Hi everyone, Thanks for stopping over again to view my adventures. I wanted to share with you about my visit to my employer’s corporate building in August, and how it all came into being.
I strongly believe that multi-team environments operate best when they see how all the pieces fit.
How It Works ‘Round Here…
The division I am in with Schneider is called Van Truckload (VTL for short). The drivers operate out of particular operations centers (OCs) around the US, CAN and MEX. Our residential (domicile) zip code determines where we operate out of. I am assigned to the Charlotte, NC OC. In the VTL division, there are Driver Team Leaders (who also have teams), then the Operations Managers which the team leaders report to, and then the Division Manager. At certain OCs, there are multiple divisions, aside from just VTL. There is Intermodal, Independent Contractor, Tanker, you get the idea… So, what do these teams do?
- Aids drivers daily with everyday challenges, certain load related items such as running early, running late, trip planning just to name a few, or whether it be personal such as time at home, personal emergencies, pay questions, things of that nature. Please do not mistake my brevity and high level list here to be anywhere near all-inclusive of the near millions of things these leaders are responsible for. I’m just trying to give you a little background helping you to visualize a little bit.
- Operations Manager
- The DTLs report to this manager, for approvals and assistance, but be sure that these managers are also found in the trenches with the drivers as well.
- Division Manager
- The different leaders from VTL, Intermodal, Independent Contractors, etc, will report through to this manager.
“Who plans the loads, dispatches drivers?” you may wonder.
The Great and Wonderful OZ, as it sort of seemed to me, as assignments magically appeared on my tablet. Well, these magicians who make it all come together behind the scenes, do a magnificent job, and now since I was in year two, the thought occurred to me, wouldn’t it be a really cool thing if, as a driver, I could kind of see how they do all this? I could meet some of the folks, and ask them directly what could I do better as a driver to help them do their job. I strongly believe that multi-team environments operate best when they see how all the pieces fit. Not everyone likes or even needs this type of cross-functional knowledge, but I’ve always found it helped me. I reached out to Schneider’s corporate Driver Relations Team, and expressed this interest of mine to meet these teams. They loved the idea, and assisted in coordinating with my leadership team to route me out to the Corporate Building in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The plan was set up and they scheduled 45-minute sit-ins for me with four groups: Load Planning, Box Planning, the Emergency Maintenance group, and the Fueling Solutions group. It was going to be a full day, because after all that I was invited to record a quick THE BUZZ video and then another invitation to be in the room as they recorded the monthly FB-Live Driver Chat.
Arriving the Day Of
The planners got me into Green Bay the night before, and I parked at our Green Bay Training Yard down the street from the corporate building. When Trinity and I bobtailed over to corporate, we parked in the special tractor lot, and when I went in I was met by Tammy in Driver Relations who gave me an informative tour of the building, and then dropped me off to start with my sit-ins. Lunch was a huge outdoor catered picnic for Associate Appreciation Month.
- Load Planners
- These folks have a complex system they monitor to find which drivers are in which area and have available “clock time” to carry out a load. There are several planners, each concentrating on a region, or on specific dedicated accounts. I sat with one, but she was part of a team of five. It looked like there were several other teams like this, which I can only speculate handled some of the other divisions I mentioned above. I was really amazed as she showed me different parameters of how they match drivers to shipments, and how it can constantly change, but they keep up with it all. It was awesome watching her show me all that she did. Then in so many words I asked “What can a driver do to make your job easier?” her reply was basically that we keep our Time Available and ETAs updated. This gives them the best flexibility to plan, move things around. Trust me I am oversimplifying things here a bit, to keep it a light overview.
- Box Planners
- A “box” is a short term we use for a trailer. Schneider owns approximately 22,000 trailers. The jist of the industry is that a driver will swap out an empty trailer for a loaded one at both ends of the cycle. Meaning they bring and empty to the shipper when picking up a loaded one, and at the consignee, when they drop off the loaded one, scoop up an empty. With constantly varying freight needs, sometimes shippers and consignees are out of empties at a particular time, so the box team pings around to find them, so we can get them and be set for the next assignment. There are also different things this team monitors, such as our agreements with different yards to keep a certain amount of trailers at their facility so these planners need to consider who is arriving, where they are going, how many trailers that specific yard needs, etc. Again I asked the question how a driver can help them, and I believe patience was the basic response.
- Fueling Solutions
- I had the pleasure of meeting with the team that constantly evaluates and monitors fuel prices throughout the country. That data is analyzed and eventually ends up with the driver through a tool we use in-cab. It will give us drivers the most optimal fuel stop along our routing when we request fuel. As do many large carriers, we have negotiated rates with a certain supplier. Then even within that supplier there are nuances between locations which Schneider capitalizes on. In effect, I learned a huge component of the fueling costs are taxes, which as you know vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The taxes piece is where leveraging one location over another can add up to significant savings across a large fleet. I used to look at fuel as a whole number, but within that whole number; let’s call it $3.00 a gallon, you have the base raw component, we’ll just call that $2.50. and the balance is made up of the taxes. If the base cost in Hello, IN is $2.25, and the taxes piece is $0.75, but across the river in Sweetness, IL it’s $2.00 / $1.00, and the driver can get to IL, it’s fiscally prudent to pay the $2.00 since there may be tax incentives that can reduce that other $1.00. That is a huge oversimplification and it’s baffling to me how all the analyses work, but just an interesting fact when the company runs my fuel gauge down to near zero some times, but not others.
- As a side note, I showed this team the gift cards with trivia that I “surprise” other drivers with and they are in the process of getting a bunch of gift cards from our fuel provider for me to use! What a bonus there! To date I have given out 100 $5 gift cards from varying sources (20 from Starbucks, 20 from D&D, 20 from Sheets, 20 from Thornton’s and 20 from I forget the last place) but anyway, that’ll save me some out of pocket dough HAHA!
- Emergency Maintenance
- This team was also very interesting. The fella I sat with showed me how they handle the incoming calls from drivers all over the continent, and then dispatch service, set appointments at dealers, or route drivers to company yards for repairs. They field approximately 550 calls a day! The entire team has access to the ticket queue, so they all work these as they become available and have a prioritized system, which of course will address the needs of a driver actually on a public roadway first.
- The Buzz
- Schneider has a little in-house 5 minute info video spotlight with a set host, who chats with various folks in various roles, and they invited me on to chat up my book and those surprise gift cards I give out. I think it’s mainly just internal, so not sure if there is a public link to it. The video I was a guest on aired this week, but is also kept in company archives on our intranet site. Usually we receive a link to our tablets when the video goes live, but I did not receive the announcement yet, and I’m not sure who sends that link out.
- FB-Live Driver Chat
- The same host of THE BUZZ also hosts a monthly Driver Chat on FB Live where he has special guests and together he and the guest will field questions live in the FB chat. I was honored to sit in the room and watch it all take place. The guest that month was the VP over all of Van Truckload, so that was a fun meet-n-greet.
- September is Driver Appreciation Month
- Schneider will host some special events throughout several operation centers in recognition of Driver Appreciation Month. Could be picnics, giveaways, things like that. I missed it last year, being on the road, and not truly knowing much about it, but will try to stop by an operations center this year.
I really enjoyed my visit, and thank all the teams which made it possible, and those who took the time to allow me to sit-in as they shared their expertise with me and to openly chat on “Things Schneider”.
Schneider… Above & Beyond Series
I’ve also been working on a side project with my drone, but it is a very slow moving project due to never knowing where I’m going to be combined with weather that I can fly in. It is a series called “Schneider… Above and Beyond” I’m capturing some aerial shots of the OCs and hope it can be shared at all the OCs for all drivers to see and smile at. There’s just something about a sky-view shot of a location, ya? I printed up a few shots, framed them and set them on the café tables at the OC where I park, and when I stopped in there, I saw some fellow drivers looking them over, smiling. I think it’s fun to see and pick out things from these aerial views!
Hope you all found a few tidbits of interest in here somewhere, and see ya on my next post!
Love & Miles,