There’s no doubt, the last couple of years have presented some of the most trying times ever faced by the trucking industry. And while nobody’s popping the champagne just yet, there’s reason to believe the economy is slowly beginning to find its legs. Some bold prognosticators have already declared the recession over in Canada and in parts of Europe. But I’ve yet to hear any fleet managers or owner/operators voicing such optimism.
At any rate, a return to better times is inevitable, which raises a few questions: Have you taken advantage of the opportunity to improve your business or was it merely a matter of survival? Are you a stronger company coming out of this recession or will you emerge battered, bruised and still vulnerable?
Here at Truck News, we’ve faced many of the same challenges those of you operating trucks have faced. There’s been a significant decline in advertising (our version of ‘freight’) and in some months we’ve had less space to work with within our traditional printed products. But the editors here didn’t go on an extended vacation. Instead, I’m proud to say we’ve found new ways of disseminating information.
We launched and grew our weekly WebTV show, Transportation Matters, which has no equal anywhere in the North American trucking industry and we’ve developed our own YouTube channel. We’ve expanded our blogs and provided a great forum for two-way conversations between our readers and editors as well as other bloggers from within the industry. And we’ve become active on social media sites such as Twitter to further enhance our communication capabilities. (Edited to add: And how can I forget about our new subscription-based online information video series The Driver’s Seat, found at www.TheDriversSeat.ca?)
After all, we are purveyors of information, and we need to seek out new ways to communicate even when times are slow. We’re fortunate that the Web offers us unlimited opportunities and space.
Now I’m not trying to boast about all this (okay, maybe just a little), and I know our world is different than yours. But before you accuse me of comparing apples to oranges, take a look around and see what the fleets around you are doing. And ask yourself a few questions.
During the slowdown, have you taken advantage of a stable workforce to implement meaningful, lasting driver training? It doesn’t have to be costly, but when drivers aren’t jumping ship every few months due to an abundance of job opportunities, some well-run fleets have stepped up training initiatives. It establishes loyalty and improves the quality of your driving force.
Have you elevated hiring criteria? When you do hire drivers, you can now be more selective about who you put behind the wheels of your vehicles. Are you taking advantage of that and revisiting hiring tactics that may have been compromised when there were always more loads to move than drivers to move them?
Have you driven out inefficiencies and unnecessary costs that may have crept into your operation in better times when, let’s face it, it was difficult not to become complacent? Have you shed the deadwood?
And have you sought out partnerships or developed new business opportunities as other carriers have closed their doors and left customers high and dry? One successful Ontario fleet has seized an opportunity to work with US carriers that don’t want to restrict their trucks to 105 km/h to run into Ontario. It’s picking up 25 loads per week at the border and delivering them into Toronto. This isn’t about speed limiters – it’s about identifying and taking advantage of emerging opportunities.
As the trucking industry prepares for recovery, ask yourself: Are you stronger/leaner/more competitive coming out of this than when you went in? If not, you may have missed a major opportunity.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies