Mark Seymour on what Kriska is doing to give its customers plenty of peace of mind.
CT&L: This is your sixth year winning this prestigious award. The marketplace you serve has undergone considerable change over this time frame. How are you keeping your need to be fiscally responsible in line with customer service requirements?
Seymour: The last five or six years we’ve been a far more disciplined company and really made a conscious decision to attract quality customers to our portfolio. When you are properly aligned with those kinds of customers it allows both sides to work together to become more efficient and effective and have a sustainable model. Over the past six years we’ve also become big believers in strategic planning because it allows us to be proactive on the challenges we face. We can set up an appropriate plan and not have to keep going back to the customer about issues such as fuel pricing month after month. Shippers want to be aligned with quality carriers where they see stability and investment and technology and training and the right people — all those things give peace of mind.
CT&L: Has this relationship with like-minded customers evolved to the point where customers are sharing their own strategic plans with you?
Seymour: We are involved with customer strategic planning in a way, because of heightened shipper concern over capacity. But I wish that was more the case. We continue to attempt to better understand the needs of our customers and get more into a predictive mode rather than a reactive one. The more we know about their expectations and needs, the more accountable they can hold us to meeting those expectations or needs. Whether it’s a month-end push or a quarter-end push, all of that information is very important in helping us plan. Our service to our customers can’t be evaluated just by delivery performance; it needs to be stretched far beyond that. With the pressure on cost, the more involved we become in their organizations, the more value we may be able to bring to reducing cost. Things in our business such as detention are costs we really feel we are in a strong position to help eliminate.
CT&L: In finding that balance between profitability and properly serving clients, safety is another aspect that can’t be ignored. Kriska has won fleet safety awards in the past. How do you make safety an integral part of your operation?
Seymour: It’s a key initiative within our strategic plan. It exists within our culture and guiding principles. Safety and best practices around safety have very positive residual effects. A safe organization attracts and retains quality people. It has a very positive influence on the condition of our equipment and the cost of maintaining it. We are part of the Marsh captive insurance program and we work hard to share best practices. By reducing and better managing risk, everyone is a winner. People who compromise safety because they think it’s too expensive are misleading themselves.
CT&L: In order to grow during this time of extreme driver shortages motor carriers have to take care of their human resource issues. How are you dealing with the driver shortage?
Seymour: Like safety, people is another key initiative within our strategic plan. We have made it a priority and we champion that priority with a very dynamic and intelligent leader in our director of human resources. It really is a work in progress but everyone who has a touch point with drivers and owner/operators is really expected to deal with them with respect and dignity. We are also sure to reward driver-friendly practices among our customers.
CT&L: Capacity has been an issue for most shippers using trucking services the last couple of years. How have you improved Kriska’s capacity?
Seymour: We grew our fleet by about 20% in 2005. There is no plan to add further capacity this year but we are looking to improve the utilization of the assets we have — for example by reducing unseated trucks and reducing lost time at the border or at docks. We’re also interested in finding ways to create revenue without putting more trucks on the road. We are looking to add value to what we bring to customers through different service offerings. We are increasing the size of our temperature control fleet this year.
CT&L: You’re heavily involved in transborder transportation. Is crossing the border getting any easier?
Seymour: As far as delays are concerned, it’s not getting any worse. The need to become border professionals is evident, however. ACE is not far away and those that understand and best manage it and can really call themselves true professionals will be those who bring true value to the customer. We intend to be experts on the border because we have to be.