This March marked the one-year anniversary of the onset of COVID-19 shutdowns in the United States. What was once “unprecedented” quickly became our new normal. We were forced to adapt and adopt new practices both at home and in our business practices. For some, our kitchen tables became our home workspaces and our conference room meetings became video conference calls. But for professional drivers, technicians, and warehouse associates, the workplace stayed the same in a rapidly changing world.
Toilet paper and antibacterial wipes became the new currency last year. Images of empty shelves at the supermarket were all too familiar. Americans were panicked and preparing for the unknown while professional drivers, technicians, and warehouse associates were working more than ever to deliver essential goods. Ruan and the rest of the transportation industry had to get creative with new solutions to manage supply chains.
Like many 3PLs, Ruan has customers in a wide variety of industries. Some, such as metals, manufacturing, and automotive, saw a decline in sales, and drivers serving them were without loads to haul. Meanwhile, drivers who serve our grocery, medical equipment, and retail customers were overloaded with shipments. To address this discrepancy, Ruan’s IT team quickly created a new portal that allowed both on-site and corporate office managed transportation team members to offer up available resources and seek available drivers at the same time. We redirected resources —people, trucks, and trailers—from customer accounts that had sharply cut output because of the COVID-19 outbreak to grocery chains and other businesses that experienced a spike in business. Releasing some customers from their transportation commitments was a win-win-win situation, Ruan’s President Dan Van Alstine said. “We wanted to provide employment for our driver team members. We wanted to create some economic relief for those customers affected. And we wanted to create solutions for customers that are facing a surge in volumes.”
At the onset of the pandemic, little was known about transmission of the COVID-19 virus. To limit physical interactions at customer locations, Ruan’s IT team developed an imaging feature in our custom RedTrak mobile application, allowing drivers to scan paperwork and eliminate the need for customer signature. This enhancement will continue to provide value and decrease paper use even after the pandemic.
Engaging Our Team Members
This increased demand also meant we needed to hire new drivers to the Ruan team in certain areas of the country, so our driver recruitment team shifted their efforts to find drivers virtually. Once hired, drivers attend orientation at our Driver Training Centers. At orientation, drivers are versed on Ruan’s history and Guiding Principles, learn about our desire for customer satisfaction, and of course dive into our Megasafe Safety Program tools and resources. Usually held in person, these multiple day orientation sessions are critical to ensuring our new drivers are equipped to serve our customers at the highest level. But the pandemic created a new challenge for our driver training specialists—they had just one week to move all driver orientation efforts to a virtual platform. Kyle Berryhill, Manager of Driver Training Centers, recounted the pivot to this new approach in our recent blog post. Our virtual driver orientation sessions have been a great success. We maintained the high level of education for our new drivers and provided our customers with drivers well equipped to haul their products safely and efficiently.
Another way we connect with all our team members is through our quarterly Impact Meetings. Traditionally, these mandatory meetings are held at each operation and led by the on-site leader. Drivers, technicians, and warehouse associates attend and learn about new industry regulations, Ruan updates, safety best practices, and more. Because COVID-19 hindered our ability to meet in groups, we shifted to offer the quarterly training online through our intranet, the Hub. Our corporate support teams, including safety, communications, compliance, and human resources, create video content to compile to share each quarter. While we aren’t able to gather as teams, we’re still providing important resources to our front-line workers.
Each summer, we look forward to celebrating our professional drivers, operations team members, and technicians during our annual Driver of the Year, Operation of the Year, and Top Technician awards ceremonies. These celebrations are typically held in the month of July in conjunction with our Founder’s Days events. Honorees and their guests travel to Des Moines, visit our Des Moines Campus, attend meetings with leaders, and enjoy a variety of activities and meals together. We anxiously anticipate the celebration each year as it gives us the opportunity to recognize some of our best team members and gain their perspective on the work they do. Like most other events in 2020, these gatherings were held virtually. Invited attendees received a tablet to attend all the meetings they typically would via Microsoft Teams, and we recognized each of our honorees via a livestream available to the entire company.
These adjustments are just a few examples of how we shifted our way of doing business this past year. Pandemic or not, our top priority has remained the same—the safety and well-being of our team members. The hard work and determination of our team members has allowed us to thrive during these challenging times and remain profitable. They’ve allowed us to continue to provide our customers with exceptional performance without interruption. This past year taught us all countless lessons. We’ve learned that with the right people and the right mindset, we can adapt and work together as One Ruan to conquer any challenge.