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Tip of the Hat

By on September 2, 2011
RoadKing Mag

Many truckers may think no one really appreciates the challenges they face picking up and delivering products that drive the American economy. Do shippers and receivers really understand the sacrifices each trucker makes? To find out, we contacted two very different shippers: Kohler Co. and A.A.C. Forearm Forklift, Inc. and asked questions about the importance of truckers in their operations.

How important are truck drivers to your company and your operation?

Chris Miller, Kohler fleet dispatcher in Kohler, Wis.: “They are our lifeblood. If a truck doesn’t move, then we don’t get products from A to B.”

Mike Garland, Kohler supervisor-traffic in Spartanburg, S.C.: “They are the most important part of our operation. We can make and warehouse product, but we don’t make a dime until it’s in the trailer and getting to our customers.”

Mitzi Cole, Kohler shipment planner in Union City, Tenn.: “Truckers are the backbone of our business. From making deliveries to our plants from vendors to making deliveries to our end customers, they keep Kohler in business, producing and delivering a wonderful array of products. Without truckers, we would grind to a virtual standstill.”

Mark Lopreiato, president of A.A.C. Forearm Forklift in Azusa, Calif.: “Truckers are so important to Forearm Forklift Moving Straps that we couldn’t have achieved what we have without them. Shipping and receiving is one of the most important parts of my business. I reinvented the way we move things because dollies and hand trucks are great, but they couldn’t do everything. However, there’s no need to reinvent trucking because the way it’s done in North America is perfectly fine!

Truckers are one of the biggest reasons the American workforce is regarded as the best in the world. To all of the drivers out there, I am glad to say ‘Thanks for all the ways you’ve ever helped me. And keep on truckin’!’”

What do truckers do that earns your appreciation?

Miller – Kohler: “The biggest thing truckers can do to make our work run smoothly is communicate. For example, they often call the dispatchers to tell them they’ve arrived. Then they don’t just back in; they wait in turn.”

Cole – Kohler: “As far as shipping, we like when drivers adhere to shipping hours and pick up times and have correct load pick-up information. To make receiving go smoother, drivers should have the correct paperwork, the trailer loaded for easier and faster unloading, and keep their delivery appointment on time.”

Garland – Kohler: “We appreciate drivers who are on time and have good attitudes. Most professional drivers we deal with handle themselves in this way. If there’s a line, many will say, ‘Hey, I’ll be in my sleeper. Just wake me when you’re ready.’ Your attitude means a lot.”

Lopreiato – Forearm Forklift: “We have three driveways leading to two separate buildings. Drivers delivering or picking up at our place aren’t exactly sure where we want them to park. We make it our immediate job to direct them to which driveway and dock number to load or unload as quickly as possible because we know we’re not their only stop that day. Part of the reason we’re still in business and busy today is because we’re organized and efficient, which in turn helps earn more orders and, ultimately, requires more trucking. So we look at it as full-circle, because when we’re doing business together, truckers are a super important asset to us and we to them — we keep each other working.”

What are some examples of times when a trucker went out of his/her way to help make things run smoother?

Miller – Kohler: “Our driver, Dale Strouf, runs freight to and from our plants in Mosel and Saukville, Wis. When we started doing this, it was a matter of ‘We have this much freight to move and we need you to do it.’ There was no set schedule. Dale got on that route and made it efficient. He calculated how much time it took to get from Stop A to Stop B and set up a schedule based on that. He turned what started as a 16-hour day mess into a 10-hour day that is a well-functioning machine. He made it easier for us. It was nice to see a driver take responsibility and find a plan of attack to make it work.”

Cole – Kohler: “Back in the winter, we had a few days of snow and ice. Our spotter truck got stuck one morning, and one of the local drivers took the time to help him get ‘un-stuck’ and also helped fix the tire chains.”

Garland – Kohler: “Our pottery’s kiln broke down during terrible winter storms all up the East Coast. But we had to get this kiln back up and running.
“We happened to have one of the Kohler transport drivers out on the road. I said to him, ‘I know that you’re fighting two feet of snow, but I need you to get to Pennsylvania and bring these fire bricks back.’ He actually went and made the pick-up in time for us to fix the kiln and get back on production schedule. How he did that still amazes me. Our plant manager was so impressed he drove through those bad conditions just for Kohler; no questions asked.”

Lopreiato – Forearm Forklift: “Truckers have gone out of their way many, many, many times for us, whether it’s coming before or after normal business hours, helping quickly fix a forklift, being polite, being patient or helping us load or unload their truck. Their smart and tireless work ethic has helped us tremendously.

“I remember truckers helping us open a bay door when it wouldn’t budge, putting things that we have lent them back exactly where they got them, keeping our bathrooms clean even though they know we’re not looking over their shoulders, etc. Some of the aforementioned may seem petty, but it all helps and I’m very appreciative. Truckers are proud of what they do and they should be, because they do it so well! They deserve every bit of praise out there!

Kohler Co.
Founded in 1873 and headquartered in Kohler, Wis., Kohler Co. is a global manufacturer of kitchen and bath products, engines and power generation systems, furniture and tile. The company also runs two resorts — one in Wisconsin and the other in Scotland — with world class golf courses.

A.A.C. Forearm Forklift, Inc.
Mark Lopreiato, president and founder, oversees a manufacturing and distribution center in Azusa, Calif., and works with truckers daily. In 1997, the former mover invented a tool that eliminates the risk of floor damage. The Moving Straps also promote proper lifting technique and body mechanics.

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