When you start talking about the safety concerns in road transport, Jory Dunshea, Operations Manager of Custom Freight at Yatala conveys a message that would be welcomed by the loved ones of interstate truckies across the country.
“If there’s one thing I’m really concerned about, above all else, it’s the safety of our drivers and the need to help them manage their fatigue to ensure each and every one gets home safely,” he says with sincerity. “I really do believe that what we do here is in the best interests of our drivers and the company, and that a good outcome is achievable on both counts if everyone pulls their weight and takes responsibility for their own actions.
“I say to the drivers, ‘If you’re tired just go to bed.’ there’s no rush and we can always work things out as long as we know what’s going on.”
Having said that, Jory explains that one of the biggest headaches for an Operations Manager is a lack of communication from drivers when an issue arises.
“Maintaining communication with the drivers is one of the biggest hurdles,” he says. “I think some drivers feel ashamed or inadequate if they are too tired to keep driving and that could be the reason why they don’t feel they want to call to let someone know. But like I said before, we don’t want them to drive tired. All we expect is that they let us know if they need an unscheduled break so we can organise a contingency plan to minimise the impact on operations.”
Jory goes on to explain that another significant challenge with his role is due to the diversity in personalities and even socioeconomic backgrounds within a group of employees.
“You have a range of people from different levels of life, some from opposite ends of the spectrum,” says Jory. “We’re dealing with guys who haven’t seen money for months and others who are quite well off and all of the variations in between.
“When I consider someone for employment I try to put myself in their shoes and treat them the way I like to be treated if I was looking for a job. I don’t want to work for a big company, I like being a part of a close-knit team and this means doing your fair share and sometimes going the extra mile to help out. The key to success in any company is when everyone in the team shares this mindset.”
As we delve further into the various issues that impact the running of a trucking firm, Jory displays an undeniable depth of insight into the interaction between a company’s two most important factors, its people and its customers.
“The way I see it running a trucking company is like a pyramid with the customers and drivers at the top because they are the ones interacting with each other all the time,” says Jory. “So if you’re getting positive reinforcement from the customer and they are happy to sit down and talk about any issues and work with you to fix them, you know that your drivers are also doing their bit to make things go smoothly. It’s all about keeping things in balance so the interactions between customers and drivers remain positive.”
Yet Jory concedes he’s had to pull in the reins on his drivers after perhaps being a bit lenient with them earlier in the piece.
“We had to take a harder stance because we got burnt with some of the drivers not doing the right thing,” admits Jory. “For instance, we used to let drivers take their trucks home and put a lot of trust in them to let us know when their truck needed a service or repairs, but we found that some would only co-operate when it suited them.
“So now all the trucks stay in the yard and we keep a close eye on maintenance schedules to ensure everything is kept up to the mark.”
As talk inevitably turned to the serious issue of truck accidents, Jory was keen to relay his experience and what he sees as the best way to minimise the likelihood of this happening.
“This is why I keep stressing to our drivers that I don’t want them to keep driving if they are too tired – it’s just not worth the risk,” says Jory. “I made it our goal to eliminate, from an operations management perspective, the factors that can cause accidents and I think we’ve done that. It’s only been nine months but we’ve fully reshaped the way we operate the business and pivotal to this is buying new trucks and equipment.”