It seems like the trucking industry is in the midst of significant change in a variety of areas. Some of the change is safety-related, other changes are being brought about by regulations, and still more are occurring as we try to make the transportation of goods cleaner and even friendlier to the environment. Commercial fleets are working hard to juggle all these changes while still meeting their customers’ needs.
But change is hard. I was reminded recently that instead of just jumping into making changes, we should spend a little time on change management. The reminder came courtesy of Ken Marko, fleet sustainability senior manager at US Foods (No. 30 on the FleetOwner 500 Top Private Fleets of 2023). Ken was one of the panelists on NACFE’s first Electric Depot Bootcamp session, Best Practices for Utility-Fleet Relationships.
See also: What NACFE learned about hydrogen trucks
The purpose of change management is to make sure your organization is prepared for an upcoming change. Basically, the change-management process has to happen BEFORE you make an actual change. Change management explains the reason for the change—nobody likes change just for the sake of change. However, when people understand the reason for a change and how the change will help them and their organization, they are more likely to rally behind it.
Proper change management also involves articulating the risks so employees are prepared for what could go wrong. It also includes outlining what resources are available to help with the change and who is responsible for each phase of the change.
A change-management process helps ensure that the changes are implemented smoothly and without problems. Change management gives employees time to adjust, which should help with implementing a change.
Think of change management as an educational process in which employees are informed about the change and why it is necessary for the health and well-being of the fleet. Using a change-management process seems obvious for big changes like the move to alternative-fuel vehicles, but I think it also has value for other things like switching to wide-base tires from duals, adding APUs, adding aerodynamic devices, etc.
We all get comfortable doing things the way we have always done them, and we are leery of change. Spending time developing and implementing a change-management process should make the actual change much easier because people will know what to expect, and they will be invested in making sure the change becomes the new normal.
Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.