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Step up and show leadership


The news recently that the continent’s largest trucking company, YRC Worldwide, was going to seek $1 billion in government bailout money, certainly places the depth of the economic downturn and its impact on transportation in a new perspective. Trucking companies by last fall had lost up to 35% of their value, and many say it’s now up to the 45% drop off in valuations we experienced back in the recession of 1973 to 75, perhaps worse.
Think about it folks: your companies are worth only half of what they used to be.
Such realities bring to mind what our own research group has been quietly and routinely documenting over the past decade. That we really can’t begin to explain what’s driving fleets today, or their current and future expectations of their employees, without focusing on change. We simply can’t get around the fact that the change we are going through in business right now is so fundamental, so all-encompassing, that it is changing almost everything.
Last month I was fortunate enough to be invited to address the annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar on the subject of change. I told maintenance managers what I believe deep down in my heart: that the only way to survive through changing times is not to think about surviving but to focus on thriving; in other words to embrace change.
I told the maintenance managers in attendance that how well they came to understand the issues and pressures driving their companies and how quickly and well they responded to the challenges brought about by change would play a large role in the future success of their fleets. I encouraged them to show leadership during these difficult times looking for ways to reduce costs, improve efficiencies, enhance safety and compliance.
And that’s a message that I believe is good for all trucking company employees, drivers in particular. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had executives tell me that some of the best ideas to boost efficiencies or reduce costs come straight from the people working on the front lines day in and day out.
This recession is forcing your companies into difficult decisions, such as cutting programs that have long been cherished by employees, taking a harder stance on pension contributions, cutting staff, expecting everyone to do more with less. It’s easy to be demoralized in such an environment. But throwing in the towel only makes things worse. Instead, step up, take the initiative, look for ways to benefit your company, its clients and yourself. Leadership, particularly during difficult times, should not be restricted to the executive of the company.


Lou Smyrlis

Lou Smyrlis

With more than 25 years of experience reporting on transportation issues, Lou is one of the more recognizable personalities in the industry. An award-winning writer well known for his insightful writing and meticulous market analysis, he is a leading authority on industry trends and statistics.
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2 Comments » for Step up and show leadership
  1. Harry Rudolfs says:

    It’s dead out there, Lou. Not surprised YRC has its hand out. Comparing this to other slow downs that I remember at least as bad as 1980 and worse. Look at the trucks on the 401 at midnight, or 2am in Toronto, that’s the only comparison I know…it’s been robust for so long and now it’s only a trickle, of course there’s regional and food trucks…
    And I don’t run that way any more but for so long during the manufacturing productive days, coming back from Windsor, I remember seeing lines of trucks all night on their way to Detroit, the odd car, but so many trucks…I’ll bet that’s gone now. So if company’s may be worth half of what they were in the boom, does that mean freight volume is down that much? 50%? Harper says it’s getting better, and there is some resurgence in house prices but I haven’t seen any end to this malaise and things are gonna shake down badly, I fear. Trucking is a leading indicator and nothing leading about these times right now.

  2. Gary C. says:

    Lou,
    Great observation. I’m now more concerned with what it means to a YRC Worldwide if and when they get $1 billion in government bailout money. Do they want to be in the same position as banks, lenders and auto manufacturers in that they’re beholden to the government? Even if they take it and could pay it back early, the gov’t won’t want it as they want to have control of another company; setting freight rates, lanes/routes, pay and union issues. Sound farfetched? Nah, that won’t happen. Yeah, I used to say the same thing.
    Don’t sell our President short when it comes to control. Maybe he’ll name a transportation czar. GM and Chrysler are having their strings pulled by a thirty-one year old whizkid while a compensation czar looks over his shoulder. As you said, transportation will definitely see a new perspective.
    Regards,
    Gary

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