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You Didn’t Come This Far To Only Come This Far

By Leah Shaver, President & CEO of The National Transportation Institute

I want to take a moment to reflect on 2020 and plant some seeds as you plan for 2021. First, my genuine, heartfelt thanks to all of you for what you are doing to keep our country moving through this difficult time.  During the coronavirus pandemic, as professional truck drivers continue to deliver necessities across North America, I am cheering for you, I worry about you, I hope the best for you and today, I am so happy to connect with you!

I own and operate the National Transportation Institute (NTI), where we serve information and support to folks who employ or contract with professional drivers or work with companies that do.  We aim to deliver opportunities for fleets to grow, to attract additional workers, and then expand in their marketplace with that appropriately compensated, engaged, and retained workforce.  We also help service organizations expand into the trucking industry.  I serve as an officer on the board of directors of The Women In Trucking Association, and I work part time as a talk-radio host on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Trucking Radio.

Consider their motto – With ES You Never Stand Alone.  As a small business owner myself, I know the cost of your time.  There are countless hurdles that you must navigate, obstacles to overcome, expenses that must be covered, fires to put out.  So many of you have told me how much easier it is to operate with ES behind you.  ES does not stop at financing the truck – their community provides support and leverage – they provide carrier advocacy, so business owners can focus on generating revenue, and not on day-to-day issues, and they also leverage their experience and contacts to negotiate and make available a variety of other resources and services to their business community.

ES does what they say they’ll do – At NTI, we tell our customers that numbers tell a story.  ES has some of the lowest turnover of any company we survey.  Career path is vital, and it’s something that is missing from many professional drivers’ careers.  In a traditional workplace, progression from one stage of work to another ultimately peaking in our career is expected.  Becoming an Owner-Operator has satisfied that need for drivers historically, and to do so with support at ES, ensures an owner’s extra safety net for success. As you examine your current support system, think about doing the same thing you’re doing now, without that safety net.

Drown out the noise of what is around you – The shortage of qualified workers is real to any company in the business of moving goods right now. What does that mean to you?  It means that most companies looking to add capacity are putting their best foot forward in ads, the pitch, the sale, all the while hoping to convert you from interested to sitting in their seat.  Most companies eliminated growth plans and overhead from March through May, but by August, I was quite impressed at the number of trailer orders vs truck orders.  As companies seek to respond to the demand for capacity, many are targeting Owner-Operators and promoting Lease Purchase.  Not every shiny temptation merits investigation.

You didn’t come this far to only come this far – Consider your time and investment and ask yourself:  How much have you invested in your equipment?  How far have you come on your journey?  Why did you start in the first place? You have made a commitment that betters your future so if you walk away, what are you leaving behind?

Decisions have consequences, good or bad – Quick decisions lead to quick deficit – In 20 years of working in this industry, I often find that folks that make quick decisions about their next career stop don’t consider the cost of the move.   We’ve been tracking pay outcomes for professional drivers for 25 years.  Drivers that switch jobs make 26.2% less in their first year at a motor carrier than full-year drivers at the same company.

Focus on the road ahead – After a rocky start, 2020 has shaped up to prove how vital your role is in North America.  It’s the year to thank a trucker and I don’t see that stopping anytime soon.  The outlook for 2021 and beyond is stellar so do not drop your momentum. Do a self-assessment as you wrap up this year to determine what you can do to improve margins and meet with your service coordinator to communicate your needs, worries, goals and achievements.  Meet with your CPA to evaluate plans before you wrap up the year and visualize how you and your business are positioned at the end of next year, and the year after that.

Look inside your circle as you evaluate and reach out to see what growth opportunities exist for you.

Want to stay connected on air and off?

Get in on the conversation next week as I’ll be hosting Road Dog Live 12/21-12/23 1600-1900 ET.  My holiday plans are cancelled due to COVID so join in and share some holiday cheer!  Don’t have SiriusXM?  SiriusXM wants you to know just how grateful we are for your ESSENTIAL service with free access just for professional drivers! Feel free to share with your friends!  #thankatrucker #spreadsunshine #bettertogether

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