Congratulations to our Team of The Year- The Ledfords!
TT: Hello Barbara and Roy Ledford, Let me congratulate you both on being named TOTAL’s Team of The Year! Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
BL: I guess I’m going first. I’m Barbara. I’ve been doing this coming up on 10 years now. I’ve spent almost five with TOTAL, before that, I worked with a doctor’s office. Roy was already driving, so I just decided to do this with him. I kind of got stuck (laughs).
TT: Where are you from?
BL: We both lived together in Florida, but I’m originally from upstate New York. I lived in Florida for about 20 years and now we live in Virginia.
TT: How did you two meet?
RL: We lived in Port St. Lucie and were just friends at one point. We don’t really know what happened. (both laugh) It just developed into something much more meaningful. I guess the rest is history as they say.
TT: And how long have you guys been together?
BL: We started dating in 2006 and got married in 2008.
TT: It says something to be able to team with your spouse.
BL: Most people, we watch them, they work, they retire, and then they want to kill each other. So, I figured if we can make it through this, then retirement will be easy for us.
TT: How long have you both been in the industry?
RL: I’ve been driving since 97.
BL: I want to say I’ve been driving since 2012.
TT: Roy, where else have you driven other than TOTAL?
RL: Our first five years together on the truck were with US Xpress. Before that, I worked for a company out of Florida called Armellini Express lines that did specialized hauling for fresh cut flowers. I did that for quite a few years. I got my start with a friend of mine from high school that saw I might be capable of doing this. He gave me an opportunity to start with him. He was a JB Hunt driver and trained me how to drive a truck. From there I went to Armellini. When I decided to make the change for Barbara and I to become teammates and for her to go to school, we searched around and landed on US Xpress. While we were at Xpress, I kept hearing about this gentleman by the name of John Stomps and a company called TOTAL. We were seeing those trucks every day. Everybody had really nice things to say about John and the people at TOTAL and we just wound up making the jump and we’re very happy we did.
TT: Barbara, what did you do before you decided to become a truck driver?
BL: I worked in a chiropractor’s office for about 12 years. I was the office manager and billing manager.
TT: What was it that made you decide that you wanted to make the change?
BL: My boss retired. In Florida, you don’t make a lot of money working in medical offices.
TT: Roy, you said you heard about TOTAL while at US Xpress? Where there any other companies you considered moving to?
RB: Well, at the time, we weren’t looking to move. But I kept running into drivers that said great things about TOTAL, and how happy they were. We kind of figured that if we were going to make a change, we’d rather work for a company where the owner is very well respected and liked. It’s kind of the same way with Armellini. He was a grandfather to us all. But that was not a job that I thought would be good for Barbara to come to because having to unload the truck is very physical and very tiring. Sometimes it was hard for me to get through it. But that man was loved and respected by his people, and he loved his drivers. That was the main thing that I heard about John Stomps and everybody that worked here. People here were happy. We weren’t getting quite the miles that we wanted at USX. And, if I remember correctly, that was one of the questions that Mr. Stomps asked us. I told him I expected 5,000 to 7,000 miles a week if hours permitted. He liked that answer, and I liked the idea that he liked the answer.
BL: And he shook your hand.
RL: Yeah, I made it a point to meet him. I needed to shake his hand and say hello because of the good things people said about him.
TT: Have we lived up to your expectations?
RL: Oh, those and more. Yeah, we’re really happy. I know of other people that have worked for other companies. Compared to the last two or three companies that I’ve worked for, I can honestly say that this is definitely where you would want to be.
TT: Wonderful. In that vein, what do you think makes us different from other trucking companies?
RL: Honestly, it’s the simple fact that you’re told straight up what is going on. I have never run across anybody that has kept me on a need-to-know basis, micromanaged me, or disrespected me. Add to that the common relationship where we all have the same goal in mind, (to safely transport cargo across the country) and I have nothing to complain about.
BL: And even if there is something that you may be able to complain about. You can talk to people to fix it. If it’s the right thing to do, it gets straightened out. Other companies don’t really care what you have to say or what your complaint is because you’re just a driver. Here nobody’s just a driver. We’re all part of a team.
RL: Yeah, team is a really important word. I know there is an open-door policy, but I’ve never once thought to pick up the phone and to call the head office. I can speak to our fleet manager and he can point me to the person to talk to. I don’t ever feel like we’re forgotten about or just blown off. Whatever legitimate subject that comes up that needs attention, there’s usually someone there to put the focus on and take care of it.
TT: How do you feel about our equipment?
RL: Well, right now, sir, we are currently driving in 2022 Kenworth. We’re really excited about this truck. I like the idea of the two side boxes. It’s got room in it. As a team, we usually get upgraded to a new truck after a certain amount of mileage. We’ve never really had any problems with the vehicles or the shop. Everybody that we’ve run into and those working on these trucks have been top-notch. There’s nothing to complain about, these are brand new vehicles. Keep them clean, keep them up, and help out with the maintenance on them and they will go a long way. Trailers are getting better too. I mean, there are still some old ones, but it’s been a good long time since I’ve had to change a tire. Everybody’s doing their part. You know, doing their post trips and everything. Even if it is something that’s wrong it can be taken care of pretty much within a couple of hours of calling Breakdown. But I have no issues with any of these trucks. We’ve had a Freightliner and we have the Kenworth now.
TT: Any tips for good relationships between drivers and their fleet managers?
BL: Yes. communication and don’t lie.
RL: I’m a firm believer that you get back what you put in. Like Barbara just said, treat other people how you want to be treated. I think that goes a long way. I think that’s number one. Talk to them like human beings, present your case, whatever that may be, or just have good communication with them. Get to know them and understand what each other’s goals are. Once you have that established, it should be pretty easy from there. Think about how you want to be talked to, that’s really important. In the 25 years that I’ve been doing this, too many times I ran into drivers that complain about sitting at the truck stop or terminal or someplace like that. They voice foul language towards anyone being in charge, I personally just don’t believe that that carries any weight, I think it’s a mutual relationship that needs there to be mutual respect.
TT: What advice specifically do you have for new teams to be successful?
BL: Be patient with each other.
RL: Yes. I’ve always run teams so I could burn the rest of your day up with this…. You gotta’ let a lot of things roll off your back and the pet peeves go. Everybody’s different. The best teammate is somebody that is safe and clean, is taking care of the equipment, has the same goal in mind as you do, (to get as many loads as you can there as safely as possible). I’ve built a lot of relationships and have had long friendships with many of those people. You just have to try to be patient and understanding, and you’ll have to let some things roll off your back. But, you know, if everybody on the truck has the same goal in mind, and you’re organized, everybody’s clean, you have the same mindset as to what you want to accomplish, I think anybody can be successful.
TT: What do you like the most about working for TOTAL?
BL: I like so many things. It’s like friends and family here. I’ve worked in other places where everybody’s got a gripe against everybody else. We walk into a TOTAL Terminal and everybody knows who we are, the dispatchers, Teresa from Safety… they all know you. You’re not a number. You’re just part of the friends and family. The people that I have worked with, sometimes we do Southeastern or FedEx, and almost everybody in Safety, I have them all on my Facebook or my social media as friends. We have Team TOTAL on our truck, we are proud to be part of this team. Also, when we get bad weather, it’s okay that we go out of route to not get stuck or be a higher risk. If we’re in a bad area, we can watch the weather ourselves, you know, go north or south or whatever we have to do to avoid the storm. TOTAL lets the driver make that decision because we’re the ones that are out there.
RL: I think for me, after doing this for so many years… Honestly, it’s kind of like everything I’ve ever wanted. You get to run the miles, see the country, you’re compensated very well… There are no complaints there. And like Barbara says, you get to know everybody. We plan to work here and pay our bills and help our children until we someday retire. I think that is the best part about work.
BL: I want to add that TOTAL has also been very flexible with home time. We always get home when we are scheduled.
TT: What do you think it takes to be named TOTAL’s Team of the Year?
BL: I’m not sure. I was shocked when I got the call.
RL: I was shocked just like Barbara. It’s a great honor. I would like to think it comes down to having the same goals. We like to run, we enjoy traveling across the country, and we never refuse a load. Every load that we can take puts more money in our pocket and makes more money for the company. Someone mentioned that our attitude has something to do with it. I think 100% attitude goes a long way. I fall back to treat others how you want to be treated. Trucks break down and things happen, but we don’t go in yelling or making a fuss, everyone is doing the best they can. It has a lot to do with attitude and having the ability and the willingness to work hard. We’re still a little shy about being chosen as Team of the Year. Like I said, it’s a great honor, but it’s just a willingness to want to work and secure our goals that we have personally and secure the goals of the company, keeping ourselves safe, keeping the company out of trouble, doing our pre-trips, communication, once again treating others like you want to be treated.
TT: You mentioned this in passing, and I think you have to be a really good and self-aware driver to be able to answer this… But is there anything that you think that you two could do better?
RL: Absolutely. Every day, we have to challenge ourselves, there’s no doubt about that. Right now we’re learning this new Platform Science EDL system and we’re trying to get better at that. Day to day driving habits can get out of hand and you have to constantly remind yourself to maintain good ones. It’s a constant process of us keeping ourselves in check. Being husband and wife is being a team. If we see each other falling behind we have no problems calling each other out. After all, we were friends first. So I think that that’s something that’s fluid. You need to challenge yourself all the time, I learn something new all the time. I actually look forward to learning new things and challenging ourselves, trying to do better. Remind yourself to capitalize on good habits and don’t let in bad habits.
TT: Well is there anything that you think that TOTAL as a company could try to do better?
RL: That’s hard to say because I don’t know what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk. But from what I’ve seen, this is the best company I’ve ever worked for. I think the company does a great job with its communication. I’ve mentioned to you before that we listen to TOTAL Talk all the time. So we try to keep up with what’s going on in the company, and TOTAL addressing things like parking for drivers and things like that. I think TOTAL is on the right path.
BL: I think y’all do wonderfully with everybody that’s there. The Information that y’all gather up and put out on the daily recording, I really do like that. I do hope y’all keep that in place because that keeps everybody in the loop. When you speak to that word “team,” that’s part of it, you know, you get to hear what’s going on, and what changes are coming. Those things are really important to us, it helps us feel included and part of a team. We all feel like equals.
TT: Is there anything that you two have on your mind that you would like to get out to those that read this?
RT: I’ll say this and I’ve said this before, I wish I would have started my career here. If I’d started my career here, I would be in a different place altogether. Not only financially but mentally, too. I can’t express that enough. That is the only thing that I’ve ever had to say and I really wish I would have known about TOTAL long ago. I would have liked to have been on board to watch us grow like that and to see what it has come to today. I mean that from my heart.
TT: Well, that’s wonderful to hear, and we appreciate that. We too wish you would have been with us from the beginning, Roy. But know we are thrilled to have you with us now. Both of you are just great people and obviously a fantastic team and an asset to us, as well as great representatives of our company. We really can’t thank you enough for what you do.
RL: Well, thank you.
BL: We really do appreciate it.