When it comes to cooperation and collaboration, I'd put trucking industry suppliers up against just about anybody. Not that they aren't fierce competitors, far from it. Companies can be as tenacious as hockey teams when it comes to drive and the will to win. The truly amazing thing, however, is that they also find ways to work together for the good of their common customers, somehow managing to create win-win solutions.
One could do worse than to study trucking. There's a lot to be learned from this tough, resilient business about what it takes to prevail, even when the chips are down.
Walk around any truck and you'll see evidence of diligent, focused teamwork everywhere you stop to look. Today's trucks are handbooks of cooperative innovation. Whether you are talking about taking weight out of components to increase payload, improving safety or developing new power solutions, it has all been designed, developed and delivered by cross-company teams of talented people with shared goals.
It is the same on the software and communications side of the business. At the recent PeopleNet User Conference, for instance, COO Brian McLaughlin noted that the company's system now has more than 75 points of integration with other systems. In fact, more than 20 “supplier partners” were right there at the conference, even though many of them compete with one another and also work with PeopleNet's own competitors.
“From the beginning, we were all set to partner,” said Ron Konezny, PeopleNet president. “We had to. We did not have the resources to do everything ourselves. The other thing is that we had an open system designed to enable and facilitate collaboration and teamwork.”
This is not to suggest that teamwork is always easy. “You have to respect your partners' business models,” said Konezny. “Success also assumes you have capable partners because if you don't, your customers will call you.”
Still, it is an amazing industry to watch in action. At Maptuit, supplier of precise navigation systems, Luke Wachtel, executive vice president of sales and marketing, talks about the challenges of supplying accurate driving directions to its nearly 400 clients via what he calls “connected navigation.” It is a metaphor of sorts for how the industry works as a whole.
“We get paid per truck, per month,” said Wachtel. “It is a nice marriage. That's the reason for connected navigation. Feedback from drivers comes directly to us in real time [as well as to the fleet and to the communication systems supplier]. It is a community concept.”
The business of trucking really is a community concept in the best sense of the term and one worthy of examination. Certainly, there is no better instruction to be had than to study leadership, operations and budgeting with a well-run fleet. Carriers understand costs down to the penny and manage accordingly, deputizing everyone in the company to make it work.
So, here's an idea for you: Should you happen to have any elected representatives or senators in your region who appear to be struggling with the challenges of political and financial leadership or perhaps even with the basics of civility and cooperation, invite them over for a look around and a brief tutorial. Of course it may not help, but it is worth a try.
Wendy Leavitt is Fleet Owner's director of editorial development. She can be reached at [email protected]