PRESCOTT, Ont. — When Kriska Transportation bought the former RCA television factory just up the road from its Prescott home in the mid-90s, the idea was to move all its operations and support staff into the facility.
That move took longer than planned, but became a reality this week. Kriska hosted an open house Nov. 21 to celebrate the completion of renovations at its new headquarters at 850 Sophia St., which now houses its entire administration, operations, customer support and driver services staff, as well as senior management. All that’s left back at Kriska’s 300 Churchill Rd. location is the maintenance operations.
Mark Seymour, CEO of Kriska Group, said bringing the team together under one roof has been a longtime goal.
“We’ve, for a number of years, intended to get all our people together,” Seymour told Trucknews.com at last night’s open house. “We’ve been separated in two different buildings for the last four or five years. We never intended for it to be that way for as long as it ended up being, but the recession certainly put our best plans on hold. We’ve weathered that storm and this is something we’ve wanted to do for some time. Our people deserve a place to work that they can be proud of and a comfortable environment that’s conducive to health and wellness, and this was our way of giving that back to them in return for all they do for us.”
About 140 people attended the open house, including suppliers, partners and other guests.
With tall ceilings that harken back to its days as a factory, the new office area is spacious, tastefully decorated and extremely modern. A large training centre is available for driver orientations, staff meetings and the like. A smaller training room houses Kriska’s driving simulator, which is used for refresher and post-accident training.
Kriska’s boardroom boasts advanced teleconferencing equipment, which allows for meetings between staff in the company’s Prescott and Mississauga facilities.
“We’re really trying to cut down on our travel,” said Caroline Blais, recruiting manager with Kriska. The set-up includes cameras that zero in on whomever is speaking at that moment.
Flatscreen TVs are mounted along the walls, displaying up-to-the-minute data on key performance indicators. Staff can see at a glance how the company is performing in relation to its goals, across a variety of metrics including empty miles, loads delivered, order intake, etc.
The facility offers driver amenities including a lounge with big screen TV, showers, laundry facilities and driver mailboxes.
The driver’s area also serves as a learning centre. If you’re going to have a wreck, you might as well learn from it. Safety staff post photographs and diagrams of accidents, identifying root causes and contributing factors.
“We have an accident review committee that deems whether an accident is preventable or not,” explained Scott Mackay, driver services manager. “Year to date, 80% of the accidents we’ve been involved in have been non-preventable.”
The company is also a big proponent of sleep apnea education, screening and treatment.
“We’re very safety-conscious and we care for our people,” said Mackay.
To date, 125 drivers have gone through the testing process and of those, about 50% were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. Kriska works with a clinic in Kingston to fast-track its drivers through the testing process. Between OHIP and the company’s group insurance provider, there’s very little cost to the driver, Mackay explained.
Drivers seem to appreciate the work environment. Turnover at Kriska is about 25%, well below industry norms, but Mackay noted most of the drivers that do depart, leave the industry altogether. Often, they’ve turned to trucking as a second career and found it just wasn’t a fit for them.
About 75 employees work out of Kriska’s new headquarters, with another 15 in Mississauga. The carrier also opened a new office in London, Ont. earlier this month. Kriska current operates about 360 power units. About half the fleet’s drivers are based in and around Prescott, while the other half call the Greater Toronto Area and southwestern Ontario home. Only about 60 of the carrier’s drivers are owner/operators. Mackay attributes this to the fact the company focuses mostly on shorter runs. With an average length of haul of 405 miles, it’s a great place to work for drivers who value home time, but may not be a fit for those who like to stay out for weeks at a time racking up the miles.
Staff at the open house seemed genuinely delighted with the new digs. But no one wore a bigger smile than Seymour.
“We’re very proud of it,” he said of the facility. “This has been a dream of mine for a number of years. We bought this building in 1995 and since then, I’ve had this vision of having our people together in one building in a very healthy and constructive environment. It has taken that long to do it. I’m not known for my patience, but I guess, upon reflection, I’ve had to be pretty patient about this.”