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Ray Haight is a second-generation trucker; his parents ran a small four-truck fleet operation, which worked for a local shipper into the U.S. market. Ray Haight was a driver and owner-operator for ten years, logging over one million accident-free miles before starting his own company, which serviced long-haul lanes with dry-van and refrigerated equipment.
In 1984 he started Southwestern Express Inc., based in London, Ontario, which grew into a successful dry-van and refrigerated 50-truck fleet. In 1990, MacKinnon Transport Ltd. was brought in as a partner, and Southwestern Express moved from London to Guelph, Ontario; in January of 2000, MacKinnon Transport Ltd. and Southwestern Express Inc. were amalgamated. Ray held the position of President and COO until May of 2005; at that time, MacKinnon Transport Inc. was a 300-truck fleet, warehousing, and Logistics Company.
Since then, Ray has participated in the industry in a consulting capacity, working with a cross-section of carriers and assisting with retention, profitability, and strategic planning, to name a few offerings.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 00:00
Pending transportation legislation in Washington. News about a supply chain research center. And supply chain innovation at Best Buy.
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 Yale Materials Handling. This isn’t yesterday’s warehouse. Rethink what you expect from your forklifts, with Yale. The experts at Yale provide smart, connected lift trucks and solutions to help you tackle your toughest labor, safety, and productivity challenges. Visit Yale at ProMat booth S1003 or online at yale.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, new legislation has been proposed in Washington that will hugely affect the lives of truck drivers. What's being proposed, and what is the likelihood that we'll see passage? To find out, here's Ben with today's guest.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 01:19
Yes, thanks, Dave. Truck drivers, of course, are some of the foundational workers of logistics, and there are a lot of them, between one-and-a-half and two million across the U.S., but it can be a really difficult job. A lot of reasons. There's the solitude of the time behind the wheel. There's the complication of meeting safety regulations, how many hours a day you can drive, and also more personal things like finding a place to park that huge 18-wheeler for the night, and simply finding a restroom you can use when you get there. Our guest today to talk about some of those conditions and some solutions to those challenges is Ray Haight. He is the executive performance impact coach at JLE Industries, which is a logistics and transportation-management company. They have about 350 power units, some 400 staff members, and they're located south of Pittsburgh in Dunbar, Pennsylvania. Ray, thank you for joining us.
Ray Haight, Executive Performance Impact Coach, JLE Industries 02:17
Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 02:19
I touched on some of the challenges of being a truck driver, but of course you work with a lot of them. What do your drivers tell you are the things that they struggle with?
Ray Haight, Executive Performance Impact Coach, JLE Industries 02:28
Well, I wish these were new, but they're not. They're as old as trucking, but, certainly in context of what this conversation's about, having a safe and secure place to park where you don't feel threatened is huge. Hours-of-service limitations that currently exist regarding repositioning laws. Hours of service were written with a preconceived notion that when you're out of hours of your working day, you have a place to park, and if you're in a place where you've not been before, you may not know where that is, and it may not feel secure once you find where you might be directed to. So, those things have been around forever. As far as washroom facilities, those types of just everyday common things, it's always floored me that we have to have legislation that brings just common sense and humanity into the picture. Those things are huge. You know, you get, obviously, the driver wage, and now, in a[n] overcapacity market, then you got pressure, downward pressure, on rates, which also affects wages. So, all those types of things come into play.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 03:38
Yeah, that's a whole lot of different variables to keep track of. And of course, you're a former fleet owner, former driver, and you've worked for years as a retention coach in the industry. So you have experience with some of the root causes and solutions to ways out of reducing some of that turnover. Isn't that right?
Ray Haight, Executive Performance Impact Coach, JLE Industries 04:00
That's right, yes. My own business and were around 300 trucks. We got to the point where our turnover had gone from something we didn't even talk about to, before we knew it, 120%. So we put together a concentrated effort and a project plan that took two years, but we took that 120 down to 20, and we did it in a very methodical way. So, I've been there, done that, bought the t shirt, and then I was approached through Truckload Carriers Association to get in the officers corps primarily because of that accomplishment, and eventually, I wrote out a program for retention and how. It was a retroactive look at how we'd been successful, but I brought into it another aspect because, you know, in public speaking that I was doing on this issue, usually when you're talking about retention, the room is full of safety people and recruiters, but you don't get to see levels in there. Back then, maybe a little more. So, now, so I tried to put it in a context that would kind of grab them. So I overlaid Maslow's hierarchy of needs on that, and that got some attention and helped kick off the retention program at TCA that I ran for a number of years. But when you think about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it's been around for 70, 80 years, and it's still considered to be, you know, kind of the mainstay of what people try to accomplish in their lives and what drives them, but it starts with money, and then it goes on to safety, and you got to feel safe in your role. Communication — lots of people quit really good jobs because nobody tells them how they interplay with what's going on in the business. Recognition, we all want to be recognized, even the moss backs that Danny Baker talks about, they want to, they want to know that people recognize the job they're doing. And then self actualization. So that's kind of the steps of things. So these new things that are coming out as legislation all nicely into that. I have, you know, heartburn when we have to legislate humanity. But that's just me.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 06:05
Well, I don't think it's just you, and hopefully, there's some proof of that that we'll see, because, you know, we're having this public just discussion now about how to, you know, bring that and as improved conditions throughout the industry. And so, you know, what we're talking about here is some recent legislation that was introduced in Congress at the federal level. There's a parking bill and a restroom bill. We had mentioned those a little bit earlier in our talks. Can you tell us what those would do?
Ray Haight, Executive Performance Impact Coach, JLE Industries 06:33
The restroom bill, in my opinion, it's, it's great, you know, that it's got this far through the efforts of Truckload Carriers Association and American Trucking Associations and many others. But, certainly advocacy that comes out of D.C. pushes these things forward. And as far as I'm concerned, you know, if you, if you receive or ship commercial goods in any, any fashion, it should be mandated: You must provide washroom facilities to the driver of that vehicle. And that's what this would take a step towards.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 07:11
Critical, and as you say, just just sort of humane, really. And then there's the second bill that, I don't think they're related, that that's for, has to do with the overnight parking challenges, right?
Ray Haight, Executive Performance Impact Coach, JLE Industries 07:22
So, I drove for a small fleet and started a small fleet, but it was irregular carriage, so you didn't know where you were going, and you never knew where you were going to be able to park if you weren't, didn't have familiarity. Certainly, you know, CB radios would help direct you somewhere, but that wasn't, you know, any kind of an assurance that there'd be a spot there, or that you even felt it was safe. Parking on on-ramps and off-ramps, and being woke up in the middle of the night by, you know, enforcement telling me that I've got to move this truck, because it's not safe, because it's on an on-ramp, and that's that long ago. How much exponential growth has commercial vehicles had since then? And, certainly, truck parking and accommodation for trucks has not grown at the same level. So, we've got this competition going on trying to find a safe place to park. Then you throw in that hours-of-service and the repositioning laws, that's not a real appealing process. "Here go to Philadelphia deliver this load. You'll be out of hours. Find a place." You know, it doesn't sit well with you, certainly the wide [word indistinct], or anybody. I know, in my own experience going to the northeast coast with a small fleet, and we were paying a premium for our drivers to go there, just for those reasons. They didn't feel safe. So, it's huge to our industry to be able to develop all these extra parking spots. Can we ever get to where it accommodates everybody? I don't think we can.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 08:57
Yeah, it couldn't — really important point. It's not just about making a better workplace; it's really about some of the essential safety there. Now, you've said that, you know, that some of these issues can really help the entire industry. It comes, as you mentioned before, to reducing turnover and increasing retention. We're talking here about a long-running, tightness or shortage of drivers, and now we have sort of historically low unemployment rates, so it's, you know, not any easier in these months right now to find those workers. Can you talk a little bit about that balance there with the turnover and retention?
Ray Haight, Executive Performance Impact Coach, JLE Industries 09:39
Well, certainly, it's, you know, trying to attract new drivers to businesses is, you know, twofold. Typically, that effort is to try to compensate for attrition, and in our industry, it's been, obviously, very high for a long, long time, and it doesn't bode well to the history of our industry, and I think it's kind of a black eye, but if you're a company that wants to compensate for attrition plus grow, it's very difficult. It's not an easy thing to do, especially when we got overcapacity in the market, and drivers are leaving because their paychecks weren't what they were a year ago when we had tight capacity. So, all these things come into play. But, yeah, no, it's difficult. There's no doubt about it. The people that are in the trenches doing this — that are doing it properly, you know, that aren't overselling — they're they're really challenged to get the numbers in the door. Can you can you imagine, Ben, you know, you're a new driver that comes out of driving school, and I might have a nice finishing program at my company. It's usually wrapped around, you know, the lanes, we do all the time. We might work with another truck. Then I cut you loose on your first or second load into an area you've never been before. It's a kind of sink-or-swim type thing. Now you've got to find a place to park, and you're insecure to begin with, because you're pulling this 80,000-pound rig; now you've got to find a place for you to be safe and secure and just relax so you can start it again the next day. You know, we have a lot of folks that don't last 30 days, 90 days in our business, and I think that's related to this issue.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 11:17
Some real challenges to be sure, but we hope that keeping an eye on that legislation will help go some some length here to helping create better conditions in the industry. Ray, we really appreciate your spending some time with us today and bringing us up to speed on some of these issues.
Ray Haight, Executive Performance Impact Coach, JLE Industries 11:34
All right. Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 11:37
Our guest today has been Ray Haight from JLE Industries. And back to you, Dave.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 11:43
Thank you, Ray and Ben. Now let's turn to some of the other supply chain news from the week. And Victoria, you know that supply chains have been challenged the past couple of years, and you wrote this week about government support to fund a new research center into making them better. Can you share the details?
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 11:58
Victoria, do you have any details on the research and how it will actually help the industry? Absolutely, Dave. Yeah, that's right. So the University of Tennessee Knoxville has been awarded a Department of Transportation grant for research into freight transportation and supply chain challenges. The university announced the award this week. Essentially, UT Knoxville will be the lead research partner in a multi-institutional effort that also includes Texas A&M University; the University of Illinois, Chicago; Oregon State University; North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; and California State University Long Beach. This is part of a larger DOT effort called the University Transportation Centers program, and it funds similar research efforts across the country. The UT-based program is funded by a $10 million grant; it's $2 million per year over five years, and it's called the Center for Freight Transportation for Efficient and Resilient Supply Chain. As I said, UT Knoxville is the lead partner, and the center will be housed in the school's Center for Transportation Research, which is part of its Tickle College of Engineering. Well, broadly, the partners say, the new center will address, and I'm quoting, the mobility of people and goods across the country. So, they haven't announced any specific projects, but they said they'll dig into challenges in freight transportation system design, planning, and operations, as well as innovations in national and global supply chains. And they'll do that through a combination of research, education, workforce development, and technology initiatives. The research will likely have a local impact as well. UT pointed out that the state of Tennessee plays an important role in the U.S. supply chain. For example, they said more than 230,000 residents are employed in transportation logistics and distribution at about 14,000 outlets throughout the state, and those include major facilities for companies like FedEx and Amazon. Projects that promote technology advancements and the creation of a skilled workforce are among the center's top commitments, they say. And, as you said at the beginning, Dave, after the supply chain challenges and disruptions of the past few years, it seems like this is an important effort to undertake.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 14:11
Yeah. Well, again, our congratulations to our friends at the University of Tennessee. We know a lot of those folks there. We wish them well in the new center and hope it is successful. Thanks Victoria.
Victoria Kickham, Senior Editor, DC Velocity 14:21
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 14:23
And Ben, both of us were at the RILA LINK conference last week, and you reported on some of the sessions that you attended, including one from executives at Best Buy. What did they say?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 14:33
Yeah, exactly. This was the Retail Industry Leaders Association, just to spell out what "RILA" is, their meeting in Orlando. And yes BestBuy, who, of course is the the nationwide consumer electronics retailer, was talking about some of their reactions and how they'd stayed flexible under various pandemic restrictions, and then which of those changes might stick around and which of them, those, will not. So, this all sort of kicked off when the company decided, quite early in the pandemic, to convert all of its brick-and-mortar stores from live shopping to curbside delivery only. That policy also affected an initiative where the company had between 2,000 and 3,000 of their employees selling and installing goods inside customers' homes. So that's, you know, installation of some of these complex technology goods. So of course, they were also withdrawn from those customer-facing roles, for public-safety reasons, but the store still had products to sell. So, Best Buy created something they called virtual stores, and that [connected] those workers to shoppers through online chat and phone links, and they quickly actually discovered that those outperformed the previous home-visit model. So today, the company has expanded that virtual-store model. For one thing, they've added video call capability. And nowadays, they're currently trying to, what they call "pour gas on it, "to make it burn even brighter, and that's in the description of Damien Harmon, who's Best Buy's executive vice president for omnichannel, and he was one of the executives who was speaking at the show.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 16:18
Well, it's interesting that the pandemic has really brought about, in some ways, a better way to do business, and not just slow it down during the pandemic. Did they give any other examples of how their business has changed as a result?
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 16:29
Yeah, you put your finger on it exactly. It's, it was about more than just slowing down, but getting creative and actually improving business conditions. Some of the other examples they gave were actually things that didn't work out, and they were glad to talk about those, because, from Best Buy's point of view, you have to try things and learn from them. So there was another executive, Mark Irvin, and he's Best Buy's executive vice president and chief supply chain officer. So, he described some programs that they had done earlier. For instance, they had outfitted every of their U.S. stores to ship retail e-commerce orders. They later ended up adjusting that so they would ship just from the largest stores, and of course from DCs, just because it's so much more efficient. Some other examples that did not last included: they had built some smaller-scale retail stores, like a third the size of the ones that we're used to walking into. The idea there was to stock less inventory, just sort of act as a showroom, and then sell the stuff, most of it, online. So, turns out customers don't so much like that. They like to have everything they want at hand, so they're going back to the normal-size stores. And the third example of something that did not stick around: they had an employer parcel-delivery program, but with that one, you know, similar to their other efforts, they found it's just more efficient to deliver parcels with bigger vans and centralized DCs, and the employers also did just didn't end up participating much in that one. So Best Buy, again, it says it tried a lot of things. It learned from them all, and, you know, the virtual store one was an example of something that I guess we'll see more of.
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 18:12
Right. Well, it's certainly good to see some leading retailers like Best Buy continue to innovate and improve their operations. Thanks, Ben.
Ben Ames, Senior News Editor, DC Velocity 18:21
David Maloney, Editorial Director, DC Velocity 18:23
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 our thanks again to Ray Haight of JLE Industries 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.
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