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Closing Your Mind Can Lead to Disappointment

May 27, 2014

Remember when transportation was easy? The old days, when getting down the road in one piece and in good time was the only goal. If you did that well then everything else fell into place. The industry sure has changed and now I am not sure the focus is on getting down the road, but avoiding the many inspectors and regulators that seem to be out to get the common driver. Now I don’t really believe anyone is out to get anyone and safety is the goal, but it can be overwhelming to the new people coming into the industry or even those of you still on the road. Recently while instructing a class I began to notice something, students would shut down on certain topics. For instance I was doing a presentation on trip planning which in my mind is the most important part of trucking after driving safely, a student in the class who was planning on running local didn’t feel they had to pay attention to that as she was told local companies tell you which route to take. I have had others that tune out during the border crossing information or some other part of the program that they feel doesn’t appeal to them and I often find myself shaking my head in disbelief.Truck Show

In my mind my first question is what if you don’t get the job you think you will get? Often new students are being told that if they go get a commercial license by a family member can get them into a company, but what if that doesn’t work out? What if the company doesn’t need anyone at the time you’re a applying, what if you hate the job once you start and decide to move somewhere else? What if you decide to spread your wings and move from a local position to a highway position? I had one student who is in a class “D” program began driving a tractor around the yard for practice and is now wishing he went for his “A” license. He says he may come back next year for that , well how much will that have cost him?

None of us know what our futures will hold in store for us, but the smart people are keeping their options open at all times. There are enough things holding us back in life from our dreams whether it be finances, education, opportunities, or basic bad luck. Don’t put yourself into a box and cut off opportunities because you feel this or that doesn’t apply to you, it may apply in the future. It’s like a person that doesn’t believe in safety and then finds an opportunity for a safety position, it is pretty hard to change your mindset at that time. If you have the chance to attend workshops, take specialized training, or have information sent to you, keep an open mind. It may become valuable at a later time and you will be glad you had that information. I had a terminal manager early in my career tell me one thing that has stayed with me for my whole career, “You can take away a lot of things from a person, but you can never take away knowledge!” Keep that in mind in your career and watch the opportunities flood in.

About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant and trainer with over 30 years experience and author of the books Driven to Drive and Running by the Mile. Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd. is an award winning carrier operating across North America. For more information on Kurtz Trucking please visit their website at www.kurtztrucking.com

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Why you don’t want to run for the other guy!

May 20, 2014

And the game changes again! It has been in the works for some time and some more light was shed this morning in a major truck publication for our industry. New inspection rules are coming for the those that offer transport services for the food industry. It looks like the Federal Government in the United States has found a new model for compliance. Just like CSA in 2010 the Federal Regulators have put the pressure of inspections on the driver and carrier instead of the inspectors. Prior to CSA if you got a non-moving violation ticket normally it went to your carrier to deal with. When they switched the model under CSA they didn’t change any regulations they just put the pressure on the drivers to do good inspections as the driver and the carrier both got assigned points based on violations found. The same thing is now happening to the food inspection part of the industry. Instead of relying on inspectors to catch the carriers that are not using good practices when transporting food across the country, they are now switching that focus on the companies. They have taken what many of the good carriers do as common good practice and made those practices into regulations that will now be chargeable once they have the bugs in the system worked out. The Regulators are saying there isn’t enough inspectors to catch everyone and we need your help. As the article went on to say many good carriers are carrying out good practices when transporting goods already so this won’t be much of a change for those with systems in place already. The carriers that will have a hard time are those that didn’t care before and hopefully will be forced to bring their practices up to snuff or get out of the industry. I am sure once everything comes to light it will rock our industry in a smaller way like CSA.Old Kurtz Truck

So what should you be doing to prepare for this next set of regulations to join the industry? First if you are running for a respectable carrier already that transports food products you are probably doing it right if the company is successful. Just like CSA required everyone to step up their inspection procedure, as a professional driver you will be required to step up your loading procedure. Is your truck clean and free of debris? Has the maintenance been kept up on your refrigeration unit making sure it will hold the required temperature for the goods being carried? Have you taken the proper steps to load your trailer properly, segregating products that could cause contamination to other products? As a former driver primarily in the Hazmat industry we often had to make decisions on placing product, or calling for other equipment arrangements when a pickup may cause a problems with shipments already loaded. These are the type of decisions professional drivers make all the time. If you haven’t been operating in a professional manner up to now then now is the time to step up. If you are already there and I suspect most of you are then keep doing what you’re doing. Remember trucking isn’t rocket science, it’s professionalism.

About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant with over 30 years of experience, and author of the books Driven to Drive and Running by the Mile. Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd. Is an award winning carrier operating across. North America. To learn more about Kurtz Trucking please visit their website at www.kurtztrucking.com

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Asking for Help Starts in the Yard

May 13, 2014

I remember when I used to work at a family owned business operating across North America, it was a great time, but you were expected to know what you were doing on the job. That’s the way many family operations are, they need you to be trained up to snuff before you join the team because they don’t have the resources to train you. Manpower is short, equipment is short, and everything needs to keep moving to survive. Our company had a good mix of equipment which was great because it gave you experience on different types of trucks and trailers. As usual some drivers tended to stay with equipment that they were good at or enjoyed so that would cause some to be on flatbeds all the time while others were on vans or refrigerated trailers all the time. That worked fine for many of us and the company seemed to work well with drivers hauling the type of equipment they enjoyed, but every so often a driver would be asked to haul something different, and this is where the problems began.Kurtz trucks in yard

I never hauled a lot of flatbed or rack and tarp trailers at the time, but could get a load down the road if needed. I just wasn’t as comfortable as some that haul flatbed every day. Of course when we were hired we were expected to have a certain amount of experience and although I had that experience because I didn’t haul flatbed steadily I often had to ask a question or two and basically retrain myself each time I took a load down the road. Now as experienced drivers no one wants to look foolish by asking questions they should already know, however the consequences of not asking could be even greater and not worth the trouble. I had seen many drivers pretend they knew what they were doing and then have problems on the road and in my mind they looked more foolish with the load in the ditch than they would have if they asked someone for some help. I started creating mottos for myself early in my career and they have worked for me the whole time. One I created for questions with freight, “I would rather look stupid in the yard than in front of the customer!” I told myself that every time I had a question that had to be asked and needed help or a refresher to remember. No one ever laughed, but it helped me to have the confidence to make sure I knew how to do things the right way. When you are at a customer is not the time to be trying to figure out how to load their freight.

That question should have been asked before arriving. Don’t be the type of driver that pretends they know everything and then has an incident on the road. The incident will cost much more than the question would have cost and you and other road users will be a lot safer for the effort. We can’t always remember everything and a good company will encourage knowledge and teamwork. Do it right the first time and save yourself the headache down the road.

About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant with over 30 years of experience and author of the books Driven to Drive and Running by the Mile. Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd. Is an award winning carrier operating across North America. For more information on Kurtz Trucking please visit their website at www.kurtztrucking.com

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The Importance of Learning a Name?

May 6, 2014

As professional drivers we meet many people over the course of our driving career. People love their names and everyone has one. Many of those people you meet you may never see again, or you may have no more of a relationship with them other than handing them money at the fuel bar or a bill of lading upon arrival, but using someone’s name when you are dealing with them is a great way to build a relationship with someone. Maybe you have a shipper that you call by name or a waitress at your favourite truck stop that you may know by name. Have you noticed that when you use their name they seem to smile more or are willing to help you more?

How can you benefit from using people’s name as a driver? First realize that just using someone’s name for the sake of saying their name will probably not reap you any benefits. You want to be genuine about it and it may take a while before you get the habit or even remember to try, but you can make someone’s day just by saying their name with a smile. “How are you today Sue?” will always go over better than, “Hi.” “Thanks for loading me so quickly Jim,” will always go over better than, “thanks.” Once you learn the name of those you work with it will take your relationship to another level very quickly. Learning people’s names are not the hard part, the hard part is remembering their names, especially for people you don’t see all the time.

So how can you learn someone’s name and remember it? There are books on the subject alone, but here are a couple of tips to help you. First you have to want to learn the person’s name or you won’t take the time to go further. Next you have to either ask their name or read it on their name tag, or ask a coworker. Once you know their name remembering it is the hard part. When you know their name try to use it as often as possible without sounding like a parrot. If you can use their name three times right away it will help you remember it. The next tip is to write it down, if you are unsure of the spelling ask for it to be spelled out. If you have the company information in your phone database, under the notes section add their name so you can look it up before you go back next time.name-pic

If you try to learn people’s name on a regular basis you will find it easier over time and you will begin to see the benefits of building relationships within your network. If you want to take it even further up the scale learning things like the origin of a name, why it is spelled a certain way, or how it began will bring out personal stories that may solidify a connection and will help build that personal relationship. Trucking is a lot about customer service and a main part of customer service is learning about your customer. Try it and see how it improves your career?

About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant with over 30 years of experience and author of the books Driven to Drive and Running by the Mile. Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd. Is an award winning carrier operating across North America. For more information on Kurtz Trucking please visit their website at www.kurtztrucking.com

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Watch out for the other guy!

April 29, 2014

For those of you old enough to remember there used to be a radio traffic announcer with a popular Toronto area radio station who when he completed his traffic report would always add the tag line,”Watch out for the other guy!” His intention was that you may be listening to his report and paying attention to the road, but the other people in their cars may not be paying attention and end up hitting you. I always found that statement to be humorous, but at the end of the day it is very true. Often you can be in control of your vehicle and out of the blue another vehicle loses control and changes your day. This has happened to many of us over our years on the road and thankfully for the most part have made it through successfully, but not everyone has been so lucky. On the road many times it is vehicles we are watching for to make sure they don’t hit us, but vehicles aren’t always the culprit.man

For those of you that read the major truck publications this week a story was told about a person that committed suicide on the 401 a week or so ago by running in front of a truck. Unfortunately this happens more than we care to admit and I believe it may even rise as our lives get turned over and over due to outside forces such as job loss, personal issues, and more. It’s bad enough that the person committing the act lost their life, but they also in a way killed the truck driver. The driver wasn’t able to stop and from the report has vowed never to drive again. This has hurt his passion, profession, family life, and will remain with him the rest of his life possibly haunting him. Over the years I have rolled past incidents like this. One time on the DVP a person jumped from an overpass and a host of other incidents that I don’t care to mention here have happened all over North America.

As our lives become more unstable, traffic increases, and financial instability rises the types of incidents described above will in most likely become more common. I certainly hope this is not the case, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see the trend. As a driver you will always be in a position or even a target and you need to be aware of that as you go through your daily operations. As drivers we see cars and people at the side of the road all the time and often think nothing about it and the driver above didn’t think any more about it other than trying to move over a lane on the roadway. We need to be aware that people at the side of the road may be there more than because their vehicle broke down. In the eighties when I started driving on the highway shootings and hijackings were common and everyone had their guard up to those that were at the side of the road. So as you roll down the road on the highways of North America keep an eye out for those around you. Realize that the person driving that vehicle beside you may be under a lot of stress and see you as a ticket out. Be aware and remember the tag line of that famous radio announcer, “Watch out for the other guy!”

About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant with over 30 years of experience and author of the books Driven to Drive and Running by the Mile. Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd. Is an award winning carrier operating across North America. For more information on Kurtz Trucking please visit their website at http://www.kurtztrucking.com

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My Company, My Image!

April 22, 2014

Frank was driving with his trainer Paul on the last week of his training program. Next week he would be set out on his own and become part of the open board fleet for the company. Paul felt confident that he would be a good driver, he listened well, planned his trips, and tried his best to give great customer service. Paul had one more thing he wanted to talk to Frank about and this week was the best time to bring it up. Kurtz Truck
As they drove down the road Paul began to speak, “Frank, who do you think controls the image of the company we drive for?” Frank thought for a minute before responding,”It would be the President or CEO wouldn’t it?” Paul began to explain,”You are partially correct, the President is there to create the vision for the company and make sure it is communicated down to the team members below. The marketing people are there to make sure the company brand is communicated to the world through the proper channels. The real people responsible for the company image is in fact the drivers, sales people, maintenance personnel, and other members of the team. Those team members have a direct affect on the brand of the company.”
“Think about it this way, the President sends out the message and all he or she can do is make sure the employees understand the brand, but that’s where they lose the power. The marketing team can send out promotions for the company, but they can’t make people listen to the message. The real power is the employees themselves. No matter what the message is the employees control it. If the drivers have good customer service skills, deliver on time, and follow the regulations the company image is improved. If the maintenance team keep the trucks in good working order, reduce breakdowns, therefore improving customer views of the company. If the customer has a good experience when dealing with other departments of the company they will have a good view of the company therefore improving the company profile and image. So the short view is that it is up to each employee to improve the company image, more so than the people at the top. The President, CEO, or other top executives are actually support staff for the rest of the team and their job is to make sure the resources are in place to keep the team moving and offering good customer service. If people don’t do a good job it doesn’t matter how good the ads are that are sent out, or how important the CEO feels the company message is, the customer won’t believe it and the system will fail.”
You can’t control what others do but it is important to do your part in helping the company image be positive in the industry. After all, if the company has a bad image it probably won’t be in business or a place that you would want to work at anyhow.
About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant and author of the books Driven to Drive and Running by the Mile. Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd. Is an award winning carrier operating across. North America. For more information on Kurtz Trucking please visit their website at www.kurtztrucking.com

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The Second Principle of Great Customer Service-The Service

April 15, 2014

There are so many elements to customer service that no one thing defines great customer service. For instance you could be on time to a customer and feel you have done a good job, only to find the freight is all over the floor. You could have the freight loaded properly, be on time to the customer and then find you can’t unload the truck because someone doesn’t have the right equipment for the job. You may have everything right and the paperwork wrong. These variables happen every day as a professional driver in the transportation industry and often they can be fixed or handled without too much trouble. Often we try to blame one part of the equation as the reason that the customer service break down occurred, but what do we do about it?Blue truck
As a professional driver you are one part of a team and you can only control yourself and what you are allowed to handle. If you didn’t prepare the paperwork that may be out of your control if prepared improperly. If you weren’t allowed inside when loading your truck, you can’t be responsible for the freight handling. If you were dispatched late you may not be able to offer that on time service that is so important. Unfortunately as a driver we are usually the person on the team that the customer sees, and often that has you in the middle of the situation whether you have the capabilities to change the situation or not. Trying to explain this to a customer is not an easy task and even when the office is called, they offer the lame excuse of the driver broke down which isn’t always true. If all involved in the shipment of freight does their job properly service is at its optimum. So how do you keep the service levels required when you don’t have control of the whole chain?
First realize that you can only control your own actions and not those of others. So if your goal is to give great customer service pay attention to detail in those times when you have to prepare the paperwork yourself. If you are preparing the paperwork, then double check your documents, keep them neat, and organized. If anything is wrong in the paperwork report it immediately so that the problem can be fixed as soon as possible. If you are loading the truck do your best to make sure all freight is loaded properly and load securement is properly used. Many times we load something thinking it won’t move only to find it on the floor at the delivery end. The service end is where most drivers have control and if dispatched late communication to the customer should be done at that time, not when the delivery time is missed. A call to the customer explaining that the load was late shipping and we will do our best to get there in a timely fashion will take the pressure off you as a driver and back on the shipping end where it belongs. There is no one fix for customer service, as everyone has to do their part to make sure the shipment is handled properly. Your part is to complete your obligations and help others by double checking their obligations if possible. By working as a team the whole chain will work in optimizing service to the customer.
About the Author
Bruce Outridge is a transportation consultant with over 30 years of experience and author of the books Driven to Drive and Running by the Mile. Brian Kurtz Trucking Ltd. Is an award winning carrier operating across North America. For more information on Kurtz Trucking visit their website at www.kurtztrucking.com