For links and show notes, mouse over the player and click the .
Melissa Williams is an independent solo owner-operator with three years of experience in the trucking industry. She is currently partnered as a driver with Vorto's 5F platform, the largest integrated transportation platform in the oil and gas industry. In addition to driving, Melissa is an amateur competitive body builder, as well as a model.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 00:01
What is life like on the road for women truck drivers? How will peak holiday season play out this year for retailers? And what do the latest numbers from the Logistics Managers' Index tell us about our supply chains? Pull up a chair and join us as the editors of DC Velocity discuss these stories, as well as news and supply chain trends, on this week's Logistics Matters podcast.
Hi, I'm Dave Maloney. I'm the group editorial director at DC Velocity. Welcome.
Logistics Matters is sponsored by Hyster Company, a global manufacturer of forklifts, high-capacity lift trucks, and container-handling equipment. Operations rely on Hyster for everything from advanced power sources for material handling equipment to their industry-leading package of operator-assist technologies, Hyster Reaction. For more information, visit Hyster.com.
As usual, our DC Velocity senior editors, Ben Ames and Victoria Kickham, will be along to provide their insights into the top stories of this week. But to begin today: More women than ever before are becoming truck drivers. What's it like for them in this profession? Today Victoria speaks with a female owner-operator about her life on the road. Victoria.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 01:19
Thanks, Dave. Our guest today is truck driver Melissa Williams. Melissa is an independent owner-operator, and she's partnered as a driver on Vorto's 5F platform, and that is a driver-focused freight-matching service. Welcome, Melissa. Thanks for joining us.
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 01:35
It's my pleasure.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 01:37
We write often about the need for truck drivers across the industry and the many efforts out there to recruit and retain people for the job. And I wanted to start by asking how long you've been a driver and how you got into the business.
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 01:49
I classify myself as a rookie driver. I only have about three and a half years on my license. I was working at FedEx Express at the Minneapolis airport, and a truck driver position came open. They asked me if I wanted to drive. My immediate response was, "You do know I drive a Mini Cooper?" And, yeah, they laughed at me. And I told them, you know, "Sure, why not? Let's give it a try. How do you know what you love to do if you don't try everything?" Not only that, but if I don't like it, it just adds to the list of skills that I have available to me in the future.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 02:33
Absolutely, that makes a lot of sense. So, today, though, fast forward, you're an independent owner-operator, and you work over the road, which means you travel long distances and are on the road for long stretches. Can you talk a bit about, you know, your job today — how you book loads, how you run your business, and more broadly, about the advantages of being an independent driver?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 02:56
Sure. I am on with Vorto on their 5F OTR side, so I am an over-the-road driver. I book my loads through them. So, basically, I set up what day I want to leave, what city and state, and then I determine how long do I want to be out? Do I want to be out a week, two weeks, whatever. And then I put in where I want to end and on what date. So during, let's say it's a two-week trip, basically they start me out wherever I'm leaving from and they bounce me to cities and states that fit my preferences — places I want to go — and then, it's always the best-paying option from one place to the next to the next. That way it minimizes my amount of deadhead miles and it minimizes the amount of time I'm sitting waiting between loads, so it maximizes my income.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 03:56
What other advantages are there? That sounds like a distinct advantage of being, you know, your own boss and all of that. What else? What else does this allow you to do in terms of, you know, sort of the freedom of running your job?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 04:07
Well, I don't have to go to any city or state that I don't want to go to, that I'm not comfortable going to. It allows me the opportunity to get out to North Carolina once or twice a month to see my grandfather. He's 95. My two younger sons live in Arizona, they're 18 and 23. So, I can go where I want to go, when I want to go, and if I want to stay there for a week and spend time, I can, because a) I'm an owner-operator, and b) they work with me so that I can have a life while enjoying what it is I enjoy to do for a living.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 04:49
So, going back a little bit, when you decided to take your commercial drivers license course through your job a few years ago and then work as a driver, did you expect to enjoy the industry as much as it sounds like you do today? I'm wondering if this new career has surprised you in any way?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 05:07
Yes. So initially, I had, you know, being a truck driver wasn't on my radar, even though my grandfather was a truck driver. And I was doing that, obviously, it was local work, and I realized local work's not for me. I didn't enjoy it. I didn't like it. I figured, you know, if I'm gonna work long hours in a truck, I want to go places, I want to see things. And that's the luxury of trucking is, there's so many different areas in it, so many different types of work that you can do in trucking that you can find what's best for you to make you happy and fulfill your life in the ways that you need to be fulfilled.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 05:53
What are the main, sort of on the flip side of that, what are the main challenges that truckers face today? I realize you've been in the business, you know, just three and a half years or so, but can you talk about the challenges that you face? And I'm wondering, are there any specific challenges that women face in this workplace?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 06:11
Over-the-road trucking is not for everybody. You have to be comfortable being alone. You have to be comfortable being away from home. It's a very specific lifestyle, and if it's not for you, then maybe drive local. That's a challenge that a lot of people end up with. But also, safety. You know, for women, yes, for sure, because, you know, truckstops, you're in different cities in different states all the time. But, I mean, that's men and women, but us as women tend to be a little bit more aware. We tend to be a little bit more cautious of that, just because, well, we're women.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 06:55
Right, no, I understand you're saying. Despite all of those, you know, the challenges you mentioned, it sounds like you'd recommend a career in trucking to women, and really, to anyone sort of interested in the freedom associated, especially with over-the-road work. You mentioned that earlier. What advice would you give to people interested in pursuing a career in trucking?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 07:17
I think trucking is great for anybody that has a passion for it or a desire to give it a try. Because there is so much diversity — flatbed, dry van, reefer, local, regional, over the road — there's a lot of options. But if you're going to get into trucking, the number-one thing that I tell everybody is, know your limits, know your boundaries, stand by your boundaries, and don't let people push you around. And then if you're gonna go and become an owner-operator, my recommendation is, obviously, start as a company driver. Figure out the industry. Figure out what area is going to work best for you, and then learn everything that you can about the industry, about the truck that you're driving, or the type of truck that you want to buy, and surround yourself with the kind of people who are doing and being what it is that you want to do and be.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 08:18
When you say, you know, sort of "know your boundaries, and don't let people push you around," or I'm assuming, take advantage, you mean in terms of, you know, doing the kind of work you want to do and going where you want to go, is that what you mean?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 08:32
Correct. So, with the ELD [electronic logging device] limitations, there's a lot of times where you may be sitting in a dock for 10 hours waiting to get unloaded, and a lot of times as a company driver, your company will tell you, "Well, you just had a 10-hour break, you have to drive." Just because you were sitting in the dock for 10 hours doesn't mean that you were sleeping or rested enough to drive. So, know your physical limitations when it comes to sleep and stress. But also, if you are petrified to go to, I don't know, Laredo, Texas, don't go. You're the driver of the truck. Your safety and your mental well-being is the most important thing.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 09:18
Thank you. I think that's good advice. And you mentioned ELD. Just for our listeners who may not know, those would be electronic logging devices and the rules and regulations surrounding that, correct?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 09:27
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 09:29
So I don't know if you know, most people, I think, in the industry do, but next week is Truck Driver Appreciation week, and I wanted to ask you, you know, related to that, why do you think it's important to sort of raise awareness of the trucking profession and what you do day in and day out? We read a lot about that and hear a lot about, you know, just raising awareness and the importance of the job. What do you think is important to mention about that?
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 09:53
The awareness that almost everything that you have or use has once been on a truck, that is becoming a big thing. People are more and more aware of that. But they don't realize what it is that we go through on a daily basis, a weekly basis, or a monthly basis in order to provide that service to the population. Making sure that, you know, they're aware, we can't stop on a dime. Sometimes we haven't seen our family in a month or two months, and a little bit of kindnes, overall, in society goes a long way.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 10:32
I would agree with that 100%. Melissa, thank you for joining us today and sharing your experiences as a truck driver and independent owner-operator. Thanks very much.
Melissa Williams, Independent Owner-Operator Truck Driver 10:43
Absolutely. It's been my pleasure.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 10:45
We have been talking with truck driver Melissa Williams, Back to you, Dave.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 10:49
Thank you, Melissa and Victoria. Now let's take a look at some of the other supply chain news from the week. Our peak shopping season is coming up, and the big question that retailers are asking is whether shoppers will act like they did during the pandemic and buy more e-commerce, online sales or whether they'll return to stores. And Ben, you wrote this week about some research and predictions about the upcoming holiday season. What can you tell us on this question?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 11:17
Yeah, it's one of the toughest bets that retailers and brands really have to make every year, and that's on peak-season consumer spending. Typical year they might try to figure out, like, what the hot Christmas present is going to be that everyone wants to have. You know, how they can keep stock on the shelves, so they don't miss sales on those. So, that conversation is happening again this year, of course, for the 2022 season, but it's a lot different, because as we head into what's arguably the first post-pandemic winter holiday, the question's more about whether consumers will continue their actions as they did during the depths of the pandemic when everyone was staying home, or whether they'll come back into the malls and and the downtowns. So, we got some detail on that question this week from a consumer survey that was done by Radial. They're a third-party logistics company based in Pennsylvania. And the answer is basically "all of the above." To explain that, Radial said that their survey results showed that nearly half of consumers — 46% — said that they would shop the same amount in-store this year, compared to last, but 58% said that they would increase their use of online purchases. And that's up almost 10% from last year's survey. So, counting those who intend to do more online. So, that's kind of a conflicting answer, because unless the total consumer spend is going to go up, both those answers can't be true at once. So, most people, you know, aren't predicting, in fact, that the total spend will rise this year. There are a lot of reasons for that. There's a bump the stock market. There are fluctuating gas prices. Of course, rising inflation and interest rates. So, it's a little hard to figure out what the total is going to be.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 13:00
You know, those survey results may seem a little confusing. Did Radial explain how shoppers might be returning to stores and also increase their online shopping at the same time?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 13:10
Well, they did have a prediction about how it will work out, and the answer is omnichannel. Any reader of DC Velocity or other industry publications has heard that term an awful lot. That basically means consumers can order the same item from many different sources, or from one single retailer. It'll get fulfilled by many different sources — that could be wholesalers, retailers, dropship, warehouse, third-party marketplaces — and then they'll still get the same item on their doorstep at the end of the day. And Radial says that that trend will be more true than ever this winter season. So, their survey also showed that some of those new-ish fulfillment options that became so popular during pandemic seem to be sticking around. For example, one in three consumers anticipates increasing buy-online-pick-up-in-store. BOPIS is the silly acronym. And another third said that they expect increasing their buy-online-pick-up-at-curbside when they go shopping this holiday season. So Laura Ritchey — she's the chief operating officer and executive vice president at Radial — explained it this way: She said that the retail sector has undergone significant unpredictability and digital acceleration over the last two years. I think we all saw that. So, supply chain disruptions and those fast-evolving consumer behaviors has shifted what used to be a formularized market into a dynamic one, Ritchey said. So, you know, she mentioned that in order to improve, ensure that peak operations continue running smoothly in those fast-changing circumstances, brands really need to focus on inventory management, consumer demand, and those omnichannel offerings so that consumers can get a great experience, regardless of the channel from which their order is fulfilled. So, that last phrase, for me, was really the crucial one: "regardless of the channel from which their order is fulfilled. "That seems to be a sign that, you know, the goal for many companies that they've been chasing for years, omnichannel, could really be realized on a much larger scale, in fact. So, you know, in fact, if retailers do it right, shoppers like all of us might not even know the difference, as long as that package ends up on our doorstep or picked up at the store or picked up and placed into our trunk in time for the holiday.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:36
Yeah, right, and that's the bottom line, really, is making sure that shoppers are having their wishes fulfilled for Christmas. So, it should be another interesting season for retailers.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 15:45
Yep, it sure should be, and then we'll all be measuring it personally as well as professionally, so.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:49
Right. Thanks, Ben.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 15:51
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 15:52
And Victoria, the latest Logistics Managers' Index is out, and what did the current numbers tell us about our supply chains?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 15:59
It tells us a lot, Dave. Economic activity in the logistics industry grew in August, but at a slower rate compared to July, and down markedly from the record-high growth levels from earlier this year. And as you say, that's according to the Logistics Managers' Index report, which was published this past Tuesday. So, the August LMI registered 59.7, and that's down just a percentage point compared to July, but it's down 16 and a half points from its all-time high reading in March. As a reminder to our listeners, the LMI gauges business activity across the industry by a monthly survey of logistics managers, and they all weigh in on inventory, warehousing, and transportation conditions. An LMI reading above 50 indicates expansion in the industry, and a reading below 50 indicates contraction. The gist of the August report is this: The industry had been experiencing record growth levels from late 2020 through this past spring. Growth began to cool in April, and it's been slowing ever since. Falling consumer demand, rising inventory levels, and a loosening transportation market are behind the slower growth conditions. It's important to note, though, that economic activity in logistics, as I said at the outset, is still growing, it's just at a slower rate. The LMI researchers and other industry watchers, actually, have been saying for some time that the red-hot growth in the market really wasn't sustainable, and that a cooling-off would be necessary to get back to more quote "normal patterns." We're not there yet, but the past few months of slower growth may be pointing in that direction.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 17:40
Victoria, does the research predict what may happen in the coming months?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 17:45
The LMI includes a future predictions index, which asks respondents to predict movement in the overall index over the next 12 months, so yes. And the August predictions actually hint at normalization ahead, and that's the first time we've seen that in a couple of years. But it will take a while, especially given the buildup of inventory in the supply chain and the lack of warehousing capacity nationwide. Warehouses are filled to the brim, as we know, and space is very hard to come by, and the researchers say that addressing both of those challenges will really be key to getting back to normal.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 18:19
Right. Well, like we said about peak season, we'll just have to see how it all plays out in this uncertain economy that we find ourselves in.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 18:26
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 18:28
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 18:29
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 18:30
We encourage listeners to go to DCVelocity.com for more on these and other supply chain stories, and check out the podcast Notes section for some direct links on the topics that we discussed today.
And again, our thanks to Melissa Williams for being our guest. We welcome your comments on this topic and our other stories. You can email us at email@example.com.
We also encourage you to subscribe to Logistics Matters at your favorite podcast platform. Our new episodes are uploaded each Friday.
And speaking of subscribing, check out our new podcast series Supply Chain in the Fast Lane. It is coproduced by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and Supply Chain Quarterly. You can subscribe to Supply Chain in the Fast Lane wherever you get your podcasts.
And a reminder that Logistics Matters is sponsored by Hyster. With strength, durability, and their industry-leading suite of lift truck operator-assist technologies, Hyster powers your possibilities. For more information, visit hyster.com.
We'll be back again next week with another edition of Logistics Matters. Be sure to join us. Until then, have a great week.