(With all the pandemic and protest information we were not able to post our interviews with our 2019 Drivers Of The Year earlier this spring. This year we have multiple winners! Over the coming weeks, we’ll be posting one a week in no particular order.)
An interview with our Trainer Of The Year, Scott Laborde.
Hi Scott, tell us a little about yourself.
Well, I've been trucking for 20-23 years with my last 2.5 years here at TOTAL. I started driving trucks when I was 21 and I've made this a lifelong deal. I have always wanted to do this. My mom said that from the time I was 5, I was always pointing at trucks going down the road and I told her that’s what I was going to do one day. I've pretty much done this my whole life.
I did odd jobs from the time I graduated high school until I turned 21. I've worked around the transportation industry a lot. I worked on towboats up and down the Mississippi River. I really enjoyed it. It just wasn't what I wanted to do long term. When I turned 21, I got my CDL and started driving.
Where did you drive before coming to TOTAL?
I drove for a whole lot of people. I hauled grain and did farm work for a while. I lived up in the northwest for 15 years, mostly doing doubles and pulling double flat beds down to LA and back. So, a lot of West Coast driving, and then a lot of farm work too.
Why did you choose TOTAL over your other options?
I have friends that worked here. They told me it was a family based company but a bigger one with more of the benefits I was looking forward to at this point in my life. I'd also always thought about getting into training and I could do that here. I want to pass on the knowledge that I have gained over the years on to new drivers.
What do you think makes TOTAL different from other companies?
To be the size that we are and still be family based is unique. Everybody knows everybody, and we have a true open door policy. You know you can walk in and talk to the owner of the company just as easy as you can anybody else to get the problem solved. Everybody's really friendly. It's kind of like a big family versus some of the other companies where you're just a number. If you have a question you can get an answer. It may take a couple of channels, but you can get it answered.
How do you feel about TOTAL’s equipment?
We’ve got good equipment. It took me a lot of getting used to, because I'd never driven equipment with all of the computers and stuff like what we have now. I always drove big iron, and it took me a while to get used to it. Now that I've gotten used to it I’d say we’ve got some of the better maintained equipment.
Do you have anything you'd like to say about our Fleet Managers here and their support for their drivers?
They do their job, they know what they're doing. They keep you rolling and getting your miles. I mean, they have their off days but a lot of that depends on the freight. Without them we can't really do anything that we need to do out here. For the first year and a half I was here, Joshua Rule was my fleet manager. Then, Mike Collins was for three months. Then I took a break and went to teaming. Now Don Turner is my fleet manager. They’ve all been great.
Do you have any tips for drivers to have a good relationship with your Fleet Managers?
Communication. Let them know what you're doing. Don’t go MIA and all that. Just keep in communication with them and they will do what they need to do. If you’ve got hours to get the load there on time then get the load there on time. If you don't have the hours, let them know and they'll work something out.
What do you think it takes to be named one of TOTAL’s Drivers Of The Year?
Just doing your job, and doing it safely. At the end of the day that’s our job, to deliver freight. Not to lollygag around, not to tear stuff up. To deliver freight and do it safely and legally. Do what you’ve been taught to do. That’s what I did. That’s what I've been doing my whole career. Get the load from point A to point B.
Well, do you have any advice for new drivers on how to be successful beyond “do what you've been told to do?”
For one, do your safety inspections. Don't do just one safety inspection in the morning. Every time you stop that truck, get out, walk around, and look at it. I mean it won't take an extra 30 seconds. Don't be in a hurry because that 30 seconds at one end can save two hours at the other in dealing with an accident or preventable breakdown issue.
I always tell my students don't get yourself to a point where you run out of talent, because it will happen. That’s when you get in over your head and tear stuff up. Don’t ever panic in a situation. Always say calm and think it through. Because there's no situation that you can’t get yourself out of without, tearing stuff up. Stay calm. Don't panic, just breathe. I know it’s hard for new drivers, I went through it. I mean all those years ago I went through it. You know there were times I would get myself in a predicament. I would catch myself starting to freak out or get frustrated or panic. And then I just had to stop, breathe, and relax for a minute. Kinda’ sit back and get the big picture of the whole thing. Pay attention, get out, look, and give yourself a way to slow things down. Do it at your pace. Don't be embarrassed to get out and look, don't be embarrassed to pull up. At the end of the day, all that stuff is free. Practice running through scenarios in your mind. This can help prepare you for them when they come up. Once you hit something, that’s when it is costing you and the company.
Since you were a trainer with us for a while before you took a break to team, do you have advice for trainers or students?
Listen to your trainer. They've been out here. You know, listen. Listen to what your trainer is telling you. For the trainers, don't stress your students out. you Don’t start yelling at them from day one. Before you leave the yard, sit back and let the student get to know you. Get to know your student. The first three-four days on my truck I always tell them, “alright, I will sit over here. You show me what you know, what you learned in driving school.” As long as they're not really messing it up, they're probably not going to hear from me. Then we're going to start building on their base foundation. That's always worked for me.
Is there anything else on your mind that you'd like to tell other drivers at large or the whole driving industry?
To our drivers, just be careful. Scan ahead, pay attention to what’s going on and just take that 30 seconds at the end of the day to do your post check. It can end up costing you a lot more time dealing with an accident, or heaven forbid, something worse happens than just a fender bender. Slow down, enjoy the job. Don't get so wrapped up in making money and running miles that you forget to enjoy it. Because at the end of the day, we’re nothing but a bunch of paid tourists. Enjoy what you see out your windshield, slow down, and enjoy the ride. Make sure you do your loads on time and that you do it safely. Sit down and look at the scenery around you because it’s not all the same everywhere.
Another thing. This is really not a job, it's a lifestyle. Back in the day they used to say we're nothing but a bunch of gypsies going up and down the road. Who else can say they sit in their office all day and see this beautiful country and this land we call home?