrowed. Lenders require periodic financial reporting. If your financials are good, they want to loan you more. If your financials are not good, they get worried. Employees require good financial performance. We all want to work for a solid company. The last recession was in 2008. Recessions occur every 6 to 10 years. We are a lot nearer to the next one, than we are to the last one. Solid financials are an advantage in a recession. Companies that are weak are very threatened by a recession. It is so important in trucking to get the hay in the barn during good times. I have seen so many trucking companies who didn’t do well in good times, fail during recessions.

fuel

Every employee is a steward of company resources. One way we can be good stewards is to save fuel. Our trucks will get 8 miles per gallon and much more if the driver drives it correctly. The difference between a driver getting 6 miles per gallon and one getting 8 miles per gallon is 5,000 gallons per year….for one truck. What is the difference between these drivers? Drivers do control mpg. Slowing down, shifting correctly, checking tire inflation, balancing the load, closing the trailer gap, refraining from idling and other tricks make all the difference in the world. Drive bobtail as if you were loaded. 5,000 gallons multiplied by 300 trucks represents a savings of 1,500,000 gallons per year. So please understand when we expect improvement if you are a low mpg driver.

Another way to save company resources is to use the fuel optimizer available to all drivers. We have fuel discounts negotiated with Pilot Flying J and Love’s throughout our operating territory. The discounts are different from stop to stop and change each day based on fuel prices. We get the better of a discount off the street sign or a price based upon costs, whichever is better. There is no way a driver can know what we pay by looking at the sign. But the computer does tell us. I had a driver in orientation ask why it sometimes asks a driver to stop for a small amount of fuel and then fill up a few hundred miles away. This is because the program is looking down your route, all the way to your destination and finding the best price. The intermediate stop is to get you just enough fuel to get you to the real savings. So far this year, we have saved an average of 40 cents per gallon. For owner operators who use the system, the savings at the pump are passed directly on to them. For one driver using the systems saves $6000 per year for that truck. 40 cents times 5.3 million gallons represents a savings of $2,120,000 per year. So you can see why we emphasize this program to drivers.

ACT truck

These are just a couple of examples of how pinching pennies can make a real difference in the company’s financial performance. We want to be a leader in the market pay in employee and driver pay. We want to continue to be a good financial performer for our investors, lenders, employee and contractors. We want to continue to be in a position to weather and take advantage even of the next recession. Your attention to pennies helps get us there.

Happy and profitable trucking!

-Tom