CAREER Smart

Interested in taking the next step in your trucking career? Learn about the CAREER Smart driver lifecycle.

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Every moment of every day in our life, we are making decisions that affect the lives of people far removed from our own little personal galaxy. According to an article in John Hopkins Medicine titled “Steer Clear of Bad Driving,” it is estimated that every two minutes the typical driver makes 400 observations, 40 decisions, and one mistake while driving. This is why it’s important to never assume that other drivers will make the right decision. It would seem to reason that a professional semi-truck driver may have a higher number of decisions than the “typical” driver. The subject of decision making took many twists and turns from what spurred my mind to write this blog.

At Team Run Smart, we have broken down a career path that most drivers fit into. There is also nothing wrong if a person decides to stay at one of these “stations” because they are content and do not want to take on any of the extra responsibilities associated with the next step of the journey. 

Let's start with the company driver, which is exactly what my fellow Team Run Smart Pro, Clark Reed is. Clark is the consummate picture of what a professional company driver should be. The daily shift for Clark starts with a thorough pre-trip inspection of his assigned truck and trailer along with trip planning details before starting his journey for the day. 

Clark also pays special attention to decisions he makes in regard to areas his employer places a high value on. Fuel efficiency is an area in which Clark's employer stands out amongst its peers, so extra effort is placed onto decisions which will impact fuel usage. This means driving in a manner that yields the best fuel economy along with making sure all of the fuel-saving devices are used to their maximum benefit.

Professional conduct is also an important trait that Clark's employer pays attention to. In fact, I can honestly say that I have never witnessed one of Clark's employer's trucks speeding anywhere and especially not in a construction zone. 

In addition to being a company driver, Clark is also a driver trainer who onboards new drivers to the way things are to be done at this place of employment. I know Clark instills the importance of making the right decisions while driving a semi-truck. 

With this step into the land of the pioneer, there are decisions to be made that a company driver does not need to worry about. As a lease-purchase owner-operator all of the bookkeeping, maintenance along with some load planning decisions become your responsibility.

The next step of this career journey is referred to as the “Hired Gun” here at Team Run Smart.

My fellow Team Run Smart colleagues Bob and Linda Caffee carry the torch for the successful leased on owner-operator. As owner-operators, they are now responsible for all of the areas as discussed in the “Company Driver” and “Pioneer” sections of the career journey along with specing of their own truck. The decisions made when they spec their truck have a massive impact on whether they will have a profitable operation. It is at this point that there is a great deal of more freedom to choose how they will run their operation, but it still needs to fit within the framework of the carrier they are leased on with. 

The next area is the domain of the "Lone Ranger," which is an independent owner-operator. This step requires you to obtain your operating authority, along with all of the necessary permits to transport commodities just like the large carriers do. The added decisions how you will manage your business because now you are the owner, safety director, trip planner, maintenance director, complaint department manager, compliance director, marketing manager, and much more who still drives a truck. 

As a Lone Ranger, it will be important to develop your customer base, decide what lanes to serve, commodities hauled, and where you are going to find your customers. Will you serve the “spot” market, or will you develop long term contract rates. A folly by many who step into the arena of the Lone Ranger is the mindset of you are now your own boss. While it is true, you are your own boss, I often feel like I have more bosses as a Lone Ranger. If I am not serving my customers in a way that keeps them satisfied and coming back for more my business will quickly come to a grinding halt. This balance of customer value vs market conditions is an area of constant change. I also find it important to always be looking for a way to solve a “perceived” or “real” problem for my customers. 

Last on this trucking career journey is the “Trail Blazer”. This is the area that my fellow Team Run Smart Jimmy Nevarez occupies. There was a time when I also operated in this arena as a small carrier so Jimmy and I often have discussions surrounding the small carrier domain. Now in addition to all of the other decisions made in all of the other categories discussed earlier you are faced with the task of getting other drivers and personnel to carry the same decision-making process that allowed you to progress to this part of the career journey. Now your decisions affect others as they are counting on you to lead the way. 

Now let’s get back to what got me to thinking about the decision-making process in the first place which was a driver who was making decisions that were not his to be made. 

Let me set the stage … I was up performing my pre-trip inspection when by chance a conversation was struck up by the driver of the truck in the adjacent parking spot. He boastfully proclaimed to me that he had taken off those stupid !@#*&^%#  wheel covers because they don't help anything and he was not going to be seen driving a truck with wheel covers. I replied to him by sharing that I liked the sleek style of my wheel covers as they made my wheels look like they were ready for the Bonneville Salt Flats speed trials. I then added the fuel savings along with the reduced rain spray due to less turbulence at the wheel end were the real reasons they were on my truck. 

I then shared with him as an owner-operator he was free to do as he pleased in regards to wheel covers. Curiosity got the better of me so I asked my temporary neighbor why he had left the ugly mounting brackets on the axle hubs if the wheel covers were not going to be employed? The answer I received from this driver was that the brackets were still on because he kept the wheel covers in the sleeper bunk of the truck so that he could put them back on before returning to the terminal. This is when it was apparent that this driver had overstepped the bounds of the decision-making process as he did not own the truck! Clearly this driver was out of line at this point because he was not following the wishes of his employer and should buy his own truck! 

I plan on doing another installment on this subject of decision making. In the meantime, follow us along at Team Run Smart as we all share ideas on how to make your trucking career journey safe, profitable, and rewarding.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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