Richard Stocking Swift39s president and CoCEO quotWithout drivers we donrsquot have a company Without them we donrsquot have an industry Without them America doesnrsquot functionrdquo Photo Swift Transportation

Richard Stocking, Swift's president and Co-CEO: "Without [drivers] we don’t have a company. Without them, we don’t have an industry. Without them, America doesn’t function.” (Photo: Swift Transportation)

Rethinking trucking from drivers to leadership

Swift’s Stocking says new approaches to driver pay, home time, and lifestyle are needed, along with new executive leadership strategies, too.

The trucking industry needs to rethink its approach to drivers, truck technology, even leadership strategies, according to Richard Stocking, currently president and co-CEO for Swift Transportation Company. Stocking will become the motor carrier’s full-time CEO upon the retirement of Swift’s founder and longtime chief executive, Jerry Moyes, at year’s end.

“The call for today is for trucking leadership that not only sets the goals, guiding principles, and vision but takes that down to the front-line managers,” he explained to Fleet Owner in a phone interview.

Stocking stressed that this is not necessarily about changing or discarding past leadership principles, but “amplifying” them by using data to make decisions faster and with more transparency.

“The world is just changing so fast; even how we do basic shopping is creating rapid change,” he emphasized. “Look no further than the growth of e-commerce for examples of that.”

Swift, which generates roughly $4 billion in annual revenue, currently operates more than 18,000 trucks and 60,000 trailers logging about 1.5 billion miles every year across the continental U.S., Mexico, and Canada via a network of 40 freight terminals. As one of the largest TL carriers in the U.S., Swift employs 16,000 company drivers and contracts with 5,000 owner-operators.

Photo: Swift Transportation

“We’ve enjoyed an impressive run during our first half century, accomplishing amazing things during this time,” Stocking pointed out. “But that’s just the beginning. We are primed and prepared to accomplish even more in the next 50, and we will do so by holding to two founding principles that have gotten us this far—integrity and leadership.”

Yet that will also require taking a new approach to truck driver needs, he stressed; for example, not just by boosting pay and home time but improving the predictability of both as well.

“The number one thing a driver needs today is predictability in terms of how much money they are getting in their paycheck and in terms of the quality time they get to spend with their families,” Stocking noted.

But he stressed that the industry needs to go farther, especially in terms of improving the driver’s work environment, and believes technology will play an ever-larger role in that.

“Obviously we’re moving to electronic logs to eliminate paperwork,” Stocking said. “But we’re also using mobile apps that allow drivers to rate their experiences with every customer – at origin and destination – and every aspect of our operations, as well.”

He believes as drivers see motor carriers using that feedback to improve their daily work lives that will help foster greater retention as well as improved efficiencies for the company as a whole.

“We can use that data to really identify which customer locations have long wait times, which ones offer good breakrooms and coffee, even help identify particular [shipper] employees who are helpful to them, like friendly security guards,” Stocking pointed out.

“That data helps us show the ‘goodness’ that’s out there in the [freight] industry as well,” he added.

Swift is also making changes to other aspects of its operation as well, which include:

  • The introduction of “Smart Trucks” that deliver better fuel economy, leading-edge safety features, increased dependability and what Stocking calls a “bold new design.”
  • The addition of DriveCam digital event video recorders in every fleet truck; technology used for training purposes as well as to help lead to safer road conditions for Swift’s trucks and other motorists.
  • Expansion of its “Swift Academy” school, offering commercial driver’s license (CDL) training for individuals interested in careers as truck drivers.
  • The wider use of aforementioned mobile applications for various job functions, providing for faster communication between Swift drivers and with the company, as well as using them to save  hundreds of hours in paperwork each year.
  • Improvements to its network of 40 full-service terminals to ensuring drivers are never too far from a hot shower, a good meal and a friendly face.

Stocking said these are just some of the many changes needed not only to keep the industry’s current pool of drivers behind the wheel, safely operating tractor-trailers, but to attract new ones into the business of hauling freight.

“What defines us is our people, including the steadfast drivers that are the backbone of our business,” he explained. “Without them, we don’t have a company. Without them, we don’t have an industry. Without them, America doesn’t function.”

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