Anyone this side of the border who might picture Mexican trucking operations as slipshod if not downright unsafe outfits content to hire incompetent drivers to rocket about in worn-out rigs would certainly come away with a very different view of trucking in Mexico.
Just by spending a few hours with executives of Mexico’s 16th largest fleet-- Transportes Monroy Schiavon(TMS)— at its sprawling yet efficient headquarters in Cuautitlán Izcalli,Estado de México, in central Mexico about 25 miles northwest of MéxicoCity.
It operates nationwide in Mexico and conducts its international business via an office in Nuevo Laredo, just across the Rio Grande from Laredo, TX. It also has facilities in the cities of Guadalajara and Puebla.
TMS offers dry-van domestic and international truckload service as well as LTL delivery, freight-forwarding, dedicated and logistics services.
Among its customer base are such famous brands as Wal-Mart, Proctor & Gamble, Unilever, Levi’s, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Mazda, Goodyear and ExxonMobil.
For its transborder operations (launched in 1997) , TMS partners with such prominent U.S. fleets as Con-way, Schneider and Celadon, to name just three.
Family-operated, TMS was founded with one truck back in 1979. It now fields some 553 power units. By Mexican standards, that’s remarkable as only 100 trucking operations there run over 100 units. It also runs 1,600 dry-van trailers.
A more telling statistic of its success is that TMS told U.S. journalists during our headquarters tour that its operations have been seeing continuous growth since 2009, “closing the last year with an improvement of 15% in total sales(vs. a 10% goal).”
What’s more, that growth was accompanied by continuous investment to increase the fleet size and replace older vehicles with new, more efficient trucks and delivery vans— to keep them at an average of less than three years old.
This year alone, advised Laura Mandujano Valdés, director comercial for TMS, the fleet placed orders for 100 new Volvo VNL 670 tractors. These Volvo-powered trucks will come equipped with the OEM’s I-Shift transmission. TMS is among the first Mexican fleets to spec the automated gearbox.
One of 100 new Volvo VNL tractors ordered this year by TMS
Mandujano noted that decision was made because TMS is “always looking toincrease fleet efficiency and safety in operations and to reduce our environmental impact.”
Also this year, the company acquired a truck-driving simulator that will be used both to increase the efficiency of its driving-training program and the skill levels of existing drivers.
This appreciation for how technology can be leveraged certainly comes from the top down at TMS. Raúl Monroy Reus, the leader of the Monroy family that launched TMS, serves as president of the Administration Council that sets and defines the company’s goals and the strategies to attain.
Monroy, who’s regarded as a key trucking leader in the country, advised that he is currently engaged in advocating for the “general improvement of transportation in Mexico, including regulations, technical studies, training and innovation.”
Mandujano pointed out that even as TMS’ business grows, fleet management is “looking for how we can save money in different ways. From how to hire drivers and whom to hire to investing in the best technology we can to gain savings across our operations.
“But,” she continued, “security for our customers and our employees always comes first here, by way of both our drivers and the systems we have in place.
“Security has become in the past few years a critical issue,” added Mandujano, both domestically and internationally. So, TMS has focused on investing time, staff and resources to develop infrastructure, system controls, special follow-up procedures and strategies to provide our customers with a higher and more detailed level of service and security.”
She points out that with both security and logistical efficiency in mind, all TMS trucks are equipped with equipped with satellite tracking, “for real-time, 24/7 follow-up.”
Other security measures put in place across the board at TMS that Mandujano listed include:
· Use of toll highways and “intelligent card systems” to both “guarantee security and route compliance”
· Strict preventive and corrective maintenance procedures are adhered to on 100% of vehicles
· Fleet is fully insured, including hooked trailers (owned, leased or interchanged)
· Legal support and other assistance is available “24/7 to drivers in case of any contingency”
· Central dispatch is in 24/7 direct contact with drivers on all issues related to loads
· Risk assessment is always ongoing and records maintained up to one year
· Special in-transit contingency plan activated by trained staff authorized to make immediate decisions in case of unit breakdowns, accidents, driver detentions (whether by police, military, etc.) and robbery or high-jacking
Given the important role a TMS driver plays not just in safely operating the company’s equipment, but keeping it and its cargo—as well as himself- safe and secure, it’s no wonder Mandujano refers to the fleet’s drivers as “our main asset.”
She adds that, nonetheless, “our daily challenge is to have our drivers believe in the importance of what they do.”
Once hired, new drivers must complete a thorough training program that emphasizes customer service, security and safety and includes a general review of documentation as well as transportation law and rules.
But before that happens, applicants are thoroughly screened. “The driver hiring program, including background and medical tests, can take at least three weeks to complete and it us $1,000 U.S. to administer,” Mandujano points out.
“We hire drivers with experience— five years preferred faster— and most come to us on the recommendation of friends and family who already work here,” she notes, adding that a driving job at TMS can earn someone the equivalent of $70,000 a year, a very desirable wage in Mexico.
What TMS is doing must be working as Mandujano reports that the driver turnover rate at TMS is about 25%-- compared to the typical range of 60-65% for trucking in Mexico.