Read Henry's point of the view of the experience: https://www.teamrunsmart.com/articles/career-smart/november-2022/teaming-up
I recently shared a team driving experience with Mike Stricker who is a Regional Sales Manager for Daimler Truck North America and also has a background in engineering. I had been looking forward to this trip for quite some time and we finally managed to fit it into his very busy schedule. My hat is off to Mike for immersing himself literally into the driver's seat in a real-life situation where there were real deadlines to be met. As promised, here is his experience in his own words of the time he lived the life of a truck driver: 2.5 days / 1,901 miles in a 2022 Freightliner Cascadia:
“I’ve always admired the inquisitive CEO, executive, or manager who is willing to lean in and put themselves in the very shoes of their organization or customers. Envision the TV Show “Undercover Boss” or the energy many businesses are putting into Customer Experience (CX). The most successful companies have empathy for their employees and go above the needs of the business to put the customer’s needs first. It’s the very reason I earned a CDL shortly after joining Daimler. Now, after 25 years in the trucking industry, I’ve seen many aspects of our business, and those of our customers. What was missing was the true experience of the end user, beyond just a non-revenue day’s drive. Fulfilling a long overdue commitment, I finally met with Henry Albert of Team Run Smart in early October to walk the walk and talk the talk. I’ve worked with Henry for the last 10 years and I value his experience and networking. He is a constant resource for feedback on our products and strategies, and his insights have led to multiple product features and functionality enhancements. He excels at helping us craft messaging for better driver acceptance. I can emphatically say that Henry has driven more miles in reverse than I have in forward gear.
My goals for the experience included nighttime and inclement weather driving, acquiring and delivering loads, managing hours of service, living in the truck (eating, sleeping, and biological needs), managing stops and speed, and seeing parts of our magnificent country that I rarely visit. Our plan included picking up a load in Laredo, TX for delivery to our PDC in New Jersey in the two days my schedule allowed. This meant true team driving at near the maximum allowable hours of service.
I took the partial first driving shift. After a slow go through the post-border check, night fell upon us. As we approached our first construction zone in Houston, the rain began! I was struggling to remain calm rolling thru miles of 2-lane jersey barriers with poor visibility and other trucks literally blowing us within inches of the wall as they passed. Henry recommended focusing on one lane marker side only, arguing all along that if the truck ahead of us made it, so could we. Active Lane Assist would have helped, but I learned there are times, like this, when you simply prefer not to be in cruise control. Near midnight, I relinquished control and climbed into the bunk for the night.
Sleeping in a moving truck introduces its own set of unique challenges. I found any length of continuous sleep unreachable. I was constantly woken by the radio, occasional lane departure warnings, acceleration forces, potholes, bridge expansion joints, wind sway, and undulations in the road. Though the cab and truck suspension are some of the best in the industry, I found myself wanting better. On a very positive note, outside noise attenuation from the extra insulation was very good. For the driver’s lounge configuration, I found the need for a cup holder when the bed is deployed. At some point, I was woken by the relative quiet and stillness of a major traffic slowdown. Another truck had crashed into the back of another. It was buried deep and nothing recognizable of a cab was visible. I was reminded that driving is dangerous business and I took some comfort from the 5-point net harness and Detroit 5.0 collision mitigation, but nothing compared to the ultimate trust I put into Henry as the driver.
After stopping for a hearty breakfast at a truck stop, I returned to the driver's seat. Nearly 8 hours later, I stopped for the mandatory 30 min break and then drove another couple of hours before handing the wheel back to Henry. Louisiana, Georgia, and North Carolina met my expectations for fall colors and unique countryside. I cooked a frozen dinner in the microwave and then we stopped for a shower a bit later that evening. I found sleeping a bit easier, perhaps from exhaustion, but more likely from increasing familiarity with the noises and motion.
The next morning, we stopped at a Wawa for a local sub sandwich and shortly thereafter crossed the Chesapeake Bay and then the Delaware River. Despite 30+ hours of driving over more than 1600 miles, we arrived within 30 minutes of our scheduled time. I realized then, that Henry had been planning, monitoring, and adjusting our trip the entire time to ensure this eventuality. Being late could have meant sitting the rest of the day, or longer, earning nothing, while awaiting an opportunity to unload. We were given a bay door number in which to dock. Henry gave me that honor. After a few corrections, the trailer was slightly misaligned with the door. The person behind the door seemed to become frustrated with the amount of time I spent and Henry masterfully repositioned in one maneuver. After 15 minutes, the red dock light turned green again and we departed to pick up the next load in Delaware. From curiosity only, I read the manifests. We delivered steering wheels and control modules and picked up insulation. Clearly needed, but hardly exciting. I found the whole experience impersonal, lonely, and thankless - giving me a new perspective on life on the road for our drivers.
Team driving to the maximum allowable hours is exhausting. I wonder if this shouldn’t be reserved for emergencies and not common practice? It’s another reminder that just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I had much to consider and reflect upon during the flight home from Philly. Though we were lightly loaded, fuel economy was excellent in Henry’s newest rig at 12+ mpg. I hoped not to diminish his lifetime numbers. I gained a new respect for drivers and I will encourage my organization to take advantage of this type of opportunity. Thank you, Henry, for your insights, hospitality, trucker lingo lessons, jokes, food, serious lessons from the road, and that empty orange juice carton. Thank you, especially to all the drivers for keeping the world moving, especially those who use our products to make a living. We have a great product, but I now see opportunities to do even better".
Mike Stricker is a regional manager of On-Highway sales at Daimler Truck North America and most recently served as the head of sales for Detroit Diesel.