We met many great, incredibly knowledgeable folks at the California Trucking Show in Ontario last month. This week, we had a chance to pick the brain of one of our new friends from the Show, a man who’s spent nearly his entire life (literally) in the trucking industry.
Read on to get his insights on technology, the coming regulations (or possibly deregulations?) and the challenges of trucking’s changing demographics.
Interview with Andres Rubio, HLT (HeavyLoadTransfer.com)
How long have you been in the trucking industry?
I’ve been in the trucking industry just over 25 years now. During my childhood, instead of playing sports I would go to work with my father who drove as an independent operator. That gave me a lot of experience, so when I was of age to work I went right into the trucking industry out of high school. Those years with my dad really gave me that interest to get into the field.
What was it about your experience with your father that you were drawn to?
I think it was really his independence, his drive to support his family. He showed me what it was like to work in an industry that was very challenging. He never gave up despite the challenges, such as with port terminals, or traffic or dispatchers.
There’s all sorts of different aspects of that industry that are both challenging and rewarding but I’ve always loved the atmosphere, the ports, the interaction with the port terminals. One thing that made a big impact for me, I remember being a kid and driving up with my dad to the port terminals and interacting with the guards. They knew you by your first name. The guards back then — it’s not this way today of course — would let me sit there with them and help them fill out the interchanges. The drivers would come in and we’d hand out gate passes as they approached the main entrance. Those people who are there still remember me by my first name. From crawling, walking and now running this the only industry I’ve ever worked in.
Can you tell me a bit about HLT?
It’s Heavy Load Transfer which started the early part of the year. We run overweight containers to the LA/long beach port district. We handle many facets within the transportation industry, offering transloading services and other endorsements. One of the things that separates us from other companies is our specialty service hauling overweight containers coming into Los Angeles/Long Beach. These shipments come in through various weights and there are very few carriers that have the ability to legalize the cargo, to meet US road highway regulations with the USDOT.
With our specialized equipment, such as our tri-axle or quad-axle tractors, these specialized vehicles legalize the weights that most carriers cannot when they pick up from the port. Fortunately, because there’s such a small handful in the industry that operate this type of equipment, we have a nice niche business and can assist customers where other carriers cannot.
What qualifies as an overweight container?
When it comes to the container size, each ocean container that is manufactured for steamship lines must have a certain gross cargo carry weight. In essence, what that means for the importers is they can ship a certain amount of weight in each container. On a 20 foot container, a regular trucking company that is operating with a fleet of standard weight sized trucks can haul up to approximately 36,000 pounds in a 20 foot container and up to 43,000 pounds in a 40 foot dry container. In comparison to heavy load transfer, we can haul up to 47,000 pounds per 20 and 40 foot containers. We have a couple extra tons difference between the regular guys can do versus what we can do because of our weight specialty. The customer enjoys the increased cargo capacity and they can sleep at night because they don’t have to worry about any overage citations.
IS BIGGER BETTER?
Early this year, the San Francisco Bay Area saw the largest container ship that’s ever been in the SF Bay. Do you think that will be a global trend – ever larger container ships?
Yes, there’s been a evolution of ships over the last 50 years. Currently, there’s ships at 14,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and we’re seeing that the major shipping lines operating today are buying larger ships that are coming in anywhere from 18 to 19,000 TEUs. Vessels are getting bigger so more containers are being placed on these vessels. This is something that is happening not just nationwide but globally. Ports are dredging to handle these larger vessels. I know the ports in New Jersey, Norfolk, Virginia and Savannah are dredging, for example. They’re also building larger bridges and raising existing bridges.
ON THE NEW REGULATIONS
With so many employees, the new regulations are certain to impact you. What do you think of the new regulations? Are they really necessary?
Yeah, there’s a lot of current issues that have been going on for quite a long time — whether there’s been reclassification, there’s been from an LLC standpoint, from an owner operator standpoint, you have different organizations trying to organize drivers to work for companies, etc.
What kinds of changes do you see coming in the trucking industry?
I believe that some of those regulations will probably follow through in the next year, but I think we’ll see big changes in the coming years because of changes in driver’s demographics. These have changed quite extensively from 10 years ago. We have a shortage of drivers, not just locally but nationally. There has been a complete decrease of Class A licensed drivers. Because of these demographics changes, we need to give more opportunities to get into this industry.
I’ll give you an example: You have a driver who just got his California Class A license. He then goes to a trucking company for a job but he’s told that he needs a minimum of 2-3 years experience to drive. He’s only had his Class A license for a week. How does he get the experience? We have a program where it allows someone 21 – 23 years old to get on our training program and get the experience he needs to work in the industry, getting trained with our more experienced drivers with our equipment. These are the kinds of things we need to do to ensure we get and retain the drivers we need.
Those drivers working when I started out back in the early to mid 80s, those guys have finally retired. The next generation of drivers now are looking at a different line of work or are moving out of state. I’m seeing guys moving to Houston or back east to work with the terminals out there where they have less regulations, less rules.
President Trump has indicated he’ll be go toward toward deregulation. How do you think this may impact the trucking industry, if at all?
I have mixed thoughts on that note. I think it may trigger opportunities, then again there is still some hesitation about what may roll out for the guys in the future.
I’ll give you an example, there are guys that have worked for us for some time already that are moving on to a different field of work. For example, one of our class A drivers is moving on from transportation to construction which, to me, is odd. But it’s not odd because there’s going to be a lot of opportunity with building and infrastructure so we may see a lot of guys leave one industry to jump to another.
ON TECH, APPS & AUTOMATION
Do you think most drivers are open to technology? I know drivers are using and benefiting from some apps but what do you think of their openness to tech-related topics?
There’s a very low percentage of drivers that don’t agree with the changes that technology is bringing. I know there’s been some push-back with some individuals, but many others see it more as a benefit. Today, mostly everyone has a smart phone or device or tablet where they can access information online.
Now when it relates to pay, I think that’s when something really triggers in their minds. They’re thinking, “If this benefits me I’ll adapt to these changes.” If it relates to timekeeping, for example, or reporting of their dispatches they’ll do it. We have a low percentage of drivers that may have some kind of difficulty with our technology but not to the point where they refuse to use it. Outside of the company, I think most drivers are receptive to it.
What do you think of the self-driving truck?
One word: skeptical. But nothing will surprise me. I don’t know to what extent that will happen but if we’re discussing technology, the technology is here.
Already, at the port terminals they have automation with certain cranes. There are some automated cranes that can deliver cargo onto our truckers equipment. Only a small percentage of LA’s ports are automated; I know of one or two terminals. The driver enters a certain area of the yard, (gets out) of the vehicle, and stays in another area with a hard hat while the crane comes in to lift the container up or deliver a container. It’s not operated by any yard crew or operator, it’s all automation. Once it’s delivered, the driver gets back in his truck and continues on. It’s a completely different system and I guess what we’re looking forward to in the future.
What do you think of the TransLGX concept?
Very interesting concept. I think that there’s a lot of carriers today that would be onboard with this program. There’s a lot of opportunity and I think where it relates to our line of work, it gives you that much more visibility which is missing today. I think, overall, there’s just a lack of visibility for a lot of carriers in that field. Before the internet, before email, you had phone calls. Now it’s emails, texts and so on. For something like this — an application — it would be nice to know that with the click of a button you can be in contact with a specialized carrier such as us. (laughs)
Thank you for your time, Andres!
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