Andy's Road Initiation
Andy Harrell is 22 years old and fresh out of Central Michigan University with a degree in logistics.
He is also now a grizzled expediting veteran.
Express-1 of Buchanan, MI recently instituted a dispatcher ride-along program for its personnel.
Jeff Curry, Chief Operating Officer of Express-1 says, " We had talked about beginning this program and saw the possible benefits this might have. Andy was our newest intern and when we suggested the ride-along to him, he was very enthusiastic about the chance to travel."
Andy tells us, "Michael Ruelle, the Human Resources Director, came up to me and asked if I any had any plans the next week or so. When I told her no, she said, "We've got an adventure for you. You'll be on the road for maybe a week."
"I had never been out of my part of the Midwest, so the opportunity to see some new places was appealing to me. Actually, the five days I was in the truck was not really what I had expected."
Providing the wheels and the road experience for Andy's ride-along was Scott Hancock, Express-1 Driver of the Year for 2001. Scott has been with the company for 13 months and he runs a single operation in his 2001 Freightliner Century Class with a condo sleeper and a 22' box
Scott says, "Actually, I think it was very eye opening for Andy. Most people don't have an idea of what over-the-road driving is all about, so I tried to show him expediting the best way I could."
Andy tells us, "I was the first person in the company to go through this program, and I discovered that it's a totally different lifestyle." Andy says that he came away from the ride-along with a new respect for the owner operators and drivers in this business.
"It's a tough life," Andy continues, "and I don't know if I'm capable of doing that job. I'm more of a 9 to 5 kind of guy. And, it taught me to appreciate my own shower and bed!"
"I'm fairly active and pretty sports-oriented, and being in that confined space was pretty uncomfortable - day in and day out. One of the first things I noticed was that my sleeping patterns were really off; out there on the road you get maybe 3 hours of sleep here, 4 hours there."
Scott tells us that the two had a pretty active week:
"I had already picked up my load on Saturday for a Monday delivery in Oakville, ON. I stopped by Buchanan, MI on Sunday and met up with Andy. After we delivered on Monday, we headed back to London, ON which I've found to be a good layover location."
"We picked up a load that evening destined for Kansas City, MO. After delivery on Tuesday night, we headed to Kingdom City, MO. We laid over there until mid-afternoon when I told Andy that was enough sitting and we started heading back east."
"As soon as we crossed the Illinois line, dispatch had one for us out of Flora, IL; a load going back to Oakville. Thursday night found us back in London, ON. Andy was pretty worn out by that time and he had that "time-for-home" look in his eyes."
"We deadheaded out early Friday morning for Buchanan. It took us two hours to get through customs which included a full truck search. Luckily for me, Express-1 found us a load picking up in Coloma, MI that was heading for Warsaw, IN. We had just enough time to stop by the office and drop off Andy, then I took it on to Warsaw."
"There were no personality problems with Andy as a ride-along, and I couldn't have asked for a better riding partner. To tell the truth, I think the week wore him out; this line of work isn't for everyone, especially just jumping into the cab for the first time."
Scott adds, "Truck stop showers and the truck stop diet didn't appeal to him."
Andy says, "I had wheat thins, pretzels, and ate at Subway restaurants whenever I could find them. When Scott was driving, I was doing a lot of sleeping and reading, but still, I was getting cabin fever after a couple of days."
"Scott was great to drive with! We're both non-smokers, so that eliminated a potential conflict. We got along very well and he helped me to understand some of the business decisions that owner operators face every day."
Andy says that the major factor in his discomfort were his allergies: "It was tough dealing with the weather changes, along with the pollens and allergens. My sinuses were acting up and this added to the misery quotient."
He continues: "Overall though, this has been a positive experience despite my discomfort because it helps me to understand our contractors better. Now, I'm likely to be more sympathetic to them when they tell me that they have been delayed because of traffic, oversleeping, illness, etc. I'm more sensitive to the driver's conditions."
"My job in operations coordination (dispatching) has been a good experience in relation to my degree and there are things I learned out there on the road that week that will help me in my job."
Scott tells us that he has learned some things from the company perspective, so the ride-along program is mutually beneficial: "I think it's great, letting him see what it's like on the other side of the phone."
"If a driver gets cranky with him in the future, Andy will be more understanding of what the driver has to go through than a dispatcher with no road experience."
"I showed him that it's necessary to squeeze every penny I can to make a profit. I tried to show him the business side, which he comprehended easily. I think Andy will also understand a driver's strategy more readily when a driver wants to relocate to a busier area."