The trucking business can be a very competitive world, not only for loads to haul but also for experienced, safe drivers to haul them.
Decker Truck Line Inc., headquartered in Fort Dodge, is doing everything it can to hire and retain drivers and give them a safe, comfortable place to work.
Brad Baaed, chief operating officer, stressed the importance of the approximately 800 drivers working on the road.
“Drivers are key here,” he said. “We have a lot of long term drivers. It takes one big team to move the freight.”
Keeping drivers happy, comfortable and safe when they’re out on the road is critical. The company has recently added a number of extras to the trucks to help their home away from home be more of a home.
One of those initiatives is furry and barks.
“We’re allowing dogs in our trucks,” he said.
That actually required an investment. The company created and provides dog friendly areas at each of its facilities.
Michael Erritt, vice president of operations, said a number of drivers have taken advantage of the new policy and now ride with Rover.
“147 of our drivers have the official papers for a dog,” Erritt said.
Drivers also have a new entertainment option for their time on rest breaks.
“We have EpicVue now,” Baaed said. “It’s direct TV that goes into their trucks.”
There’s more. The trucks are being, or have already been, equipped with microwaves, APU units, double bunks, refrigerator and TV. In addition, a host of new features on the trucks themselves will make them safer and the work better for drivers.
The company is taking driver comfort seriously.
“We try to make the truck as close to home as possible,” Baaed said.
Business is also on the increase.
One of the most recent new customers for the company is the Prestage Foods of Iowa plant near Eagle Grove.
“We’ve got a great working relationship with them,” Erritt said. “It’s a growing company and we’re growing with them.”
The summer months are good for the trucking industry in general, he said. Produce, ice cream and construction products move in much greater quantities then.
“It’s a good time of the year for the trucking industry,” Baaed said.
One of the company’s big innovations on the safety side is the use of the SmartDrive system in all of its trucks.
Rick George, vice president of safety, said the event recording system is a great safety tool.
“It integrates with the active systems in the truck,” George said.
He showed a sample of the video the device records. It takes four pictures of the road ahead and the driver in their seat each second. It also records data such as speed, forward facing radar collision avoidance activation, and other critical data.
In the sample video, a truck approaches a vehicle that’s stopped to make a turn. It slows to a safe stop and there is no collision.
It was all automatic, done by the onboard systems.
“The truck did that,” George said. “It’s lifesaving tech. It is truly amazing technology.”
The recordings are used for other purposes. They’ve been used for drivers to defend themselves against citations and in accidents.
“It’s much more reliable than an eye witness,” George said.
The company is also able to use the recordings to help train drivers to be safer on the road.
“It’s helping our professionals become better,” George said. “It’s very much like reviewing a game tape. It’s a great safety teaching tool.”
Decker’s fleet of trucks have a number of safety technologies on board each one, George said. They include collision avoidance, active cruise control, roll stability, speed gauges, lane departure systems and anti-lock brakes.
The most important safety system is the human behind the wheel, though, and George is proud of them.
“We have the best drivers in the world,” he said.
The company recognizes that, too. They have an active driver of the month and driver of the year program for each division and once a year a driver is chosen as the grand champion driver of the year.
Matt Lynch, director of maintenance operations, is proud of the fleet of new trucks the company provides for their drivers.
One of the changes veteran drivers are seeing is more of the trucks being equipped with automatic transmissions.
“Even the veterans are embracing it,” Lynch said. “They feel less fatigue. Less fatigue equals more concentration.”
They have a few more speeds than most cars. The newest are 12 speed.
“They behave a lot like a car,” he said. “They really do perform very well.”