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April 7, 2014 4:00 AM, EDT

Letters: Hours of Service, Level Playing Field, Turnover Is Costly

These Letters to the Editor appear in the Oct. 7 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Hours of Service

The March 11 edition of TTNews.com has a headline that reads “HOS Rules Continue to Hurt Drivers, Execs Say.” Here’s one that makes much more sense and gets to the root of the problem: “Execs Continue to Let Shippers and Receivers Run Roughshod Over Drivers, but Point the Finger at the HOS Rules Rather Than Doing Something About the Problem.”

I doubt we’ll ever see such a headline. Instead, the trucking executives continue wanting to have the ability to legally work drivers 80-plus hours a week. Since they do not, they are looking everywhere except themselves for a solution.

The labor problems of the 1930s and 1940s in the mining and steel industries provide a great lesson to this mentality. Too bad the execs will not heed the lessons of history.

Scott Graeff

Compliance Coordinator

Gordon Trucking Inc.

Belfair, Wash.

It would be very important that there be rules set up for the shippers and receivers. They don’t seem to understand the why and hows of these rules — and basically don’t care. They give you a due date to deliver a product, which you can’t do because of these new rules, but their answer is get it here as requested or you pay a fine of some sort. These people should be sent back to school — especially to learn geography.

Al Martineck

President

All-Together Transportation

Systems Inc.

Joliet, Ill.

Level Playing Field

Really? “Level the playing field?” (“Fleets Say E-Log Proposal Will Level Playing Field,”). After 40 years of trucking — with a bit of railroading sprinkled in — I’m really sick of that cliché. I’d really like for us as an industry to get a new one.

Whether it’s “electronic on-board recording devices” or whatever, it is really a knock against a deregulated industry. We fought for years for trucking deregulation and the Staggers Act [of 1980] for railroads and to be able to compete, and now the big guys want to level the playing field. Translated, what does that mean?

I’m assuming part of it is we’ll all get EOBRs to “level” things. That’s fine. I already have them; but does that mean that we’ll all share-and-share alike? Rumor is that large companies have better fuel programs, buy their tractors cheaper, their tires and parts are cheaper — or at least that’s what I hear.

So, when we’re leveling the playing field, I’m assuming those companies and their vendors will start to extend larger company benefits to us smaller guys so we all can participate in socialized trucking. I’m still waiting on that call to offer that to my small trucking operation . . . and waiting . . . and waiting . . .

Tom Doty

Owner

Glory Transportation

Fayetteville, Ark.

Turnover Is Costly

We all know turnover is costly — especially for the driver. The 3-17 issue of Transport Topics (“TL Turnover Remains Elevated, Heightens Driver-Supply Fears”) discussed fourth-quarter 2013 truck driver turnover rates (91% for large truckload carriers) and industry-common solutions for improving retention that included higher pay, more home time and training for fleet managers.

Unfortunately, common solutions are perhaps the biggest hurdle toward reducing turn-over. Wage increases are helpful only until competitors announce their new compensation package, freight networks can only be tweaked so much to improve home time and, while fleet managers can influence retention, their impact is limited by a company’s wage and home-time constraints.

One not commonly recognized solution to reducing turnover is to use new-driver orientation as a forum for openly discussing high turnover in the trucking industry while explaining the personal financial effect turn-over often has on job-hopping truck drivers.

Here are two examples company executives may want to consider using:

• Begin by explaining that mileage pay is never an apples-to-apples comparison. Total miles and paid-for-time have a huge effect on weekly paychecks. Therefore, drivers considering leaving your company for what they believe are higher wages elsewhere should first inquire about a competitor’s average annual pay.

Next, explain the competitiveness of your average annual pay and put up a slide containing the logos of trucking companies some of your drivers have left you for only to return after looking at their paychecks and discovering lemons rather than apples.

Finally, quantify how those drivers’ lower-than-expected wages and lost driving time associated with new company orientation and acclimation actually cost them upward of $1,000 or more.

• Also during new-driver orientation, explain the concept of benefit vesting and how short-term drivers lose out on tens of thousands of long-term dollars.

For example, 401(k) programs customarily have vesting periods. Use as an example a driver at your company investing $1,200 a year. Demonstrate in a simple-to-understand format how that account would grow over a 20-year period as a result of your company’s match and a 6% annual return.

Next, pull out the company match and show the financial loss incurred by high-churn drivers who never stay long enough to become fully vested.

Depending on the strength of your company’s specific longevity program (seniority-based wages, benefits and work opportunities) you should have several other examples of immediate and long-term driver cost disadvantages associated with job hopping.

Review them individually, and then roll them up with your 401(k) example and quantify the total cost effect.

Common solutions result in common results — in this case, continued high driver turnover. Until trucking companies can compete with Wal-Mart and other highly sought after private fleet employers, common solutions will keep you in the game — but not ahead of it.

Reducing turnover requires developing and embracing uncommon solutions such as educating new drivers on the personal cost of job hopping and building a strong business case for a hire-to-retire career at your company based on a well-designed and driver-lucrative longevity program.

Joe White

CEO

CostDown Consulting

Grayson, Ga.