C&M Trucking Seeks Driver Input On Truck Specs, Improves Retention

Oct. 1, 1999
DRIVER turnover at C&M Trucking in Kansas City, Missouri, decreased considerably after the carrier decided to involve drivers in the truck specification

DRIVER turnover at C&M Trucking in Kansas City, Missouri, decreased considerably after the carrier decided to involve drivers in the truck specification process, says Jerry Stull, the company's vice-president and general manager.

"Don't underestimate the importance of this to driver retention," Stull says. "A few years ago, our annual turnover rate was about 60%. It's now half that. In our operation, drivers represent about 55% of operation costs. Losing a driver significantly raises that percentage."

C&M Trucking delivers LTL in 11 midwestern states. Drivers work hard, up to 24 stops per shift, in the slip-seat operation. C&M runs its trucks 24 hours a day, Monday through Saturday. "Good drivers are imperative to our operation," Stull says.

Lanter Corporation purchased C&M Trucking in 1993. Since then, the fleet has increased from 30 trucks to 84, including 68 tractors and 16 straight trucks. Fifty of the tractors are Kenworth T800 daycabs purchased in 1998.

C&M operates 230 trailers, including 45 refrigerated trailers ranging in length from 28 feet to 53 feet.

The Kenworth tractors were ordered to handle increased business and for replacements. "We wanted efficient daycabs with high driver acceptance to help curb our turnover rate," Stull says. "We got all our drivers involved in the decision-making process. This gives them a sense of ownership in the vehicles."

Before C&M decided on Kenworth, five different trucks were brought in for drivers to touch and feel, Stull says. "Through driver meetings, we agreed on several spec and driver comfort issues," he says. "We chose Cummins ISM multi-torque engines, air suspensions, and air-conditioning. We asked drivers to determine which truck would be most comfortable and easy to drive."

Drivers were pleased to be included in the process. "It was great that management came to us for opinions," says Ora Edwards, a six-year driver veteran at C&M. "It was much better than management saying 'Here's your new truck. We hope you like it.' This approach made drivers feel important, and it showed that the company cared about the equipment we drive. The T800s provide a nice ride and have a short turning radius."

These tractors operate reliably, a quality as important as driver satisfaction, Stull says. "Our operation is time-sensitive," he says. "We make next-morning delivery, not next-day delivery. This gives us a competitive advantage.

"If one truck breaks down, it has a domino effect on other shipments. Typically, several customers miss their delivery. But these are reliable, durable trucks. Their resale value is proof of that."

So far, the tractors have performed beyond Stull's expectations. "We're very pleased," he says. "We've actually lowered operating costs due to reduced maintenance. They are on a 20,000-mile service interval, which works out to once about every five months. The result is more time on the road and less time in the shop."

About the Author

The Refrigerated Transporter Staff

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