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Talking Money and Hard Driving

Faced with a workforce challenge, this Alabama trucking company dug deep into its own pockets, investing $18 million in driver pay and training.

President Chris Hornady (in truck) and Vice President Joe Booker with one of the firm’s newest trucks, added to the fleet in January 2014.

President Chris Hornady (in truck) and Vice President Joe Booker with one of the firm’s newest trucks, added to the fleet in January 2014.

Photo courtesy of Hornady Transportation

Chris Hornady, president of Monroeville-based Hornady Transportation LLC, is one of those owners who says he thinks of his employees as family.

But it takes more than words to make a family of 250 hard-traveling truck drivers with incomes slashed by drive time regulations. For Hornady, it took an $18 million investment — most of it in pay, training and home time directly benefiting his workers.

When the company began to notice a driver shortage, they listened to their employees on how to retain existing drivers and attract new recruits.

Hornady and Vice President Joe Booker wanted to stay competitive with other companies in the trucking industry and target specific candidates who were highly qualified for the jobs. Hours-of-service restrictions and Compliance, Safety and Accountability regulations set by the government can make driving a truck a challenging career choice. Hornady knows that drivers are key to the success of the company.

“Our drivers were feeling the effects of these changing regulations, and we need to compensate them for their dedication,” Hornady says.

In October 2013, Hornady Transportation announced an $18 million investment in programs for drivers and equipment. By adding to the existing payment and training programs, Hornady has been able to set the bar higher and be more particular about the ideal candidates for the job.

“To get the right people, you have to be attractive to the right people,” Hornady says. “It takes exceptional individuals to fill these positions.”

Since 1928, family-owned Hornady Transportation has developed into a leading flatbed carrier in the eastern United States. For seven straight years, Hornady has received the Silver Award by Great West Casualty Co. for its safety record.

With CSA regulations getting more restrictive, Hornady wanted to make sure their drivers were compensated for their service. Existing drivers were encouraged to offer their opinions on ways to retain and recruit drivers. Feedback and email responses on how to improve the current programs resulted in a $1 million investment in driver payment packages. Drivers were able to express themselves about the pay scale, training, bonuses, equipment and home time. Now, drivers receive tarp pay — a flat rate per tarp load — as well as performance bonuses. Rapid Lease, a new opportunity for drivers who may want to one day own their own business, gives experienced, qualified drivers a chance to participate in a lease purchase program.

“Flatbed drivers are an exceptional class of drivers, and they should be compensated for their dedication and commitment to continue to provide great service,” says Hornady. “We are working in every phase of our operation to become more attractive to these drivers.”

New top-of-the-line equipment is another part of the recruiting and retaining effort. Hornady recently brought 35 new 2014 Cascadia Freightliners into the fleet through a $16 million investment during 2012 and 2013. These trucks feature DD15 engines to help get the job done faster. The new beige trucks and black trailers have revamped Hornady’s image. In addition, the company invested $1 million in a new training facility with new technology, as well as an increase in orientation and training pay.

Hornady says a key component in the success of the driver program is having an engaged group of professional drivers. Hornady is using Facebook and other social media to encourage drivers to communicate and interact with their families. A monthly newsletter addresses driver issues and concerns to keep them informed on their company and the industry.

Looking to 2014, Hornady wants to continue the growth, as well as focus on more diversification and acquisition opportunities. Approximately 40-50 trucks and trailers are scheduled to be added, and driver benefits will continue to be reviewed.

“Our goal is to continue to grow as a company in all areas,” Hornady says. “We will continue to invest in our drivers now and in the future.”

Drivers have been happy with the changes, especially the pay scale and guaranteed home-time. Since Hornady believes that drivers are the key to the continued success of the business, Hornady and Booker are gratified to hear the excitement of the drivers. By meeting the needs of their employees, Hornady Transportation has used driver concerns as an opportunity for growth.

“We try to treat each driver no differently than we would a family member,” says Booker.

Laura Stakelum is a freelance writer for Business Alabama. She lives in Dothan.

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