NCI Works to Deliver the Best Service in the Safest Manner #2
By Charles E Wilson
Even though the truck driver supply has tightened, National Carriers still finds enough qualified candidates to meet its needs. In addition, the refrigerated fleet has begun hiring student drivers with little or no truck driving experience.
Factors that attract experienced drivers, along with newcomers, include steady freight on regional or over-the-road routes and a recent 14.1% pay increase will keep drivers moving and making a good living. In addition, drivers can earn more through fuel conservation and driver referral bonuses. National Carriers also has a relatively liberal policy for riders and pets.
The carrier takes pride in its driver team, and outstanding performance is rewarded. Recognition programs include Driver of the Month and Driver of the Year. Qualifications for these honors include always being safe and always being on time for a pick up or delivery.
National Carriers also has a Million Mile Club. Ed Kentner, National Carriers director of social media, says it takes at least seven straight years of accident- and incident-free driving to reach that first million-mile mark.
The various programs are critical to driver retention. Fleet specifications are just as important.
When it comes to selecting the best truck for the National Carriers fleet, Franck quickly says: “Reliability and cost of ownership are key factors. The key is to find a truck that gives you uptime and a truck that drivers like to drive. And, that truck has to have a low cost of ownership, otherwise it won’t make you money.”
Franck says National Carriers found the right balance with the Kenworth T680 with 76-inch sleeper, which has become the “standard” for the reefer division’s fleet. “The T680’s aerodynamics, reliability–and that of the PACCAR MX-13 engine–coupled with driver acceptance, is what sold us,” he says. “From a dollars and cents standpoint, we’re seeing a one mile per gallon improvement in fuel economy over the performance of our previous standard truck. Our fleet also is now equipped with APUs and idle time has been reduced to less than 10%. That reduction represents about half of our savings–so all told we have a fleet average of 7.5 mpg, with our best drivers getting around 8.”
For auxiliary power units, the refrigerated carrier has standardized on the Thermo King TriPac Evolution. Other special equipment includes Blue Tree Systems technology that is used on both tractors and trailers in the National Carriers fleet.
“We use the Blue Tree technology for electronic driver logs and to monitor truck systems,” says Darrel Crabtree, National Carriers assistant maintenance director. “On the refrigerated trailers, we monitor trailer temperature, refrigeration unit setpoint, and fuel supply. The system is doing a great job for us.”
National Carriers began transitioning into the Kenworth T680 two years ago, purchasing the driver-friendly, aerodynamic trucks through MHC Kenworth-Dallas. The company’s latest Kenworth T680s are specified with the 455-hp PACCAR MX-13 engine and driven through the Eaton Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated transmission.
According to Franck, the T680s feature rotating tables so they can be used as desk top, or dining table. The trucks also feature a drawer style refrigerator/freezer, TV installation package, and inverter for converting DC power to AC power for use with microwaves and other appliances.
One of the first drivers to operate the Kenworth T680 was Goldie Seymour, who has driven trucks for more than 40 years. Seymour was National Carriers’ 2014 Driver of the Year.