Quality over quantity

by Sonia Straface

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Larry Young started in trucking in the safety and compliance world. In 1993, he was the go-to guy for many major carriers on how they should be running by the book to stay in the good graces of the department of transportation.

Then in 2008 everything changed. Young saw how many drivers were branching out to be owner-operators and how many of them were succeeding.

“And I thought to myself, well if I can run around and tell everybody else how to run a trucking business, then I should probably be able to do it myself,” he recalled to Truck News.

And in that year, Young Transportation System was born.

The company started hauling food and produce in 2008 and Young says despite the difficult economic climate at the time, he was able to find some really good drivers to come on board with him.

“On day one we hit the ground running and I haven’t slowed down since,” he said.

Today, Young Transportation boasts 60 trucks in its fleet that hauls a mix of general freight and frozen goods in Eastern Canada, mainly Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

And Young is okay with that truck count.

“We’ve had as high as 185 trucks and been as low as six. The way I look at it is, I don’t need to be the biggest fleet, I need to be a good one. It’s all about quality over quantity when we’re talking about drivers,” he said, adding that the driver shortage is affecting his business.

Young said he doesn’t believe those carriers who say they’re not affected by the shortage, and presumes that if they’re not yet affected, it means they are just lowering their standards to get drivers behind the wheel.

“There are some carriers, not all, that will take drivers out of school and send them to Vancouver in their first week,” he said. “And if that’s your standard, then you’re not short of drivers because everyone that shows up on your doorstep is a hire. I have enough work for 70 more guys, but where will I find them? I won’t. I’ll find them one, two, three at a time.”

To be a driver for Young, you have to have at least three years of driving experience.

“We are hard-nosed about CVORs,” he said. “We want to know what kind of trouble you’ve been in before, and then we always do a comprehensive road test and get references going back half a dozen years if we can.”

The road tests Young conducts are often long, because as Young says, it’s a chance to get a feel for the driver’s personality.

“It’s not about finding out if they have the skills to drive this piece of equipment, it’s about finding out if they’ve got the right attitude that goes with the job,” he said.

When it comes to retention, Young says his loyal, long-term drivers are sticking around because of the business’s impeccable pay schedule and open-mindedness.

“I think what keeps (drivers) here is we pay them well,” he said. “They don’t have to run around to get their pay. And we make sure they are paid properly and on time. Plus, the work is on time and steady. Guys like that. And we are becoming more and more open-minded of the needs of our drivers and owner-operators. We recognize that we are better off keeping a guy around and working around his schedule, than letting him go to prove a point. We’re trying hard to work more with our drivers because they’re our assets. We are considerate of their needs now more than ever.”

The business wouldn’t be the same without his many long-term employees, Young said.

“Long-term excellent employees and owner-operators are my biggest strength,” he said. “Without them I have nothing. There isn’t any sense in pretending. The long-term employees that have stayed with me, and have been impeccable, have been the greatest strength we’ve ever had and ever will have. We are very serious about what we do. We do our business with a high level of integrity. I have guys who go year after year without even so much as a violation or out-of-service. I’m very proud of them. I’d like to be able to put them all on the photocopier. They are all members of their community, and just well-rounded business people.”

What keeps its drivers so clean on the road, is what Young calls the 967-1111 theory. It belongs to a pizza chain.

“Why do I know that number? I’m not a lover of pizza. I know that number because people inundate me with it.”

Along with regular meetings, Young says drivers have scheduled safety meetings reminding them about managing their speed, staying on the right, and keeping their distance.

“All the things that help keep people out of accidents,” Young said. “And we do this all the time. Constantly reminding them. We have training coming out of our ears.”

In the future, Young says he just wants to continue doing what he’s doing.

“I have a core group of young people in their 30s and 40s working for me and it is my intention to turn it over to them,” he said. “They’ve all proven they’ve got the ability and respect and integrity to run with it. So, I hope to be sitting in the sunny south, and have the business run with the same modus operandi as it always has.

How many trucks will it be? I don’t know and I don’t care.”

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