Welcome Scott. Congratulations on being TOTAL’s Trainer of The Year!
Well, thank you appreciate that. Nobody said, “Hey your Trainer Of The Year, and this is why. I had to sit back and think about it a bit. Okay, so this past year, this is what I accomplished. And how did I get here? And what did I go through? And I have to look at all those things and say, Okay, well, these are things I’m doing right so that I can keep doing them next year and the next year. I take a lot of pride in what I do, in what I’ve accomplished, and in the company I work for. I think that’s a good thing. A lot of TOTAL drivers are like that, a lot of us. It’s not just me and that guy way over there, there are over 1200 drivers at TOTAL. I bet you 95% of us are so proud to drive a TOTAL truck and to be part of this family. I mean, it’s awesome. For me to be in a position where I can grow future drivers, and teach them how to be safe, respectable, and compliant. and all the things that go along with it. I get a lot of pride out of that.
Where are you from?
I live in Freeport, Florida, just outside of Destin, Florida. I’m from South Georgia in the Americas Leesburg area. That’s where I grew up and went to school.
How long have you been driving trucks?
(Smiling) I’ll tell you what I tell my students, I just started last week, so we’re in this together. (laughs)
Have you always driven trucks, or did you used to do something else?
I have, I’ve had many previous jobs. I’ve been around heavy equipment and trucks most of my life I’ve been in the construction business as far up the ladder as superintendent on high rises on the Florida and Alabama Gulf Coasts. I’ve owned a retail business that focused on bikes, kayaks, and paddle boards. I even tried my luck and excavating and farm work. But once I realized that those things just were not for me, I decided to devote my life to truck driving and to TOTAL transportation.
What was it that made you think you would enjoy truck driving?
You know, I honestly don’t remember. I do remember feeling squeezed financially and I didn’t like it at all. I realized that while living and working on a truck I could drastically reduce my overhead. I was attracted by the good pay in a high-demand industry and a professional lifestyle based on something I knew I could succeed at. It certainly worked out well.
What made you choose TOTAL over different trucking companies?
Well, I talked to a lot of companies, probably 25 to 30, and ask them a lot of different questions through the recruitment departments. Many of the recruiters seem like they were too busy to answer my questions and some that were attentive just didn’t give responses that worked for me. Total gave me 100% the type of attitude I was looking for at the time. They met my goals, career opportunities, and insurance, they offered. I’m a family man with a lot of kids and they offer good insurance, good equipment, and everything that goes along with it.
Great, what do you think it is that makes us different from other trucking companies out there?
Communication and respect. I hear a lot of people saying it’s the open-door policy and we’re a big family. Well, that’s one way to look at it, but the communication from the fleet manager to middle and upper management and down into the training and the driver communication is really good. Some people say that we need help with our communication, but as long as you ask the right people the question, or comment about it to the right people things get done here. People listen, they do care what the drivers and the trainers have to say. We’re not just truck drivers, we’re somebody. So, communication is a big, big deal. That’s a big plus, and they always make me feel respected. I mean, just today, I took the day off to get to the doctor, I was waiting at the pharmacy for my prescription, I get a message from upper management that they’d like for me to go talk to the new trainer class. So that’s where I am now. I just finished up in there. Then just them asking me is a form of respect, I’m proud to be acknowledged. I must be doing something right or they wouldn’t want me to go talk to them, right?
You’re absolutely right. I mean you are our Trainer of the Year after all. How long have you been a trainer at TOTAL?
What was it that made you decide that you wanted to move from being a driver to a Trainer?
Several things. For one, as I became more and more in tune with what was going on around me as a driver, I saw how other people conducted themselves both in and out of the truck. I kept seeing things that needed to be improved. You know, you see another truck pass you and they’re three feet behind that car that’s got a little old lady driving. You’re wondering, would they do that if that was their grandmother? Things like that. I wanted a chance to help to give back. Every student that I can teach how to be a safe, respectful, and courteous driver is just one more person out there making the road safer. I take a lot of pride in that.
The other reason I made the change was I had been running FedEx and helping them start up accounts across the country, and due to a change in management I shifted over to helping them train the guys we were hiring to run these FedEx accounts up in the NE. The training part was great, but I didn’t like the inconsistency. My FM at the time moved to the training dept and when I decided I didn’t want to do the FedEx thing anymore. I followed him to training.
What do you think are the most important skills to have as a trainer?
Respect. Well, I’m not sure if that’s considered a skill, but respect and to be able to communicate what you are trying to say. You deal with so many different people from all different countries, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds. And everybody I’ve found learns differently. Some people I can teach them by telling them, some people they can just watch me do it or watch another, you know? I point out what that person’s doing right or what that person’s doing wrong as their training, and they can pick it right up and do it. But that’s rare. So, for every student I have, I’m not just teaching them. I’m teaching myself; you know, I’m always learning to be a better trainer. And it’s working out. I’m getting pretty good at this, but I’ll never know it all.
How do you feel about our equipment?
Top-notch. If somebody complains about our equipment, they are just looking for a reason to complain. The average truck at TOTAL is only a couple of years old. They’re beautiful trucks. They’re a beautiful color and the interiors have everything you need. Yes. they could have this, that, or the other to make life a little bit more comfortable, but they have everything you need. They’re safe, they’re comfortable, they’re clean and they’re great trucks.
You’ve mentioned a lot of things that you like about TOTAL, but what do you like the most about working with us?
That’s a hard question. There are so many things that just came to mind. If I had to bring it down to one answer. Say a providing a dependable, stable career. Everything about working for TOTAL is stable. I have dependable miles and a dependable truck. It’s a good stable career.
You mentioned you have a large family at home. How do you manage to balance your work and home life?
Oh, Lord, that’s a difficult process. First, I would have to say it’s not me doing it. It’s my wife. Because without her, I couldn’t do this. She has to be able to bear the burden of taking care of all the kids most of the time. I’m here by phone call, but there’s not a lot of discipline I can do over the phone. When the kids were younger, I was a disciplinarian and she wasn’t. Now she’s the disciplinarian, and I’m not. When I first started driving with TOTAL, I would go home and she’d say, “You’re only here for a certain amount of time, let me take care of that. You try to mentor them.” So work-life balance is challenging and sometimes are easier than others. Overall, my wife and I, we get it done.
Do you have anything you’d like to say about our fleet managers and their support for drivers?
Every fleet manager I’ve had, and I’m not gonna’ try to count them up, but I can remember every one of them by name. I have every one of their phone numbers stored and I would be willing to bet you that I could call any one of them at any given time. They would answer and give me advice, even if they’re not still working for TOTAL. That being said, every one of them cares. They’ve always been respectful. My current Fleet Manager is fairly new to the job. I think he’s been in the trucking business for about a year and a half. I could be wrong, I hope I’m not, but he’s great. The one before that same thing. They’ve all been great.
Do you have any tips for other drivers for a stronger relationship with their fleet manager?
Communication. Initiate the communication, and find out the fleet manager’s preferred method of contact, and what their schedule is. That’s what I tell my new students. As soon as you upgrade that’s one of the first things you ask them. What days do you work? How do you prefer to be contacted? Should I text you, email, or phone? Will you answer if you’re off on Saturday? You know. So, communication, start off with good communication and you’ll have a great relationship.
But what do you think it takes to become TOTAL’s Trainer of the Year?
Having successful students. Upgrading drivers that are safe, responsible, and know how to stay legally compliant. Teaching those drivers how to deliver loads on time and in a safe manner. You’ve taught them the professionalism that comes with the job, or should come with the job. Also putting down consistent miles even though you’re a salaried employee. Being a professional, having a professional outlook and mindset, and how you carry yourself and represent the company.
What are your suggestions for new drivers to have a productive and satisfying career in trucking?
I’ve mentioned communication. Have good communication with not just your fleet manager and management, but also with your customers, meaning TOTAL’s customers, shippers, and receivers. Be as professional as you can be with communication and knowledge. Another thing is to treat everyone out on the road, whether it’s another truck driver or the motoring public, as if they’re your family. If that car going by you cuts you off, think, “How would I treat my daughter, or my wife, or my grandmother?” If that was them that just cut you off you might have a different response. So, keep anger down and to treat people with respect, treat everybody like it’s your loved ones. On top of that, I also tell my students to always act as if somebody’s watching you, so you always perform to the best of your ability. Because there is always someone watching you. It may be somebody over in that station wagon, another driver, somebody from Safety looking at a breaking event, the police or DOT… there’s always somebody watching how you’re doing. Finally, be proud of who you are and what you do. The country couldn’t function without you.
Do you have any suggestions for experienced drivers?
Never become complacent and never think you know everything. Every driver on the road is still learning. Even if they know one thing about a certain trailer or a certain community, our rapidly growing network of roads is changing and becoming more sophisticated with how the trailers are put together and how the braking systems work. That trailer across the yard from me now, it’s different than the one on the other side. Things are always changing. You’re always learning so constantly try to improve on yourself and what you do.
Do you want to give a shout-out to your family, your wife and kids?
Oh, my wife and kids? They’re the heroes in my life. So are my parents, who are both still around and still kicking like they’re 20. I’m blessed. I’ve got a wonderful family from my parents down to my youngest child and my grandchildren. Yeah, they’re awesome. I couldn’t do this
Is there anything you’d like to say to drivers in the trucking industry at large? A parting message you have for them?
The only thing that comes to mind is respect. That touches on so many things I said. Respect your fellow driver, the motoring public, the laws, and the rules. The better we can do and the more successful we are at our job as drivers, the fewer new laws will be implemented. Many of the changes we have to deal with were implemented as a reaction to what drivers do. That’s why we have to stay in the right lanes, out of respect for drivers that need to pass us on the left. They made that law because so many drivers were staying in the left lane and holding up traffic. So, it all falls back to respect and professionalism. If you can’t be a professional at what you do, then get a different job.
Well said, sir. thank you for taking the time to talk to us. I’m going to let you get back to creating successful professional drivers. Be safe out there and keep up the great work!
Thank you, I will.