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By Nathan Wertz, Driver Relations Manager

Nussbaum’s GrowRED program (also known as “Nussbaum Academy”) is a personal and professional development opportunity for non-driving employees. One learning option is to job shadow a driver – i.e., ride along! On Tuesday, September 27, 2022, I was fortunate enough to ride along with Wayne Kreps, a regional driver.

What We Did

I met Wayne in the yard at 07:00 Tuesday morning. He already had his load assignment and pre-assignment; both were assigned to accommodate picking me up that morning and dropping me off that evening. We left Nussbaum with a split load, dropped it in Indiana, deadheaded to another customer to pick up a new trailer, and then headed for home. This last load was heading to Saint Louis Park, MN, but we dropped it here at Nussbaum at 17:30 as a split load.

It’s tough to give non-driving employees the full experience as they ride with drivers. We cannot go for multiple days or understand all the variables drivers deal with. The same is true for drivers shadowing operations on their path to becoming Certified RED; you only get a simple snapshot of the job.

I drove tractor-trailers in the U.S. Army, but I don’t have my CDL, I haven’t had to use logs/ELDs, and I haven’t had to back a 53-foot trailer. My army experience was so different from what commercial drivers deal with today, there’s really no comparison.

What I Saw

I observed a lot in just a few hours. Wayne proved that slow and steady wins the race. Driving 61 MPH with minimal stops leads to low-stress driving and arriving on time, whether it’s a planned time or an appointment – even with traffic. He also showed how technology is highly beneficial: information on the LiNK app streamlines communication and features like OnGuard & SmartDrive are there to protect the drivers. Cruise control helps achieve consistent scores; it’s also a great tool to create space when a 4-wheeler cuts you off.

As many drivers have expressed, completing a drop-and-hook is not a quick thing. I got to see first-hand how much time it takes:

· Waiting in line to check in with the security guards

· Navigating the lots

· Systematically completing the steps for unhooking from one trailer and hooking to the next

· Conducting a thorough pre-trip on the next trailer

· Sweeping out an empty trailer

We spent approximately 45 minutes at our first stop in Indiana and 20 minutes at the second; both are considered “simple” locations too.

What We Can Learn

I also learned that despite good intentions, some things we do in operations can frustrate drivers. One example is giving/updating planned arrival times – the goal is simply that each driver knows what time OPS plans for them to arrive. However, if the times are unrealistic or we change the time without talking to the driver, it creates confusion and frustration. Likewise, the Load Bot message is meant to provide a quick “heads-up” about changes because we can’t always call right away. However, drivers cannot always read these messages because they’re on the road. Pulling over to read messages can cause a 10–20-minute delay, depending on their location.

Additionally, waiting for a pre-assignment can feel like a lifetime. To OPS, “a few minutes” can be 2-3 hours with all the activity. But for drivers, 2-3 hours with no information is a long time. I knew about these frustrations before riding with Wayne but experiencing them gave me a different perspective.

We also discovered the old adage “you can’t please everyone” is true. Wayne expressed some frustrations and ideas for things to improve on, and we talked through whether it would benefit all the drivers or whether some might disagree. It was a helpful discussion! This experience gave me insight into areas we can improve to better help drivers on the road. I have already provided feedback to the Driver Managers and Operations Managers, and we will continue looking for ways to improve.

In the end, Wayne said the experience was beneficial for him too. I highly recommend more drivers and non-driving employees take advantage of this opportunity. Not with the mindset of “I’ll show them how hard my job is,” but rather, a curious attitude of “I hope to learn something from this person while we’re together.”