TODD BYNUM, vice-president of Bynum Transport of Auburndale, Florida, takes an active role in dealing with driver recruitment and retention. Like just about every manager in the tank truck industry, he has to contend with a shortage of qualified drivers. Rather than leaning back and wringing his hands, however, Bynum hired a recruiter and urged all employees to join in the retention effort.
"With one person dedicated to recruitment and others focusing on training and retaining drivers, we have been able to maintain our driver pool," says Bynum. "We advertise in publications and on highway billboards and have expanded our recruitment out of state. There is also a local driver training school that we recruit from, and we give a $500 bonus to drivers who recruit new hires that stay with us six months.
"Further, I have an open door policy to all our drivers. We show an interest in their needs, like adjusting their schedules when necessary. They are usually on the road two to four weeks at a time. It depends on the individual. Some want to be home more than others, so we try to accommodate them."
Bynum Transport keeps its drivers apprised of what is taking place within the company, a practice managers believe contributes to retention. Drivers can learn the latest information by reading the company newsletter, says Elaine Lingerfelt, employee recruiter. The newsletter includes articles about drivers who have earned good performance ratings so that their accomplishments are shared with drivers and other employees. Drivers can read about new equipment added to the fleet such as a recent report on new Kenworths that were purchased. And the publication is used to remind drivers about the $500 bonus for recruitment.
Drivers who demonstrate safe performance are rewarded with driver of the month and driver of the year certificates. They are judged by on-time deliveries, no preventable accidents, log preparation, and average speed on the road. Bynum believes that maintaining a safe and professional driver pool contributes to both retention and recruitment by attracting new drivers and giving those in house a feeling of job pride and satisfaction.
Driver pride and satisfaction, and subsequent retention, are directly related to the company's ability to provide dependable and outstanding customer service, Bynum says.
"We've had gradual development throughout the history of the company," he says. "Growth in juice transportation is based on the market, but we feel our expansion is a result of not only a thriving market, but our reputation for excellent customer service."
Drivers interact with juice and dairy processors in the United States and transport product to the borders of Canada and Mexico. Bynum Transport hauls foodgrade liquid commodities, including fruit juices, wines, dairy products, edible oils, corn syrups, and sugars.
Customer service has always had a high priority with managers since the company's founding in 1966 by Bynum's father and mother, Durward and Carolyn Bynum. Today, Durward is president of the company, and Carolyn is vice-president and corporate secretary.
In the beginning, the senior Bynums operated a one-truck business hauling fertilizer. By the mid-1970s, the fleet had grown to about six trailers for grain and phosphate. The phosphate was delivered to North Carolina and Georgia, and backhauls carried corn, soybean, and peanut meal.
When deregulation affected the dry bulk market, Bynum Transport diversified to foodgrade tank trailers and began hauling orange juice. Citrus products continue to be 75% of the company's business with about 98% originating in Florida.
As soon as Todd Bynum was old enough, he began driving for his father and taking part in the business. Now he is in charge of operations that include 210 tank trailers and 158 tractors.
Through the years, Bynum has garnered knowledge about the foodgrade business and the elements that drive it. "There are peaks and valleys," he says. "Weather influences the fruit harvests. Freezes produce a delayed effect for the fruit, and hurricanes can damage blooms. El Nino brought rain that damaged fruit tree roots, so this year there has been less production."
Although Florida fruit production may be off, Bynum Transport's activities in other areas of the United States makeup for any local shortage, calling for a year-round and stable driver force. Orders keep the 200-plus company drivers and 17 owner-operators busy.
Playing an important role in easing the job for drivers are the dispatchers. Bynum Transport operates one terminal where the dispatching office looks almost as busy as an airport's controller tower. Windows surround the room and allow dispatchers to see trucks passing through the gates and into the yard.
Four long-time employees handle the dispatch operation: Bob Martin, Ken Smith, Bill Moran, and Dan Andrade. Moran serves as operations manager, as well. Dispatchers coordinate activity for various geographic areas, including the East and West Coast, Texas, Canada, Mexico, and the Midwest. Another division is specified by shipments that are within Florida. Forty tank trailers are dedicated to the service that operates just in Florida for local processors. Orders come in via fax or telephone, and a few customers are linked by e-mail. Over-the-road drivers call in twice a day to learn pick-up schedules and destinations. Pagers are used by drivers assigned to Florida operations.
Clyde Storie, safety director, points out that managers work closely to retain drivers, but also emphasize safety. When drivers come in off the road, they are required to check in with the safety department. They cannot return to the road without a release from that department.
"In addition to driver training, we work closely with maintenance on safety issues," he adds. "Our new hires are required to have a road test with a mechanic as well as a driver trainer."
Training includes Department of Transportation requirements as well as emphasis on log preparation and defensive driving skills.
New drivers undergo a one-day equipment training session, including how to operate pumps, although they are not often used and only in unloading. Most processors have pumps on site. Almost all loading and unloading are handled by plant personnel. Department of Agriculture inspectors seal the valves and handle the paperwork involved.
"We usually replace tank trailers about every eight years, but good prices on stainless steel, lower interest rates, and the demands of our operation have sometimes contributed to our decisions," says Bynum.
The newest 120 tank trailers are from Brenner Tank Inc and have 6,500-gallon capacity. The fleet also includes Walker Stainless Equipment Co tank trailers. The sanitary tank trailers have six inches of insulation and in-transit heat. Hardware includes Thomsen foodgrade valves and Run-O-Vent vents.
The product handling system is mounted on the trailer. Bynum Transport uses hydraulically powered Ibex stainless steel pumps.
Trailers have Reyco spring suspensions with Meritor axles, Accuride steel wheels, and Consolidated Metco aluminum wheel hubs. Brake linings are supplied by Abex. The carrier specifies Goodyear tires.
Bynum Transport has recently acquired 124 new tractors. They will replace almost all of those in the fleet. "It's just a trade cycle that developed for us," says Bynum. "But it's also a part of our ability to provide service to our customers. Providing reliable, trouble-free tractor/trailer units is one of our top priorities."
The newest Kenworth tractors are equipped to track speed, shifting sequences, acceleration, and other driving characteristics. Typically, the tractors have 475-horsepower Caterpillar engines and Fuller 10-speed transmissions. Also part of the drivetrain are Eaton tandem-drive axles with a 3.55 ratio. Tractors are traded about every three years.
In addition to the importance of new and reliable equipment is the need for an attractive appearance. Bynum has recently ordered all tractors to be painted red with white lettering. The red lettering is also applied to the trailers.
The majority of vehicle service and repairs is accomplished at the home terminal where three bays are devoted to preventive and routine maintenance. Bynum chooses outside cleaning and maintenance facilities for service when vehicles are away from Auburndale. Trailer repair shops and cleaning facilities are usually found by checking in Modern Bulk Transporter's February tank repair and March tank cleaning directories, says Gary Brinkley, maintenance director.
Tractors are serviced every 30,000 miles, and minor warranty work is performed in the terminal shop. Major work goes out to a local Kenworth dealer.
The aggressive preventive maintenance program keeps the tank trailers in top shape. "We are fully certified for all original equipment warranty repairs," Brinkley says.
He points out that 25% of maintenance cost is tied up in tires. For that reason, he trains drivers to keep a sharp eye on tire pressure. The company is trying out an automatic tire pressure system on the trailers, but the jury is still out on its effectiveness, he said.
Bynum Transport boasts four certified mechanics of the six that are on the job. Brinkley serves as chairman of a truck and bus apprenticeship program at a local vocational school.
The company sponsors mechanics to attend the school. Tuition is paid by the Florida Department of Labor. Four years are required to complete the 4,000-hour journeyman certificate course for diesel mechanics.
"The certification looks awfully good for insurance and DOT purposes," he adds.
In addition to the shop facilities are two bays devoted to tank trailer cleaning. The wash rack is kosher certified and also carries certification from numerous major processors. The facility can clean four tanks an hour. About 30 tanks are cleaned every day in two, eight-hour shifts.
The Kelton interior tank cleaning system generates eight gallons of water per minute and includes a prerinse, two hot water washes (heated with a Kelton heat exchanger), a 15-minute rinse, and a sanitizer solution flush. Brinkley specifies ZEP Inc cleaning compounds. The tanks are air dried.
Wastewater from the process flows into a drop tank sediment system where sludge is collected for disposal by an approved contractor, and separated water is released into the sewer.
With its diverse capabilities at its maintenance facilities, Bynum Transport has an edge for keeping vehicles ready for the road. The priorities placed on maintenance, flexible equipment trade cycles, and attractive vehicles are all part of the company's plan for serving customers. As managers continue to put emphasis on driver recruitment and retention, the company will be able to meet growth expectations estimated by Bynum at 10% for 1999. With priorities firmly in place, the company is ready to meet market demands in the years to follow.