MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Wes Armour, CEO of Armour Transportation Systems, today outlined several trends that are shaping the Canadian transportation industry.
He was speaking at the Surface Transportation Summit, hosted by Motortruck Fleet Executive, Canadian Shipper and Dan Goodwill & Associates. The areas Armour said are changing the business include: cost reduction requirements; regulatory and technology-related changes; changing demographics; and customer-driven changes.
Armour has spent the last couple years reducing costs by developing a more effective rate structure, examining linehaul costs and through strategic acquisitions, Armour said.
“In the area of cost reduction, we reduce linehaul costs by using short-sea shipping, intermodal and LCVs,” he said. “We continued to upgrade our fleet with new trucks that are more fuel-efficient and require less maintenance. We also cube out our loads by using trailers that have logistic tracking so we can utilize double decking.”
Rates have been adjusted to ensure the company is getting paid for all the work it does.
“The rates became depressed during the recession and we had to work hard to get them back in line with today’s economy,” Armour said.
The company has also focused on its people, shifting personnel to different departments that are better suited for their skill sets in an effort to create a more productive and enthusiastic workforce. Among its people-related initiatives, Armour has launched its Shift Gears, Live Well health and wellness program. It includes an annual clinical assessment, seasonal flu shots, discounted gym memberships, nutrition counseling and help to quit smoking.
Armour said the company is also paying more attention to driver comfort and amenities when spec’ing new trucks.
Armour has acquired several companies over the past few years, and its CEO said the company will continue to look at acquisitions that make sense.
“We will continue to grow through acquisitions that fit our company,” Armour said. “However, we will not make an acquisition just for the sake of making one.”
To get drivers home more frequently and to comply with hours-of-service regulations, Armour has adopted a relay system to maximize productivity. Drivers go out for six hours, do a switch and then return home with another trailer.
“This gets both drivers home and both loads delivered on time,” Armour said. “The driver maximizes their hours for 13 hours in a day, yet still gets home.”
Armour has also increased its use of multimodal shipments using its own containers to improve efficiencies and to assist in recruiting drivers who often prefer local work. Getting drivers is difficult everywhere, but even more so in Atlantic Canada, where the birth rate is among the lowest in the country, Armour pointed out.
“With a declining population, the demand for goods and services also decreases, so it becomes a challenge to expand our business,” he said. He admitted it’s difficult to attract people to the trucking industry, so the company is offering more flexible work arrangements.
“As a company, we are addressing these work-life balance issues by offering, as an example, four days on/four days off for our employees. The issue really isn’t all related to wages, which are very competitive in this industry, but the working hours themselves,” Armour said.
Like many others, Armour said truck driving needs to be recognized as a skilled trade for the industry to become a career of choice.
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