Tidewater Transit builds success methodically, deliberately
Oct 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
With such a diverse operation, the Tidewater Transit management team realized they needed state-of-the-art computer capabilities to maximize operational efficiency and effectiveness. The carrier recently upgraded its fleet management software to TMW Suite from TMW Systems.
“Our goal is to gain greater control over our business with the TMW product,” says Dave Arnold, Tidewater Transit vice-president of operations. “We're a strong advocate of using digital technology to enhance our fleet management abilities. For instance, we were an early-adopter of GPS technology. We've been using the PeopleNet system in our tractors for the past six years, and we're getting ready to add PeopleNet's trailer tracking capability.”
The tracking and communication technology has been particularly helpful when it comes to improving vehicle productivity. “Our average trip is 300 miles, but we're seeing the length of haul increase,” Arnold says. “At the same time, our loaded miles are lower than we want. We want to use technology to help boost loaded miles to at least 75%. We're trying to build more three-legged trips.”
The technology also has helped dispatchers build stronger relationships with the drivers. This is important at Tidewater Transit, because managers believe the dispatcher is a key factor in driver retention.
“Drivers face so many challenges on the road today that they need to be able to turn to someone who can provide a calming influence,” says Bruce Carrington, Tidewater Transit safety director.
He adds that the carrier has worked hard to build a good working environment for drivers. “We realize that truck driving must be seen as a profession, not just a job,” Carrington says. “That's one reason we have a uniform for our drivers. We're also taking steps to develop career and income options for drivers. We want them to know that they have a future here.”
With driver retention topping the list of rising operating costs, a key objective at Tidewater Transit is to get the new hire through the critical first year of employment. The effort starts with careful driver selection.
Referrals from current employees generate a significant number of driver applicants, and Tidewater Transit pays a $750 referral bonus. Applicants also come from job fairs and driving schools.
“The referral bonus works well for us,” Carrington says. “One thing we don't do, though, is pay a sign-on bonus to new hires. We want people who want to drive for us, not just get a signing bonus. On the driving school side, it is our policy to only work with accredited facilities, primarily community colleges. Our shorthaul terminals seem to have the best success with driving school graduates, because many of them need as much as six months of additional training.”
While there are no sign-on bonuses, Tidewater Transit offers drivers what management believes is a very good compensation package. “We have a graduated pay scale that we believe helps with driver retention,” Collette says. “Senior drivers get some of the best runs, which generates some of the best pay.”
All of the applicants go through a thorough qualification process. Experienced drivers who make the grade spend a week in orientation at the Kinston headquarters. They receive additional training at the terminal where they will be based.
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