Q: Are there any specific people challenges that you are focusing on right now?
A: Our industry continues its struggle with the issue of driver retention. In the very worst case, there are fleets in the U.S. that actually budget for 100-per-cent driver turnover every year — and they hope to hit budget. By comparison, we have about a 73-per-cent retention rate, which puts us solidly in the top quartile, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still struggling with having an adequate number of drivers. It’s a tough career factoring in the absence from family, and it’s not uncommon to lose drivers who prefer going from long-distance to short-distance hauls or asking for a different job that ensures they can be home for dinner every night. Q: Has trying to resolve this problem opened the door to any new opportunities?
A: Because of the industry-wide driver shortage, we’ve had to become more innovative to compete. Historically, it was one driver per truck, but we’ve changed our model to utilize more efficient scheduling and routing so that no one has to make a 10-day round trip; they’re gone for only a day or two at a time. On top of using state-of-theart simulators for driver training, our trucks are fully automated and readily driven; they’re not gear-jamming, shift-with-the-clutch units anymore so they’re not as physically taxing on the driver as in years gone by. As a result, we are witnessing an evolution in drivers. We’ve had retired bankers, teachers, realtors, firefighters, police officers and military personnel wanting to drive a truck as their second career. There’s still a romantic notion of being out on the open road that appeals to many people. And for someone who may have retired at age 50, it becomes a way for them to earn money, stay productive, plus go out and see North America. Q: What leadership advice have you received that you care to share with others?
A: I have been fortunate to work with a number of great business leaders, both during my career and in my time serving on the boards in the community including Centreport Canada, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy and Providence College — and each person and experience has taught me something valuable. I would say that the greatest piece of wisdom would be to spend more time listening than talking. Focus on other people and their strengths, and allow yourself to rely on those strengths.
I would also add that it’s necessary for your people to view you as approachable. As senior leaders, we sometimes forget how unapproachable we can be perceived as and we need to take conscientious steps to remove any “ivory tower” barriers. You want to be at a level of comfort and informality with employees so they know it’s OK to talk with you and while you’re around. That’s why my door is rarely closed and why I’m often outside my office interacting with people. That’s also why one of our core Bison family values is fun. We all want to work in an environment that’s not unlike what we go home to — a place where we have respect, dignity, acceptance, and yes, fun too.