July 1, 2010
Building a good relationship between a transportation company and an aggregates operation is about good communication, happy drivers, and accessibility.
By Tina Grady Barbaccia, New/Digital Editor
Building and maintaining good communication between aggregates operations and the trucking transportation companies that deliver the material can be likened to longtime residents of southern states preparing for a hurricane. It’s all common sense and has been repeated many times, but it’s not always adhered to or practiced.
“I’m a longtime resident [of Florida], and every year people talk about hurricane preparedness,” says John Lyon, loadout manager for Titan America’s Pennsuco facility in Medley, Fla. “I’ve been here for lots of them. Of course I have a plan, an emergency plan within the plan, and emergency supplies. But as obvious as it seems to have these things, people need to be reminded about them. Sometimes the most obvious stuff is the stuff that slips by.”
And though it would seem unnecessary to continue repeating hurricane readiness directives, Lyon says, it’s important for continual reminders and communication. The same goes for building relationships between quarries and the transportation companies. Titan America has a trucking arm to its company — Silver Sand Transportation — and even though the quarry and the trucking company have the same parent company, relationships still need to be developed. Lyon says Silver Sand Trucking Co. is treated just like any other transportation provider — so that any issues are addressed and not pushed aside because it is a sister company.
Lyon says this is important because, if a driver has any influence on where material is picked up, happy drivers with good communication established may make a difference.
Some of the “obvious stuff” is taking time to personally talk to scale masters. “The guys who are running the scales have years and years of experience, and they know all the drivers and companies,” Lyon says. “It’s really good to get their feedback on who the good companies to work with are, who they have trouble with, and what the truck drivers complain about so the issues can be addressed. They [the scale masters] are on the ground level and always talking to the haulers so they know what’s going on. You need to know the people that your people have to deal with — especially the decision makers. My weigh masters will typically work with dispatchers, and when I get to know an owner, he is the guy a dispatcher will usually go to. You need to get to know them and make sure they understand that it’s our No.1 priority that the customer — whether internal or external — is happy.”
Lyon says he makes sure that weigh masters and dispatchers have his cell phone number so, if a problem arises, he can be contacted at any time. There have been situations where Lyon has had to be contacted in a pinch, and he says his accessibility has made all the difference.
He gives the examples of a truck breaking down, being late, or a last-minute order change. “We want to communicate prior to problems,” he says. “If a truck breaks down or is late — or we get a call from a customer who no longer needs the product and we have to divert the truck somewhere else — the situation needs to be handled immediately. If a guy breaks down on delivery, we don’t want the customer to call us an hour after the delivery was due saying, ‘Where is my truck?’ We want a call from the dispatcher so we can talk to the customer and ask if it’s OK if it’s late, or if we need to divert another truck to take care of it.”
If a solid relationship has been built through good communication, it makes a big difference in situations such as this, Lyon points out. “Everyone has my cell phone number so they can call me directly,” Lyon says. “If (the need) arises…we call the manager, investigate, and then correct the problem. Things will go wrong, but what you can do is have a Plan B. With a positive attitude, good communication, and not letting the obvious slip by, almost no problem is insurmountable,” Lyon says. And that builds good relationships. AM
Top Tips for Successful Transportation Relationships
John Lyon, loadout manager for Titan America’s Pennsuco facility in Medley, Fla., offers these quick tips to developing and maintaining a good relationship between an aggregates operation and a trucking/transportation company delivering an operation’s material.
• Make yourself accessible to customers and haulers.
• Listen to truck drivers’ complaints or concerns and address the reasonable issues. For example, Lyon says, complaining about the color of a building isn’t a reasonable request.
• Look for ways to get a truck in and out of the plant as efficiently and painlessly as possible. “You want it to be as seamless as possible,” Lyon says.
• Never ship off-spec material and never sacrifice quality for expediency. “I’d rather call a customer and tell him that his job is shutdown and that I’ve just cost him “X” amount in labor and equipment rental than ship something that could fail…and who knows what the consequences could be down the line,” Lyon says.
“If you take care of these four things, you’ve gone a long way toward ensuring a good operation,” he says.