Ask the Experts: Keeping Up with the Fleet

July 21, 2014

JHE’s fleet travels approximately 700,000 miles a year through 46 states, making it a critical component of every project the event experience team produces. Managing the trucks and maneuvering through compliance is no easy task. However, JHE’s senior director of transportation, Terry Hodges, and senior coordinator of transportation, Julie Alascio, have it down to a science. Below, Hodges and Alascio share their insider secrets:

Set scheduled maintenance

TH: By scheduling preventative maintenance three times a year we can keep our trucks operating on the road for 10 months a year. It is also critical to have a team of drivers who are conscious about inspecting their vehicles daily. We would be in big trouble if they didn’t care about what they were driving.

Longstanding partnerships work miracles

TH: JHE’s partnership with Freightliner for its semi-trucks and Chevrolet for its smaller fleet is crucial when something goes awry. For example, one of our trucks broke down en route to Miami from Phoenix. I called Jerry McKinney, my dedicated contact who has relationships with every dealership and shop. He told us where to go and made sure we received preferential treatment upon arrival. There were 22 trucks in line for service yet we were moved to the front and out of the shop in an hour and 10 minutes. They always place a high priority on JHE vehicles when we are in need of service which is very important to the overall success of JHE.

Keeping up with the regulations

JA: Staying on top of compliance regulations and how to navigate them is one of the pieces of the business many people don’t think about. Laws are constantly changing so it’s important to find the right websites and understand how to work them. When I first started in this role six years ago, the new government rules had just been put in place. I’ve always been good at research so I dove right in and have never stopped learning. Most recently, I came across a rebate for auxiliary power units from the state of North Carolina that I was able to present to the executive team to save the company money. Staying on top of the upcoming regulations allows you to plan, prepare and implement much easier.

Develop and implement clear procedures and policies

JA: Having a good system in place is only useful if you follow it. We’ve developed a full driver safety manual that we give each employee and follow religiously. I also hand out monthly safety awareness information to remind drivers of pertinent details. Keeping your employees “in the know” means safe drivers and gives you a leg up on your competition. Once a year, we host fleet week which is a four-hour training on hours of service (log regulations and other compliance rules) and a skills test, the JHE truck rodeo. I’ve also implemented a driver points system to supervise and change actions. Points are accrued for moving violations, accidents and hour of service violations with a goal of having zero points each quarter.

Avoid fleet aging

TH: We are lucky that Jay Howard has the forward thinking to invest in a young fleet as fleet aging is a huge problem in the industry. However, in our situation if you break down and miss a show you will never be forgiven. Our partners at Freightliner are also an important part of this equation as they swap out seven trucks for new ones every two to three years. The JHE fleet has at most around 300,000 miles per semi-truck while most other comparable trucks on the road accrue a million miles, replace the engine and then drive for another million miles.

Creating good relationships with your drivers

JA: Keeping the lines of communication open with your team is important in any job. You want to make sure that they can ask questions and feel like they are contributing to the bottom line. For example, I found an opportunity to save the company money by recording off-road fuel. It was an extra step for the driver’s so I explained to them what it meant for our bottom line but then gave them the opportunity to record it or not. Every single driver implemented the extra step. It’s that unified team feeling that makes us so successful.

Tags:
Fleet, transportation, Freightliner, Chevrolet,
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