CANADIAN SHIPPER: What do you see as the top challenges and/or trends that will drive company strategy in 2016, whether on the human resources, economy, regulatory or other fronts?
JEFF PRIES: There is a collective excitement for 2016; however, it is a challenging and uncertain time in our industry. Volatile fuel prices, currency fluctuations, and changing economic and political environments create turmoil and uncertainty in the market. We also see the recent Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate in the U.S. shifting interest to carriers like Bison who are already using ELDs across 100% of their fleets. That said, we have seen challenging times before, and like dealing with deregulation in the 90’s and the recession of 2008/09, Bison will stretch itself and shine.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: Bison Transport has been widely recognized once again for your safety record and driver programs. Do you anticipate you will be able to continue having the success you’ve had on the driver retention front in the face of changing demographics and if so, why?
JEFF PRIES: Being a Professional Driver is a challenging career, and Bison strives to support our Drivers in their success. Investing in skills development, technology and continuing to evolve our operating patterns to support the shift in lifestyle needs are key focuses of Bison to ensure we remain a carrier of choice for Professional Drivers. In addition, our Entry Level Driving Program allows those new to the industry to join a carrier invested in their success and development. We recognize the importance in continuing to elevate our business, by meeting our changing needs and continually enhancing our various programs to support this progression.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: Bison launched the ‘What Drives You?’ campaign Jan. 1, which aims to promote the myriad reasons transportation industry professionals do what they do each and every day. How has the campaign been going so far and what are the next steps?
JEFF PRIES: This campaign was a great success. We had very high engagement and we learned some valuable lessons; namely:
i. While compensation is important, it was clear that drivers placed greater value on many other benefits.
ii. Trucking is a great career appealing to a diverse group.
iii. No two drivers had the same motivations, which enforces the notion that we can’t assume all truck drivers think the same thing. Some drivers care mainly about pay, while others care about respect or knowing that they are making a difference. As a carrier, we need to create tailored careers and benefits for varied driver groups.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: Has social media changed the way you do business and has the driver population been impacted?
JEFF PRIES: Social media is fully integrated with all of our marketing efforts and the driver population is our largest and most engaged audience, especially on Facebook and LinkedIn.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: Do you think that the carrier-shipper relationship/collaborative environment is improving, and if so, what are the major factors behind the improvement?
JEFF PRIES: The carrier-shipper relationship is ever evolving. Even though business conditions may be the same for two companies, our relationship with them may be quite different. Shippers need to secure capacity and face financial pressures, where carriers need to secure freight yet must be adequately compensated. Part of our mission statement promotes to ‘Enable Our Customers’. Part of this is helping a customer find efficiencies, with the understanding that we benefit the more we can help them benefit. We have many mutually beneficial partnerships.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: Can you discuss any new products, services, launches, etc. you hope to roll out in 2016?
JEFF PRIES: We have just opened our new Mississauga terminal due to demand and projected growth. Our short-haul lanes in the Northeast U.S. are growing rapidly and we also see expanding our dedicated fleet capabilities. Our intermodal service has seen rapid growth due to new options and strong partnerships with our rail providers.
CANADIAN SHIPPER: Any other milestone achievements within the company you would like to highlight?
JEFF PRIES: We were just named “North America’s Safest Fleet” by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) for the 10th year in a row. Winning awards is not the goal but this recognition does validate why we have built a ‘culture of safety’ at Bison. This culture benefits our customers, our professional Drivers, and the general motoring public. We are very pleased to see that our standards are influencing other fleets to adopt a similar mindset.
From a growth perspective, we have a talented team that will collaborate and find ways to gain efficiencies and strengthen our organization. Our leadership team will invest in our business and our people in 2016 and beyond, with the goal of increasing our overall revenue by 50% by 2020. From an efficiency perspective, we will continue to adapt our business philosophies and practices through initiatives such as the Four Disciplines of Execution (4DX) and by implementing Lean. We don’t just accept change, we pursue change.