E3: State of the Industry Podcast with John Elliott: John's Frequent Flyer Miles
We're already two episodes into the "State of the Industry Podcast, with John Elliott" but the third installment may be the best one yet. Our first actual in-person recording of the podcast took place in the center of the Sunshine State, Orlando, Florida! Fun discussions were had, while still delving into the more serious side of trucking and the recovery of Florida from the after-effects of Hurricane Ian.
Hopefully, there are many of you who have already tuned in and are making this podcast part of your listening, or viewing, routine. If not, what are you waiting for?! Obviously, John and I want you to listen to or watch this monthly podcast, which you can View Here!
John Elliott: We need to reopen these state rest stops. Allocate money that the states have to use to reopen these rest stops. There's a lot of alternative ideas about old shopping malls, public spaces, arenas, things like that. We have a system in place.
Brandon Baxter: Welcome to the State of the Industry Podcast with John Elliott, a third generation transportation professional, chairman of the Truckload Carriers Association, and founder and CEO of Load One, and me, your host, Brandon Baxter. We've spent more than two decades in the industry. We've experienced driver shortages, truck shortages, recessions, financial constraints, technological advancements and legislation. Yeah, we've seen it all. This is trucking news for the drivers and professionals on the ground. This is opinion and insight from the inside. This is the State of the Industry Podcast.
Brandon Baxter: Welcome to the State of the Industry Podcast with John Elliott. I'm your host, Brandon Baxter. This is our monthly series dedicated to discussions pertaining to the trucking industry and featuring commentary by CEO of Load One and current TCA chairman, John Elliott. John, thank you so much for joining me.
John Elliott: Glad to be here.
Brandon Baxter: Welcome, welcome. Welcome to Orlando, by the way.
John Elliott: Thank you.
Brandon Baxter: For those of you who are viewing this and then if you're not, if you're listening, hopefully, you're doing so while you're driving and not trying to watch it while you're driving. John and I are actually in Orlando, Florida right now in person. Episode three, recording in person here in Orlando. John, what brings you to Orlando this time around?
John Elliott: Well, I got lost on the way. No, I had a little bit of business down here to take care of and then going to be attending and speaking at the Motor Carrier Insurance Education Foundation later on this week here in Orlando.
Brandon Baxter: All right. Obviously, not the first time in Orlando.
John Elliott: No, I've been there a number of times. My parents never took me to Disney but yeah. I've been here quite a few times over the years. A lot of business conferences tend to happen here in Orlando, such as the MCIEF is great example every year. They always have it here.
Brandon Baxter: We're going to get to that here in just a few moments. Obviously, again, for those of you who are listening or watching the podcast right now, here in Florida, personally, I've resided here in the Orlando area. John just happened to be here in town so we're doing this recording in person but this is also taking place just shortly after Hurricane Ian came through the state. John, I know in our last episode we had talked about just some of the importance that the expedite industry holds when it comes to response to disasters. In this case, obviously, Hurricane Ian is a disaster.
John Elliott: For sure. Staggering, staggering what it's done here to South Florida. Then when you look at the pictures of Fort Myers and Naples and those areas, the devastation is just terrible. We had one of our fleet owners home and business was completely wiped out. The pictures are just... It's hard to put in words what these people and families are going to go through and going to go through for a period of time, especially till basic things like electricity and water are restored. This is all really fresh. They're still right now in rescue and recovery kind of situation or mode, which I think we'll see very shortly, the amount of emergency loads continue to rise. We're already responding to a number of requests and our drivers are stepping up and doing everything we can. It's still really early in what will be a long recovery for Southwest Florida.
Brandon Baxter: From a personal standpoint, I have never had to deal with anything like this before. I didn't know what I was in for. Granted, Orlando was very fortunate. Did not get hit as hard as, as you pointed out. The Fort Myers area. For those people who had to weather the storm literally and make it through on the other side, again, the central part of the state, a lot of flooding, a lot of damage, not what you're seeing in the pictures, obviously, on the southwestern part of the state. But knowing that companies like Load One are right there to help out.
John Elliott: Well, I think it's an important part of what trucking does. We come together during times like this and it's our government and our political world has been so divided in that. It's nice to see the bipartisanship, the support from the federal government to the state of Florida, President Biden and Governor DeSantis actually working together. I hope it continues that way and we can focus on the people that need recovery and need help and that and not finger pointing and blaming and that, which happens unfortunately a lot of times in these kind of situations.
John Elliott: But let's hope once again, we can rise above and that the trucking industry can play a great role and help once again, demonstrate to this country the critical nature of what we do and how important it is. Times like this, natural disasters are one of the things that really separate us. When people are evacuating by the tens of thousands out of an area and you see the trucks and the utility workers and the fire crews and ambulance crews heading in, it really just shows the importance that we're right there almost with the first responders.
Brandon Baxter: You make a great point because it's almost as soon as the storm had passed, you already had individuals marching in for the clean up, for the rescue. For someone like myself who's a northerner like yourself, it's not something that we see all the time.
John Elliott: Well, you look at bringing in obviously food and water or immediate emergency supplies, blankets, tarps for roofs, things like that. But it's also us transporting in the things you don't think about. Generators, parts and equipment for the power grid. It's one thing you can send all these crews down to work on it but they need transformers, they need wire, they need all the things, the connectivity for it all to put those basic things back together. When you look at how much water submerged areas that we're never meant to be submerged, that infrastructure is not built to be waterproof so there's a lot of damage and a lot of things that happen. I'm sure there's just a ton of recovery that has to happen that's not even something that would cross you or my mind.
Brandon Baxter: Right. Well, and again, that goes back to we're not used to seeing something like this. Unfortunately, people who live in these areas, especially in the South, be it Florida, be it Louisiana, the Gulf region, happening more often than not lately. Just to know, as you said, the bipartisanship of the government is able to work together for the betterment of the people right now and that is nice to see.
John Elliott: I agree. I agree. I think unfortunately, one loss of life is too much but I think people evacuated sooner. They heeded the warning sooner and that unfortunately, August saw no named hurricanes so we started off kind of quiet in this season but let's hope that this is a one and done.
Brandon Baxter: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. John, obviously, in the last episode we had discussed just almost like we were kind of prefacing this episode on an unfortunate note but we did talk about what Load One was doing with Draw in Michigan. Can you say anything about-
John Elliott: Yeah. Draw is a great charity. We continue to support them. We have for years. They take five gallon buckets and they fill them with supplies, whether it be cleaning supplies or they toiletry supplies. They have different buckets for different needs. Kind of like the Home Depot five gallon buckets and that. For years, we've continued to support them for their transportation needs into these kind of disasters out of their warehouse in Michigan.
Brandon Baxter: All right, John, it's great to see that you guys are continuing to support Draw. For those who are out there, either watching or listening to the podcast, follow our show notes afterwards because we'd like to be able to include a link to donate to the Red Cross. I'm sure a lot of donations are needed right now. We'll also include any other links for donations after the podcast is over. You can go into the show notes, you can click on those links and follow if you'd like to donate, seeing where you can help out as both a listener or a viewer of this podcast. John, obviously, again, you're here in Orlando and you mentioned it before. You have the MCIEF conference. That's mouthful to say when you try to use the letters.
John Elliott: It is.
Brandon Baxter: But I want you to take it from there. Tell me what that is and what you're doing here for it.
John Elliott: It's the Motor Carrier Insurance Education Foundation Organization. I think Tommy Ruke, as a trucking insurance guru, founded a long time ago to help educate insurance people and get their certifications and accreditations for the insurance industry as it relates to trucking and motor carriers. It's really a lot of professionals in the insurance industry to people in the trucking industry that come together to work on their enhanced and continued education. It's great as a motor carrier. Insurance is one of our top three, four, third, four, five, fifth expense. To look at it from the trucking side, you only see one side of the equation.
John Elliott: I found years ago that it was incredibly valuable to attend and learn from the other side so that I could help better manage my company and the insurance risk and the insurance expense that went with that. Insurance is only continuing to rise in cost with the nuclear verdicts out there, the attorneys that feed on our industry. Everything that you can do to help improve your company safety wise and to maximize its value for an insurancing reasons really pays off. I'll be attending again this year and I also was invited to speak on a panel by Tommy so pretty excited about that. talking about CSA and safety and inspections and how they correlate to motor carriers and their insurance renewals.
Brandon Baxter: Okay. Now, is this a conference that is also open to not necessarily the general public but general trucking public? Or is this for individuals within their companies or organizations?
John Elliott: I believe it's open to the general public but it's generally probably 95 percent attended by the insurance industry and that they get accreditations to be insurance people and that. It's part of the ongoing continuing education programs that they have to meet so many hours of accreditation education every year to maintain their certification levels.
Brandon Baxter: Okay. Okay. I didn't know if that was something where if a driver was in the area wanted to learn a little bit more, maybe they're an owner operator.
John Elliott: It might be a little in depth on a little extreme for that, to be honest with you. It's a lot deeper dive in insurance and risk and that on a much bigger eco scale.
Brandon Baxter: Okay. Once you're done with that, what else is going on in the industry right now? What else have you had your hands in recently?
John Elliott: It's been pretty busy. I leave here and I'll be flying home for about 12 hours and then off to Biloxi, Mississippi. We have the Truck Carriers Association past chairman's meeting down there. Just came out of Capitol Hill about a week and a half ago. It was up in D.C. Truck TCA, we had our fall call on Washington and our fall business meetings .both went really well, really well. I was pleased to just meet with Deputy Administrator Hutchinson of the FMCSA over at the Department of Transportation and some of her senior leadership.
Brandon Baxter: Great.
John Elliott: Jack Van Steinberg and a number of other great individuals. Had great meetings with them and some of the other TCA leadership and now talking about the issues that are important to us, such as AB5, truck parking, hours of service, flexibility and really excited. A few days later, Robin Hutcheson was named, got her appointed through Congress or received her full deal to be the administrator and that versus the acting administrator.
John Elliott: I have to say, I've met her twice now, been very impressed. She seems very open to asking questions, understanding what the industry's side of the arguments are, how we can work together. Secretary Buttigieg, the DOT has put a goal of zero accidents out there, which it's a big, big hurdle to heed.
Brandon Baxter: Of course.
John Elliott: But if we set a goal and it least it gives us something to work towards together and they really solicited a lot of feedback from us on how as an industry we can help in that equation.
Brandon Baxter: Awesome. The fact that you get to participate in something that active and not only that, also be able to provide that feedback. What type of feedback are you getting right now?
John Elliott: From our members or from the government?
Brandon Baxter: Both. What kind of information is coming out of that you might be able to share with us?
John Elliott: I think truck parking is a big item. I think we're going to see some advances there.
Brandon Baxter: Awesome.
John Elliott: We had a number of meetings up on Capitol Hill. There's a lot of money in the infrastructure bill that can be assigned to this. I think truck parking goes back to drivers being rested, drivers sleeping drivers reducing their stress level, but they don't have to search for an hour to look for parking and all those things, they correlate to better safety. Better safety correlates to less accidents, less accidents can means less deaths. If their goal is zero accidents then that's what we need.
John Elliott: We talked about different ideas, funding, things we could do. One of the simplest that I brought up to Administrator Hutcheson is we need to reopen these state rest stops. Allocate money that the states have to use to reopen these rest stops. There's a lot of alternative ideas about old shopping malls, public spaces, arenas, things like that. We have a system in place. We have highway rest stops that don't affect zoning or local ordinances and things like that that are already sitting there. A lot of them have been shut down due to budget cuts and just simply barricaded off. They can be reopened, get back up to speed with a little reconstruction work or a little clean up, and that is something that we can do that's actionable. I believe that can happen within a year to 18 months.
Brandon Baxter: Absolutely.
John Elliott: Help increase this truck bargaining situation right away.
Brandon Baxter: Even to lay it out there like that and the way you describe it, just all of us have driven down the highway. We've all seen them just kind of sitting there. Why not put them into play?
John Elliott: They were built for a reason.
Brandon Baxter: Absolutely.
John Elliott: They were built for a reason and we had a need for them. The need didn't go away. Budget constraints took them out. The belief was that the general business world would then create the parking. Well, as much as they try to and they've added, local cities and areas fight and counties fight expansions of truck stops, building of new truck stops or they let them build a truck stop but they only have 40, 50 parking spots. Not adequate for the situation. The amount of commercial vehicles continues to grow. We can't take away that infrastructure such as public rest areas that are needed.
Brandon Baxter: I think that's brilliant. What else is coming out of that? Obviously, the truck parking is a big thing. You mentioned with hours of service change. Is anything going on there?
John Elliott: Yeah, there's talk. They're looking at hours service again. Yeah, I think that's an ongoing discussion and I think increased. We don't need more time. What we need is increased flexibility on the use of the time.
Brandon Baxter: Interesting.
John Elliott: Most drivers only drive for average of six hours a day but if we're going to try, again, goes back to safety, goes back to congestion, things like that. If drivers had more flexibility about how to use their time, it would help during rush hours if trucks could get off the highway and that without having to burn up their clocks, it would reduce the stress on the drivers and, again, and increase productivity without them needing more time. Again, all those things benefit the driver, reduce the stress level, take trucks out of congested times on the highway. Again, drives down the accident rate. That's what it's all about. We all want everyone to come home safe.
Brandon Baxter: Absolutely.
John Elliott: Our family, our friends, and that, our loved ones are out there on that highway with our trucks. We want our drivers home safe. We want all the motorists out there home safe.
Brandon Baxter: Obviously, sometimes there are differences pointed out between long haul trucking and expedite. Sticking with the hours of service thing for a second. Have you ever seen that there is an actual or an actionable difference between what you see with expediting and with just your typical big rig driving?
John Elliott: No, I think they really run parallel to each other. I think flexibility would be even more beneficial to the expedite driver.
Brandon Baxter: Sure. Absolutely.
John Elliott: Just by the nature of our business. So much of our business is unplanned and that so a long haul driver sometimes will know his next load or his next two load so he can better plan his time, his fueling and that stuff more so than an expedite driver. I think flexibility would help our industry, our niche industry even more. But I think it helps our industry as a whole. It would be a great benefit.
Brandon Baxter: Okay. What else is on the docket for you then?
John Elliott: I stay pretty busy. It adds up. We'll be heading out to San Diego the week after next for the American Trucking Association, their annual conference, an event out there. Going out there. We're going to be celebrating a good win for trucking on the Rhode Island toll case.
Brandon Baxter: Yeah. Talk about that.
John Elliott: Rhode Island came up with a scheme a couple years ago to toll only trucks on their highway. It was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court but the American Truck Association had to go sue them along with the Rhode Island Truck Association. TCA was one of the organizations that helped fund the lawsuit and the fight and a number of other industry associations backed this thing too. It was really a fight that had to be fought and a lot of people didn't understand that, didn't see Rhode Island being so small and being as a big issue but it was something that would've spread very quickly.
John Elliott: A lot of states like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Chicago, other states had plans and were sitting waiting to see what the outcome of the Rhode Island case would be, hoping that it was ruled constitutional so that, again, they could go after the trucking industry as a revenue source versus going back to the taxpayers and that and more fairly distributing the expense. It was a great win for the industry. We'll see what happens if they're going to appeal but hopefully, I think that they've hopefully learned their lesson here and they're going to walk away and keep the hundred some million dollars that they've tolled out of our industry already and go home.
Brandon Baxter: That's a heck of a fight. Is that something that it's been brewing for a while or is it something that-
John Elliott: This has been about a three, four year battle now and that stuff. Unfortunately, even if this battle's over, there's always going to be new battles head for us. AB5 out in California is an even larger one looming on the horizon here. We're not even looming on the horizon. It's over the horizon and that. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court chose not to take the case and that. We're having to look at Plan Bs on our industry and how does our industry and its associations attack this thing and how do we do it together and as much force as we can. Trucking as a whole, most trucking companies started with one guy and one truck. That's the story of our industry and that's the American dream. It's the small business owner. So many of my drivers that were company drivers at one time became owner operators, became fleet owners. It's the American success story. That's how these things are built and this law or this rule would just basically destroy the fundamental small business owner.
Brandon Baxter: Obviously, John, we were at the 2022 Expedite Expo. That was a big topic that was brought up several times in the discussion while we were there. For those who might not know, kind of just give us an idea, what is AB5? What is the general sense of that?
John Elliott: AB5 is basically where they want to classify owner operators as employees. It's a three prong test and that where if a trucking company hired a, let's say, a plumber who's an individual owner operator, has his own business, own van, he's a plumber. That would be acceptable. But an owner operator who has a truck and does trucking because the company is a trucking company, they consider that a common thing and that would not pass the test and that would make that an employee versus being an owner operator. A lot of it is just simply a tax grab by a lot of states that are looking to help fill their coffers to pay for some of these crazy programs and things that we've seen and cash handouts across the country.
Brandon Baxter: Right. In a previous life for me, I've actually been an Uber driver, which I know crazy. Right? I probably could give you lift to the airport later.
John Elliott: 2.6 stars.
Brandon Baxter: Straight fives. All the way.
John Elliott: Probably that's why former. Former.
Brandon Baxter: Former Uber driver.
John Elliott: They had to be like, "Hey, thank you."
Brandon Baxter: Thanks so much to this guy.
John Elliott: We're not going to need you anymore.
Brandon Baxter: Too many pine tree air fresheners in the car. But no, with that, as an Uber driver, you're an independent contractor. I seem to remember a while back that in California, there was a movement for a lot of Uber drivers trying to be classified or become classified as company and company drivers. Right? Is that kind of the sense of where we're going with AB5? Did that maybe set a precedent or at least maybe spark an idea?
John Elliott: No. I believe ironically that there is a carve out in the rules or law for gig workers like Uber and Lyft. The trucking industry as a whole, we decided originally, or the thought was we weren't asking for a carve out. So many exemptions with that. It was just a fundamental law was wrong, in our opinion and that. Versus all these constant carve outs or exceptions and things like that, we chose to just go on the fundamental basis of this is wrong versus ask for a carve out and turn their heads and let the next organization deal with it.
Brandon Baxter: Right. Are there drivers who have been owner operators that maybe they're pushing for that though?
John Elliott: I've not really seen that. Very little. Very little that we've seen that or feedback from that. It's one of the times when OOIDA, the Owner Operator Independent Driver Association, is locked up with the other trade associations.
Brandon Baxter: Excellent.
John Elliott: I really have not seen very little to none of that.
Brandon Baxter: Okay. The good news is-
John Elliott: I think if an owner operator wanted to be a company driver, he'd just become a company.
There are options out there.
John Elliott: There's plenty of options.
Brandon Baxter: Sure. Absolutely.
John Elliott: There's nothing holding him back from doing that. They chose to be an owner operator and have their own truck because they wanted that independence, they wanted that financial freedom and that. Every company out there is hiring drivers. I don't think there's any shortage of that.
Brandon Baxter: Well, let's stick with that topic.
Brandon Baxter: Hey, I know I'm interrupting your listening here but I want to ask you three important questions and I want you to be real honest with me. Are you sick of feeling like you're just a number? Like you're a small cog in a big machine? Do you wish your company afforded you benefits like basic layover pay and paid moves or help with paying for scales and tolls? Would benefits like a fantastic driver's lounge and complimentary hookups at the yard so you don't have to run your APU, would it make your job better, more enjoyable?
Brandon Baxter: I think I know what your answers might be and I can tell you these are just some of the benefits offered by John Elliott and his company, Load One. Now, I'm thrilled to let you know that Load One is currently recruiting. That's right. If you're looking for your next move, you'll like the sound of working with someone like John Elliott and his awesome team. Well, now's the time to jump on board. Load One has openings for a wide range of drivers, solo straight truck drivers, team straight truck drivers, tractors, both truckload and specialized. Take a look at Load One's website. Okay? Load1.com. That's load and the number one dot com. Or you can apply directly through expeditersonline.com. When you discover the power of Load One, you're discovering the power of freedom. I can tell you that freedom taste real good. All right. Now, back to the podcast.
Brandon Baxter: What's going on with Load One lately?
John Elliott: We're looking to hire a few. Not going to lie. Primarily on oowner operators but we can help expedite drivers and place them with a lot of our fleet owners and that. Again, knock on wood, we've continued to grow in spite of the softening economy and things like that where a lot of companies have not. Our sales team is just done a phenomenal job. We've seen expansion domestically, in Mexico with our operations creating more and more freight. We're looking for owner operators of tractors and straight trucks and sprinter vans. Over the road, expedite. It's not dedicated. It's not local work. It's OTR expedite and that. For the drivers who find that business niche attractive to them, I think we have a great solution. It's a great opportunity. We have a dynamic pay package or compensation package, percentage based, a lot of perks. Actually, we pay the tolls and things like that, provide scale bypass and that. A lot of perks that a lot of other carriers.
John Elliott: We are primarily direct shippers, which is a big difference versus a lot of other expedite companies that are smaller. They get a lot of their freight thirdhand or secondhand, I should say and sometimes thirdhand too as well from brokers or have to get their freight from other carriers because I've had people say to me, "Well, we all freight for Load One but I work over here and I get almost the same percentage." You have to explain to them that, "Well, we made money before we moved that load over. Sold that load over to your company so you're getting the same percentage, maybe you're close to it, of a smaller pie."
John Elliott: Again, the closer you get to the source, generally, the better you do.
Brandon Baxter: The bigger the piece. Absolutely.
John Elliott: The better you do. We've got a great national sales team. We're one of the few companies in our industry that have large national sales teams. Yeah, again, it just helped to drive our growth. We got a great operation staff. We've just always been really supportive of our drivers and owner operators and it's been a winning recipe.
Brandon Baxter: Can't argue with that.
John Elliott: Nope, you can't.
Brandon Baxter: Good. I wasn't going to. Well, John, it does sound like you've got a lot of good stuff going on over at Load One right now. Obviously, that's a big thing for drivers, especially those who are listening or watching the podcast that want to know all about you, where they can go, how they can get a driving opportunity.
John Elliott: Well, I would say www.L-O-A-D the numeral one dot com. Or you can call recruiting at 1-800-506-4422.
Brandon Baxter: For those watching, that number will be on the screen along with the website. John, anything else you want to add?
John Elliott: Nope, I think it was another great episode.
Brandon Baxter: I'd say so. Okay, we're going to wrap up episode three. Thank you so much for joining us for State of the Industry with John Elliott. I've been your host, Brandon Baxter. Join us again next month as John and I will continue the discussion, all topics transportation, and don't forget to check out expeditersonline.com and justCDLjobs.com for access to over 150 carriers who are actively hiring, including Load One.
John Elliott: Load One.
Brandon Baxter: Until next time. This has been the State of the Industry podcast with John Elliott. For more information on Load One and how to apply for one of their posted job opportunities, go to load1.com. That's load, the number one dot com. As always, be sure to check out our show notes for more information regarding Load One, Expediters Online, justCDLjobs.com and any other tidbits that were mentioned during our show. Until next time.