Kleysen drivers raise the standard

WINNIPEG — About one third of Kleysen Transport’s 600 drivers and owner-operators are now members of a self-governing ‘fraternity’ called Knights of the Road. Conceived by company president Tom Kleysen but developed largely by the drivers themselves, along with co-ordinator Dave Rempel, it’s a voluntary internal education program launched last year that aims to recognize truck-driving as a profession — and to promote both excellence and professional pride in the drivers themselves. It’s essentially a continuous-improvement regimen.

“This marks a milestone for Kleysen, and maybe for our industry,” said Tom Kleysen at a press conference to introduce the program at company headquarters in Winnipeg. It was the first public outing for the Knights — who organized the affair themselves. He added that truck drivers do not get the respect they deserve and said he hoped that the Knights concept might serve as a model for other carriers.

The foundation of the program is a four-day course that goes well beyond ordinary Kleysen training content — it’s not about driving expertise — to include topics such as conflict resolution, customer service, health and wellness, and paperwork skills. Some of the course modules are those offered by the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council, while others were developed internally. Successful completion of the course — with a test at the end of each day — earns the candidate a Master Driver Certificate and membership in the Knights Council. Not to mention a ‘graduation’ ceremony and dinner.

Candidates must have two years’ driving experience, one of them with Kleysen, and must first pass an aptitude test (Kleysen uses the Scheig Associates test). They must also be recommended for the program. “It can’t be that easy to get into,” says Tom Kleysen.

Once a Knight, the driver commits to further training, at least two full days per year at present, though it’s the drivers who determine how the standard must be maintained — or raised. Company managers can also take the course and thus become ‘Associate Knights’, though there’s a lengthy waiting list.

Kleysen Knights earn an extra 1.5 cents per mile. Like some other members of the program, 26-year veteran driver and driver trainer Alex Wishart admits that it was the money that drew him in initially. Once a Knight, however, he saw other benefits — like a better understanding of the company at large, better relationships with managers, and less conflict with customer personnel. Master Driver Lance Kosack agrees, saying he’s learned to control his ‘fuse’, which had sometimes been a little short on the shipper’s loading dock.

Tom Kleysen, an Associate Knight himself, readily admits that the company benefits as well, and the payoff is substantial: Knights have 39% fewer logbook violations than Kleysen drivers at large; 63% fewer accidents with damage over $500; and 24% lower turnover. “I make no apologies for wanting to have the best workforce in the industry,” he says.

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