Share
February 20, 2009 5:00 PM, EST

Letters: Back to Basics; Snow Removal Fines; Government Stimulus

These Letters to the Editor appear in the Feb. 23 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to Basics

Listening to the television pundits trying to divine the future of our economy, I am not unlike millions of people worldwide. We are all watching Washington, waiting for a panacea to the economic woes.

It is time to go back to the basics, people:

Take care of your customers. In the trucking industry, this means a return to the concept of customer service. That is what this industry is about in the first place. We do not make anything to sell. We move freight from one location to another. That is all we do. The magic comes from doing it cheaper and with fewer problems than anybody else.

Maintain your equipment. You do not need new trucks in order to be successful. You do need safe, well-maintained trucks and trailers to be reliable and able to fulfill your customers’ needs.

I recently talked with a trucking executive who spoke with concern about his company’s inability to hire a stable driver workforce. He spoke with pride of his company’s debt-free fleet. We talked about his maintenance program and how he is getting the most out of everything, although his drivers complained about driving trucks with cupped steering-axle tires and no air conditioning. He also told me, with outrage, that one of his drivers sought out a Department of Transportation inspection and got a two-page write-up for safety violations.

Drivers faced with servicing customer needs with poorly maintained equipment become angry and frustrated. Spending 10 to 11 hours a day holding a vibrating steering wheel is a nightmare. This leads to a driver turnover rate few industries could deal with.

It is a false economy to try to save money by cutting maintenance. When I left that manager, he was still unable to see the connection.

Train your employees. Employees who are unsure of their jobs or unsure of how to use the technology available to them are bound to fail. Drivers who do not understand your customers’ needs cannot comply with them. Training is cheap and pays dividends difficult to imagine.

When you look for areas to upgrade your training, be sure to look in every nook and cranny. Not only drivers or mechanics can benefit from training. Get everyone up and running on every area of his or her job.

Cross-training is an often overlooked area in business. A concept that came from the military during World War II, cross-training makes sure everyone knows the job of fellow employees. In this way, your manpower needs are met during a key personnel absence, or loss.

Probably the most important thing for us all to do right now is to stay positive about our jobs and our future. It is easy to give in to fear when profits are falling and jobs are on the line. Fear is a cancer that eats the morale of any organization. Communicate with your employees about business concerns and what steps you are taking. Be sure to smile when you are dealing with everyone, and make sure you communicate your optimism.

The economy will recover; when it does, our companies, our industry and our nation will be the better for it all. Right now, it’s back to the basics.

R. Thomas Dugan

Training Consultant

Springfield, Ohio

Snow Removal Fines

So New Jersey wants to fine drivers for not removing snow from the roofs of their vehicles (“New Jersey, Others Consider Fining Drivers Who Fail to Remove Snow From Vehicles, 2-9, p. 4; click here for previous story).

OK. . . does that include drivers of automobiles, pickup trucks, recreational vehicles, etc.? It should. Or are they operating under the assumption that snow from those vehicles doesn’t pose a problem?

Admittedly, I grew up in the East (upstate New York), so I know you have to clean the snow off your entire car — hood, roof, bumpers, headlights and taillights, etc. — but that doesn’t mean everyone does so.

We had serious snow here in the Seattle area this past December, and it was common to see privately owned vehicles running around with the only clear spot being where the wipers ran on the windshield. There could be as much as 6 inches of snow on the rest of the vehicle, which would come flying off in chunks on the streets and highways, almost causing accidents as drivers either swerved to avoid being hit by the flying snow or were blinded as it hit their windshields.

Snow on privately owned vehicles is as much a danger, if not more, as snow on commercial vehicles. If any drivers are subject to fines for not removing snow, all drivers should be subject to the same fines.

Judy LaFleur

Bookkeeper

Selland Auto Transport Inc.

Seattle

Government Stimulus

I was reminded recently of a quote from former President Reagan: “Governments have a tendency not to solve problems, only to rearrange them.”

Depending on your political leanings or economic status, you have an opinion on to what degree you feel the current economic stimulus plan will benefit our nation’s economy, short term and long term.

Regardless of which side of the aisle on which we tend to sit, we all find it easy to want government involvement when it benefits us personally. On the surface, this seems perfectly fitting and legitimate. People should care about their personal interests, and if someone is offering funding (in this case, our federal government), why not push to be heard and recognized?

Herein lies the crux of the problem: We live in a country with a population of more than 300 million people. With that population comes several million identifiable needs.

It is with that basis, considering the stimulus plan that President Obama signed into law Tuesday, that I believe we need to ask ourselves some important questions. How we answer these questions may ultimately determine the direction of our country.

Who should decide whose needs are greater and demand more attention, i.e., dollars: elected officials, lobbyists or citizens?

To what extent should government expand to meet our needs and our neighbor’s needs? How about our neighbor’s neighbor?

At a time when governments at all levels are facing serious fiscal crises — or worse, bankruptcy — how do they fund the programs? The options are taxing, borrowing money or printing more of it. All three have significant downsides.

If you pick more taxes, do we have the right to demand more of someone else’s money to care for our individual needs and interests? Are we OK if someone demands more of ours?

How much personal liberty are we willing to sacrifice in exchange for the “security blanket” offered by our government?

To see the effects of these decisions, we have to look no further than Great Britain or Canada. Those citizens chose security over liberty. Did they understand what that meant for them and the generations to follow?

So how do we get the economy headed back in the right direction? Do we spend our way out of it with government-engineered programs that ultimately demand more of citizens with less in return? Or do we free up industry and individual ingenuity to reinvest ideas and dollars that ultimately create long-term economic growth?

President Calvin Coolidge was quoted as saying, “While legislation can stimulate and encourage, the real creative ability which builds up and develops the country, and in general makes human existence more tolerable and life more complete, has to be supplied by the genius of the people themselves. The government can supply no substitute for enterprise.”

I fear too many elected officials have forgotten those words of wisdom.

Robert Hutton

President, Chief Executive Officer

Rock Transfer & Storage Inc.

Milwaukee