“We have to be creative with our customers and our drivers as well.” Matthew “Bo” Bates, Vice President, The Evans Network
I‘m a big admirer of fleets that look for new and different incentives to improve safety, especially during these tight times in the trucking industry. For it‘s not easy for a fleet to go out and set up rewards for drivers that drive accident-free when fuel is up over $4 a gallon and freight volumes are sluggish.
The Evans Network of Companies, based out of Schuylkill Haven, PA, gets my vote this time around for a neat safety award: a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Since 2005, the Evans Network randomly selects a winner for its grand safety prize (the Harley) from a select pool of eligible drivers - those with perfect driving records in a calendar year, as in no accidents, failed roadside inspections, etc.
“Each month of the year, eligible drivers are selected at random for various prizes, such as computers, digital cameras, apparel, bags, coolers, among many other items,” said Kim Lorimer, director of safety for the Evans Network. “Drivers are eligible for our safety program by following all government rules and regulations, such as completing daily logs and inspections, and maintaining a record of no accidents or incidents.”
Evans‘ grand prize winner for 2007 is Luis Alfonso, who believes being a safe driver should be “second nature” in this business. “Safety on the road for the protection of life and quality delivery of cargo is my most important responsibility when I get into my truck each day,” he said. “This is the primary thought of every dedicated driver and the golden rule at Evans. To be honored for something that is second nature is extremely exciting. Now, I have to make time to enjoy my new motorcycle.”
(Luis Alfonso plans to take his new Harley Davidson out for many a ride.)
Alfonso has driven for Evans out of its Jersey City terminal for since December 2006. A 10-year truck driving veteran, he came to the U.S. from Cuba and resides in Kearny, NJ, with his wife, Grisel, and his two children, Claudia and Albert.
“Luis‘s driving record demonstrates an outstanding commitment to safety and I‘m proud our drivers value every phase of safety, just as Luis does,” noted Matthew “Bo” Bates, vice president of the Evans Network. “Our safety incentive program was implemented in 2005 to reward drivers who always operate safely and to ensure our trusted and dependable service that our customers expect.”
(That's Matthew "Bo" Bates on the right, giving Luis Alfonso the keys to a new Harley.)
I got the chance to talk with “Bo” Bates not too long ago about the state of the trucking business and from his perspective the market dynamics right now are not pretty. “The freight environment is certainly spotty and soft and that‘s lasted longer than I thought,” he said. “We think pricing is going to be flat at least for the foreseeable future.”
There are a ton of other issues, too: traffic congestion, anti-idling and truck pollution restrictions, tougher security requirements, etc. All of that adds more cost to trucking operations - cost that‘s hard to make up when rates are flat.
The Evans Network is a collection of six trucking companies - West Motor Freight, All Points Transport Corp., Hale Intermodal Trucking, Century Express, Evans Delivery Company and DM Transportation Management Services - that operates a combined fleet of over 1,350 tractors and 80 service centers nationwide. Those six different companies provide a wide range of services, too, everything from transporting intermodal containers and trailer drayage, truckload and flatbed services. All told, the Evans Network generated $150 million in revenues last year.
And that money wasn‘t easy to come by, as there‘s a lot of competition in all of those markets right now, especially for intermodal containers. “We‘re competing against local drayage operators and big intermodal fleets like J.B. Hunt and Schneider National,” Bates told me. “How we compete is that we offer services across a very wide spectrum, with significantly more capacity at ports than most, and we sell our IT system, which gives the customer unified data in real time.”
It also helps that the Evans Network has consolidate all the “back office” functions of the six carriers under its umbrella - billing systems, safety compliance record keeping, accounting, etc. - to make it more nimble while substantially reducing overhead. “That makes us a lot more efficient and helps us share freight more easily among our divisions,” Bates noted.
But at the end of the day, it‘s the drivers - and the rest of Evans‘ combined staff - that makes the real difference. “We really try to keep a personal connection with drivers - to make sure we can be available if they have an issue,” he said. “And I rely on a great team to get it all done. My time here at Evans is really all about developing people - finding the right players for our team.”