Manual Labours: WMC looks to make policies a priority
February 1, 2006
TORONTO, Ont. - In an industry wrought with troubles - from high insurance rates to driver turnover - having an updated policies and procedures manual often ranks low on many carriers' "to-do" lists....
TORONTO, Ont. – In an industry wrought with troubles – from high insurance rates to driver turnover – having an updated policies and procedures manual often ranks low on many carriers’ “to-do” lists.
But according to Miriam Isenberg, president of Workplace Management Consultants (WMC) in Toronto, having “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Isenberg has done many things in her 35 years as a transportation lawyer, working with companies like SGT 2000 and Challenger Motor Freight, owning and operating her own tour bus company, and even dabbling a little bit in the art world.
But it wasn’t until 2001, nine months after a friend in the industry asked for Isenberg’s help creating a driver’s manual, that she decided to create manuals for trucking companies on a full-time basis.
The company was originally set up to provide information solely for drivers, but Isenberg soon discovered that the information in the manuals was just as important for the owners and the operations staff, since much of it can be overwhelming and “not easily digested,” she said.
“With these manuals we provide this information in one place, so when they read an article in Truck News it makes sense,” she said.
The manual is designed to provide companies a way to run their businesses effectively by implementing written policies and procedures that describe how they operate.
Though many companies think that acquiring a manual is as simple as grabbing a ready-made copy off the shelf, since each company has many variables that make up their operation, each case must be treated individually.
“People will come to me and ask, ‘Can I just have a standard manual?’ and I’ll say to them, ‘No, we don’t sell doorstops,'” Isenberg said.
The first step in the process is sending out a questionnaire in order to learn more about the company. Sections include the type of drivers the company has (whether it be company drivers, O/Os, independents or a mix), what kind of equipment they have, what kind of cargo they carry and whether they are federally- or provincially-regulated.
After the questionnaire is completed, WMC completes the first draft of the manual and then breaks down the policies required. The company can then ask questions and make revisions where needed before a final draft is completed.
The manual will include not only employment/contractor/legal issues, but also policies and procedures relating to the handling of freight, safe operating practices, hours of work, equipment issues, emergency procedures and customs procedures.
But having written policies and procedures is not enough, according to Isenberg. She said the manual doesn’t act as a safety net allowing the company to do what it pleases, and unless the company actually follows the rules it has written out and updates them accordingly, the manual can actually be very dangerous.
“If what the manual says you’re doing is not what you’re doing, it’s worse than poison,” she said. “It’s actually dangerous to have. I tell people, ‘If I give you a manual and you don’t follow it, don’t buy it.'”
The key to the process is ensuring the manual is customized to meet individual requirements that reflect the company’s operations, “so when you go to use it, it’s not ‘Joe Trucking’ down the road, it’s your trucking company, what you do and what your procedures are,” Isenberg said.
WMC allows for unrestricted flexibility when creating company policies and procedures, just as long as there’s nothing illegal in the manual.
Of WMC’s clients, about 50 per cent already have anywhere from a five- to 10- page manual, 10 per cent have a very sophisticated manual and 20 per cent have nothing at all. According to Matt Byrnes, marketing manager at WMC, some of the existing manuals they encounter are nothing more than information downloaded off a government Web site stating what the legislation says they require.
“They download it, print it off and they think they have a sexual harassment policy, but really it’s just what the legislation says that they need,” he said.
With some manuals costing upwards of $25,000 a pop, Isenberg says that WMC’s $3,000 price tag for its full driver’s manual should seem appealing for many businesses. However, given the nature of the business, she said that many companies wait until a breaking point before they approach her company for help.
“They’re really reactive as opposed to proactive. That’s just the way the trucking industry is,” she said. “A lot of people know we exist, it just has to be the right time for them.”
Though Isenberg said she’s often mystified by companies who operate without a proper manual, she hopes people will start realizing the benefits behind the process.
“With some tickets amounting to more than $2,000, if it saves you one problem, the manual is paid for,” she said.
Increased exposure through speaking engagements, a new Web site and a good relationship with the Ontario Trucking Association are all helping WMC’s business to grow – which may allow Isenberg to continue her longstanding relationship with trucking for many years to come.
“I love the people. I love the relationships. I love that I can help. It’s an industry that needs a lot of help, because there’s so much information and so much legislation and so much misunderstanding, that with everyone I speak to, I really do make a difference,” she said.