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.
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. All posts by Lou Smyrlis