Listen to CEO Rick Roehl on RedEye Radio with Eric Harley at the ATA Conference in Nashville, TN on October 26, 2021. Rick talks about the challenges drivers faced during the pandemic and current supply chain issues and how Roehl Transport supports our driving teammates - including increases in driver compensation, working with customers and our recent 4th ATA President's Award for safety results.




Transcript of the interview:

Eric Harley - I'm Eric Harley, we're at the ATA Conference in Nashville. Joining us right now is the CEO of Roehl Transport, Rick Roehl. Rick, how are you sir?

Rick Roehl - Very good, and nice to meet you here at the ATA in Nashville. And it's great to be here.

Eric Harley - You know, this has been a very lively show. But it's a very busy time for the industry, so I think the two probably go hand in hand. A lot of issues being discussed, I think, here at the ATA show, probably year round. We have been talking about two major issues with drivers, I guess a concern of drivers, one would be home time and one would be pay. I mean, it's kind of always all right, the balance, more home time but I also want to be able to make enough money, that kind of thing. So let's start with the first one, home time, in terms of down time and time off. During the pandemic, the dynamic changed with drivers. What did you folks see there at Roehl? And how did you address that in terms of home time?

Rick Roehl - Well, during the pandemic, yeah, the job really went through some transitions where you know, drivers weren't able to use a lot of facilities that typically had been available. Shippers and consignees were more restrictive on the openings of their facilities. And so you know, it was a big change and you know, we made it through well. Our drivers adapted, and we did a lot of things that we could help educate and keep our drivers safe from being infected with the virus.

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - And so you know, now we're leaving that phase of the pandemic, but we're still having trouble getting everything back to normal. We realized that even restaurants or facilities that drivers would use to shower-

Eric Harley - Yeah.

Rick Roehl - Those may not be available all hours of the day. That drivers count on them.

Eric Harley - Right, right.

Rick Roehl - And so they still are going through adjustment that is creating differences in how they would operate their schedule, or how they can operate their schedule.

Eric Harley - Right, is there that greater demand for that home time right now? Did that change at all during the pandemic?

Rick Roehl - I believe it did because a couple things, you know, more the population spent more time at home with a lot of work from home accommodations for the job that they do. And then also, they weren't able to travel anywhere and so being home was probably the place that they could spend more time, even though they may not have had more off time.

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - Home time became just the bigger piece of the total time.

Eric Harley - Sure. Attracting and retaining drivers, always a challenge as you folks know at Roehl. In terms of driver pay, what has Roehl done to make that more attractive for the drivers?

Rick Roehl - Well we've gone through quite a few, I guess it's at least four, maybe more changes in pay for our drivers. You know, many of, the majority of them were traditional changes in per mile pay which you know, the per mile pay doesn't, you know, it's not a perfect method of pay.

Eric Harley - Right, right.

Rick Roehl - And you know, but it is the pay that drivers all recognize, it's kinda-

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - The universal language.

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - You know, we have gone through some changes, we've got some fleets that operate for specific customers where we do visit shippers and consignees and we have gone to paying for time after one hour that they visit there. And so you know, these deliveries are, some of them are at grocery DC's but many are other types of DC's and so if they spend more than an hour at a customer, we pay them by the hour then as well. And this is automatic, it's not where they have to you know, create a claim.

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - Or fill out additional forms or anything like that.

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - So you know, it's non-traditional but it gets back to what we want to do, is be able to pay our drivers for their time.

Eric Harley - Right, yup. The supply chain issue is the talk of this show, the talk of the nation, I think right now. In terms of the feedback that you're getting from the drivers, and I'll call them the boots on the ground, the ones out there moving the freight, is this kind of the same game that they have always played? Is there something different right now? Any kind of unique concerns that you folks at Roehl are hearing from your drivers in terms of those supply chain issues?

Rick Roehl - I would say from our drivers, what we hear is you know, I want to be paid for all the time it takes me to do my job. As far as supply chain issues, they feel it because we don't have the parts always that we need to-

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - Swap out-

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - And to keep the drivers moving down the road.

Eric Harley - Right, yeah.

Rick Roehl - Even simple, well not, I mean, things that you would typically count on without any thought, that it would always be there, motor oil.

Eric Harley - Right? Right.

Rick Roehl - It is not available like it was once, and so we have to really make all of that count.

Eric Harley - You know, it's interesting. You say that, I ran into something that I had not known it, because I hadn't gone out for it. I went into an auto supply store on the automotive side of course, not as a truck driver. But I went in and I went to six different retailers, big name retailers that sell auto parts looking for windshield wiper fluid, of all things. And the first three stores that I went into, and these are big name brands, I asked them, I said, "What's going on?" And they said they have not had a shipment in six to eight weeks. And so it was something, as you mentioned with motor oil, the supply chain you know, on things that you expect to be there and maybe wouldn't expect to be effected, it will hit. Going forward, for the rest of Q4 and 2022, what is, I guess what is the mission for Roehl? For its drivers in terms of their role in moving America's freight?

Rick Roehl - Well it's vital. Their role is vital. But for our mission you know, one of the things that we're spending a lot of time on fourth quarter, and even third quarter we spent a fair amount of time on is educating our shippers about how they can create more capacity. You know, most of our shippers are all looking for more capacity.

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - And they have a hand in restricting some of the capacity, and some of it is what I mentioned before. If it takes more than an hour to make the transaction of putting the load on the trailer.

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - Or taking it off.

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - You know, we tell them, there is nothing on that trailer that would take more than an hour to get on or off if you work at it.

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - But many times, you know, their workers are distracted doing other things, and I realize just like we're struggling to fill all the positions that we have.

Eric Harley - Yeah.

Rick Roehl - They are as well. All I'm asking is that you, if you use more than an hour, some we've got with two, but, that you compensate us for it. Don't make you know, the bad situation that you're in-

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - Be an expense for us.

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - Or our drivers.

Eric Harley - Which incentivizes them to be more efficient.

Rick Roehl - Hopefully, yeah. I mean, you know, the time but then also the other thing is that we talk with them about our appointment times. And we have data in our system that you would think that, here's my appointment for you to unload my truck, you would think that if your truck is there for that operation, and I've got my guy to do that, it would take less time than a first come, first serve. But actually, our data shows that if delivery location requires an appointment, it takes a longer time by about 20-30 minutes. And so why would that be?

Eric Harley - Right.

Rick Roehl - I don't understand that.

Eric Harley - Yeah, right. And you know, we've, as an industry, we've had an issue with shippers and receivers in this regard for quite some time. I think we've made some progress, maybe you could correct me on that, over the years. But certainly, the pandemic brought in a whole new dynamic to that, wouldn't you say?

Rick Roehl - Yeah, it created a ripple that no one expected, and we had to recover from. And nobody planned for the situation that developed with our workforce. You know, sometimes just the way the transmission of that disease, you know, some facilities really had 50% of their workers who became infected, and so it really almost had-

Eric Harley - Becomes very serious, sure.

Rick Roehl - They really had to shut down for some period.

Eric Harley - Right, is inflation hitting the trucking side as it's hitting the consumer? Obviously we're all consumers, but what would you say is the impact on inflation for trucking as a whole? From your perspective at Roehl.

Rick Roehl - Really, everything we purchase is costing us more money right now. And so it is hitting us from every direction, and so it's something we have to deal with. And our shippers have mostly been sympathetic because they understand it, they're feeling it as well. So I hope it's a short-lived scenario.

Eric Harley - Right, yeah.

Rick Roehl - But I do not know that. 

Eric Harley - Right, yeah. It's kinda hard to know. The Treasurer Secretary Janet Yellen was saying she's hopeful that maybe midyear next year or by the end of next year that maybe some of this will taper off, but that goal post seems to be moving and seems to be fluid. So I guess if we could all make such predictions, we'd be sitting on a mountain of money.

Rick Roehl - Absolutely, yeah.

Eric Harley - But you know, so it's hard to know. But certainly, I know that you folks at Roehl are up to it, your drivers are up to it, and we want to send drivers, by the way, if you want to check it out, go to roehl.jobs, roehl.jobs. That's R-O-E-H-L.jobs and check out all the opportunities. What would you say to a driver who is out there today and is not with Roehl? What sets Roehl apart?

Rick Roehl - Well, it's our values. Our cornerstone value is safety. We always want to make sure that drivers have the tools they need to do the job properly. And by the tools, I mean the proper equipment, the proper training, the proper resources to answer questions you might have. We want everybody to arrive at the end of the day, home safely.

Eric Harley - Yeah.

Rick Roehl - The way that they started their day, and so that includes the motoring public as well. You know, our drivers are taught to protect others. You know, they're in a much larger vehicle and other drivers sometimes make mistakes, but make sure that you compensate for those mistakes.

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - Our drivers are professional drivers, and so we expect them to be more forgiving and expect others may create some situations that aren't ideal. And you know, as an example of our results, we were recognized with the ATA Presidents Award for safety performance in 2020. So that's a huge testament to our drivers and actually, our entire staff-

Eric Harley - Sure.

Rick Roehl - At Roehl.

Eric Harley - Yeah.

Rick Roehl - That everybody understands the value of safety and the cornerstone value of safety, and everybody has to live the value.

Eric Harley - Yeah, sure. Congratulations on that recognition, and continued success there at Roehl. Rick Roehl, the CEO of Roehl Transport. Thank you for being on today, we appreciate your time.

Rick Roehl - Thank you Eric.

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