Podcast Ep.5 — Fleet Maintenance, Safety & IT
Matthew Dziak: [00:00:00] Welcome to the Fleet Code. A podcast brought to you by Fleetio. Where we'll dive into the latest fleet trends, technology, and best practices. Get the inside scoop, as we decode the challenges of fleet management.
Adam Bliss: [00:00:22] Things are always going to change. There's going to be unknown situations that come up and the companies and the people that can adapt and innovate to assist in those scenarios are going to do better and survive. And that's what we want to be. That's one of the big things we do is innovate and adapt.
Matthew Dziak: [00:00:38] In this episode of the fleet code, we discuss fleet maintenance, safety and its role in fleet management. We welcome Christian Robinson, customer success manager at Fleetio, and joining us to lend his expertise is Adam Bliss. Adam is the safety and it manager at J. Pettiecord. A contracting and heavy haul service provider located in Iowa that specializes in environmental and other construction services.
All right, and we have Adam here from J. Pettiecord. Adam thanks for joining us on the show today.
Adam Bliss: [00:01:07] Thanks for having me. This is awesome.
Matthew Dziak: [00:01:09] Yeah, we also are joined by Christian. Thanks for joining us today.
Christian Robinson: [00:01:13] Hey Matt, thanks for having me.
Matthew Dziak: [00:01:14] No doubt. Well Adam, I'm really excited to get a chance to talk to you. Your company J. Pettiecord is in Iowa. If I'm not mistaken, correct.
Adam Bliss: [00:01:22] Yep, we are located in Bondurant Iowa, just East of Des Moines.
Matthew Dziak: [00:01:25] I was in Davenport a few years ago at the Iowa 80 truck stop out there. The largest truck stop.
Adam Bliss: [00:01:32] Unfortunately, that's one of the few things that many people know Iowa for. There's a lot of other cool things.
Matthew Dziak: [00:01:40] No, there's no doubt about it. It's one thing that was very prevalent being there was just how friendly the people are in Davenport. It's right on the river there. And I remember just having a fantastic meal. Might've been one of the best steaks I've ever had in my life, to be honest with you. So definitely more than just the truck stop there in Iowa for sure.
Adam Bliss: [00:01:57] Was your meal at the truck stop?
Matthew Dziak: [00:01:59] Oh, no. A restaurant that was near the downtown area of Davenport.
Adam Bliss: [00:02:04] That's good. That's good.
Matthew Dziak: [00:02:06] And this was of course, all pre pandemic, a few years back, and a lot of fun. Anyhow, I wanted to get right into this episode and just maybe give some people the background on who you are and the company you work for.
Adam Bliss: [00:02:17] Yeah. So I worked for J. Pettiecord. We do heavy lane clearing. We do trucking flatbed, step decks, heavy hauling, heavy equipment around for local contractors. We hire out, we do a lot of hauling on our own jobs where we're clearing trees or doing demolition projects. We do emergency spill response work for the railroad. If there's a derailment or other issues like that, we do a wide variety of different things involved in trucks or heavy equipment. So if there's a question of how do we do this, or what do we do? We get a lot of calls for various types of projects and we figure out a way to do it.
Matthew Dziak: [00:02:55] So you guys are actually not just a provider for the contracting services of the construction, but also the transportation of the machinery from the heavy haul perspective.
Adam Bliss: [00:03:05] Exactly. We'll move stuff all around the city at the Moines, let alone, most of our guys, we have several guys that are usually out in other States every day, haulin for. Various contractors will haul crane parts for energy contractors or companies installing the windmills in Iowa. We'll move crane parts or larger equipment for just about anyone,
Matthew Dziak: [00:03:25] those windmills that you mentioned that are going up in, in traveling around Iowa.
Is that something pertaining to renewable energy? That's a big thing around there, or what is that?
Adam Bliss: [00:03:34] Yeah. Yeah. There's a few companies around here that are putting those up in order to provide renewable energy. Exactly. So there's a lot of funding behind that, trying to make that a big project for Iowa overall.
And so we get to be a small piece of that in helping move the cranes that set up the equipment there and help get those installed. And then we get to move them onto the next site and help set them up for the next site. If you drive through Iowa, you're going to see various parts where there's just tons of those windmills scattered all over.
Matthew Dziak: [00:04:00] That's really interesting. I know it's always at the forefront of everybody's mind. Right now that's related to the fleet industry is a sustainability and just alternative sources of energy. That's really interesting to hear that you guys are involved in that speaking of involvement, how did you get involved in this fleet safety world?
Adam Bliss: [00:04:19] So Jeff Pettiecord is the owner of the company and he is my father-in-law. I was previously at Wells Fargo for close to 10 years working on the collection side and the home equity side, recovery and research. And we've talked several times about me coming over and eventually . I got my CDL and I came over and one of the first projects that they wanted me on was managing the ELD setup as that was, that was going into effect in November of 2017, I believe at the time.
And so there was a big push for that. I manage the installation and process behind that train and all the drivers on how to use them setting that whole system up. So that's my first big project. And that kind of pushed me into the IT safety side. That's where my skill sets been for a long time. As IT at Wells Fargo, I was the IT guy for our department handling any issues we had over here.
That's just the name of the game. We have plenty of IT related projects, upgrading servers, managing the camera systems, our fleet maintenance system, our fuel system, they're all integrated with the network and need to be managed and people need to be trained on how to use them and various tasks like that.
So that's kinda how I maneuvered into that role. And I handled some of the safety stuff from a paperwork side, so started learning more and more about that. And I ended up taking that role over as well.
Matthew Dziak: [00:05:34] That's really fascinating. You have a unique background to go from banking to having your CDL and migrating into the fleet management world, at least from a safety and IT management perspective. What, what are maybe some of the parallels between some of those universes and the major differences?
Adam Bliss: [00:05:52] Regulations, I would say Wells Fargo on the banking side, we're heavily regulated. So managing projects and tasks like that, transferred over pretty well into managing processes over here, making sure that we're compliant with the FMC DSA and their guidelines along with OSHA and any other regulations we would fall under.
It just involves reading through some dry material and figuring out how it applies to you and your company and whatever unique aspect of it you have because. Like I told you with what we do so many different things that we dip our toes into a lot of areas that are regulated through different organizations.
So yeah, involves a lot of learning and reading and understanding and asking people smarter than me and trying to figure it out.
Matthew Dziak: [00:06:33] Why is it so important for what you guys do at J petty court being a construction company and a heavy haul? Why is it so important for you to not only maintain your assets, but also just focus on safety and compliance?
Adam Bliss: [00:06:47] There is a lot of various aspects to running a company and running it profitably and safely, and having employees that want to work there and being able to hire people and there's scores that are given to you by the FMCSA that people can look up and see when you're driving down the road and you pull into a scale, they can pull up that score and see what it is and see if they should inspect you or not.
When you have employees out on the road, driving trucks. Operating equipment. You don't want to make sure that they get home safe at night, safe to their families and all those things tie together to make sure that we have the people to do what we need to do. We have the equipment in good condition in order to do what we want to do and that we can get from point a to point B without being stopped and fined.
Or we break down on the way and have to stop. And then that affects our customer that we're working for, or it affects our own internal customers that we're working for on a tree clearing job or whatever that is. So the less issues we have with safety aspects, the better off we are, the better off our employees are. The happier everyone is. There's just too many benefits to ignore.
Matthew Dziak: [00:07:54] The industry that you're in both trucking with heavy haul and also the construction side of things. There, they're two of the most dangerous jobs that someone could operate in. And so you need those safety measures in place, as you talked about for safety of the drivers and of their wellbeing and just overall for the company, how do you enforce those measures?
Adam Bliss: [00:08:13] Yeah. So various ways we would enforce those safety measures. We utilize a lot of different tools and communication is really a big part of it, right? The operators and the drivers need to have all the information. They need to understand how the equipment works. The mechanics need to get the information from the drivers operators about what's broken and what needs fixed.
And dispatch needs to get any information about what's going on on the road or at the job site that needs fixed. So they can make adjustments on the fly as to getting people there to help or assist or moving the people that are sitting around waiting to another job in order to be somewhat efficient.
So we've got various means of enforcing those things and we've got pre-trip and post-trip inspections that the drivers do on their phones. They do that with a fleet management system that we have that allows them to do it on their phone. Their inspections were created in a way that they can enter in all the information about what's wrong with something or take pictures of it.
And we use a communication tool as well. That's on their phone where they can share all that information with whoever we have around 65 employees. So there's a lot of different people that have knowledge that needs shared to everyone else so that we can make the best decisions with what we're working with and fixing the equipment and the trucks and making sure that we're efficient during the day. So, there's basically just a lot of information that needs to be shared in order to do our jobs appropriately.
[00:09:33] I Love that Adam, and one thing I want to build upon there is when you're enforcing these safety measures with the tools that you've mentioned around the DVIR tool that you have, as well as the communications tool, do you have any type of standard operating procedures that you've implemented or any type of policies that you're having your employees follow, that you can hold them accountable towards?
Adam Bliss: [00:09:56] Yeah so, we actually have a bonus program and it's in relation to safety, attitude, accountability, and productivity, and the employees are eligible for that after their first 90 days. And we include a lot of different things that are requested to be done in that bonus program. So turning in paperwork and that's required, whether it's related to safety or inspections, those inspections that they do on their phones, we track how many are getting done.
When, if they meet the requirements, we don't want to have a piece of equipment go out to a job site, two hours away, and then find out later that it was due for maintenance or service at that time. So in order to avoid that kind of stuff, we hold the guys accountable to make sure that they're doing inspections in a timely manner.
And we utilized our fleet maintenance program for that in order to do the inspections. And there's a lot of safety measures that we can enforce through our GPS ELD system, as well as it tracks how much fuel somebody using it can tell you if their seatbelts on and tells you where they're going. Cause we run into issues where maybe somebody didn't get communicated correctly where they're going and they're going in the wrong direction or whatever that may be.
And we can catch a lot of those things a lot quicker just by again, it comes back to communication and that's what those systems help us do is provide a means to communicate with the employees and get that instant feedback.
[00:11:16] No. That's awesome. I got to dive into the bonus program a little bit further.
So was that something being that you actually implemented and thought of from an IT standpoint, as a way to foster and encourage the adoption of the technologies that you were offering as a solution to your team? I've seen that work really well in my experience, I was just curious if that's how you employed that bonus program. If that was something that was already in place.
Adam Bliss: [00:11:38] So it was already in place. We made some changes to it in regards to the new technology that we added. But now that program was pre-existing, but it did get updated with new information in order to make sure that we're getting everything we need. Cause that's the important part.
When you've got a lot of pieces to manage a lot of people, to manage jobs, to manage equipment, to take care of, you gotta be able to get that information as quick as possible. And in order to do that with 65 people, you need a quick, easy way for them to get that information to you. But when they're doing it well, it works well and they're compensated for it.
Matthew Dziak: [00:12:08] I wanted to circle back on ELDs and just that general aspect of trucking, if you will, it's a heavily regulated industry and there's various solutions out there that people can adopt in order to make sure that they are on the electronic system for that. What has been your experience in adopting one? And what were you looking for in a partner and how has that maybe influenced your overall just strategy of integrating from an it perspective?
Adam Bliss: [00:12:36] When I'm changing to a new technology, I want to make it as easy and painless as possible. Ideally, hopefully it's a change, unfortunately, that needed to happen regardless. So you got to choose the best possible solution for you. And when I'm looking for a new technology that we want to use, I don't want 17 different systems that we use that don't talk to each other.
So if I ever need information from one system to another, I have to manually. Get that information and then type it in to another system. When we upgraded the new GPS ELD system, we've actually switched systems already since 2017 because the company that we were using just wasn't providing good service to us, the devices were failing.
It was taken a long time to get them. Fixed and updated. So we switched to another company and they were, they had an open API, which was important to me because I don't know how we're going to use it down the road. I don't know what technology we're going to be utilizing down the road, just in order to try and future-proof any systems.
I want them to be able to talk to each other if needed. So whether that's through an integration that that company builds that we're using, say it integrates with our fleet maintenance system, which our current one does. Then it's just less duplication of efforts. Before we switched to a new fleet maintenance program.
We were using a server base program and the drivers were doing everything on paper and handing it into one guy. And he was typing everything in every day with 65 people. And one guy typing that in that's a lot of extra work. Now we can utilize the drivers that are already writing down that information once and they just write it down once and it comes in same with the ELD instead of writing it on paper and keeping track of it there, I've got a GPS ELD system that does that for me now.
[00:14:10] So Adam, I heard you mention there the usage of on-premise software, as well as SAS solution. Do your processes change at all between those two solutions? You do notice a big change internally in your role in IT when you implemented the different platforms.
Adam Bliss: [00:14:24] Yeah. I'm a big fan of the SAS solutions software as a service, just because when we're looking at an on-premise solution, it really limits where you gotta be to use it and who can use it.
If we can implement a cloud based version, that means that if I'm out driving in the car, I can use it without having to do a VPN and try and get into our network and then utilize the internal network to log into it. And then I can source more people. Like one thing we're looking at down the road here is a dispatching system.
If we do so much different stuff, we do emergency response stuff. Unfortunately, there's jobs that come up over Christmas. We had three train derailments over Christmas. The spills come up anytime of night, anytime of day. And we may need to run permits, or we may need to get into the fleet maintenance system.
We're using the ELD GPS system at any point. And if it's limited to just me or me running into the office to do it, then that really handcuffs us and ties us down a little bit. The more we can utilize other people that can access it from anywhere, the better and looking down the road at a possible dispatching system, I'd like.
Multiple people to be able to enter jobs that are coming up that need to be dispatched out rather than just one person putting them in over and over again, through leveraging multiple people. It just makes the work a little bit easier and make sure nothing gets missed.
[00:15:38] I can totally see all those bottlenecks can get created and what type of risks that can put you in as well from a compliance standpoint, if you can't get into a solution and you can't document what's going on with that particular asset or that particular job, I can see how that can put you at risk. And of course, minimizing that risk on your side is a huge advantage.
Adam Bliss: [00:15:54] Right. And your security and your, just the fact of backups onsite security. It's so much easier to not have to worry about it with a cloud-based solution than to put all that weight on your shoulders and hope that your processes are covering any necessary backups. So that kind of information that needs to be retained.
Matthew Dziak: [00:16:14] Adam 2020 was crazy for everyone to that's the understatement of the decade, but how would it really impact sort of your process, whether that was from a safety perspective, where you've already had these measures in place to hopefully adhere to all of the compliance and safety measures that you need.
But now you have this added just uncertainty that can contribute to the potential hazards, if you will. So how does that really evolve and change your process?
Adam Bliss: [00:16:40] Yeah, 2020 was a test, I think for everyone. And it's definitely a test for me and learning how to deal with just lots of changes and lots of different things going on.
Me personally, I ended up running the shop for the past year and managing the mechanics there, leveraging our fleet maintenance system for that, but we had a lot of processes that changed with it. We have guys going out to job sites. We have guys going out to work for other companies hauling equipment.
So yeah, we had to make sure that they had the necessary tools to make sure that we were able to disinfect trucks when people had potential close contact. But fortunately for us, we were able to really keep moving through pretty much the whole year. And we had a scare at the beginning of the year and after two weeks we had all this work to do and we had to figure out how to get the guys what they needed and have them get the same information we needed with as minimal contact as possible. That's where fortunately having these solutions already in place really helped with that. And having that GPS ELD solution, we can see where the guys are, where they're going. See if there's a fault code on their truck without having to pull it in and read it.
We're getting inspections from the guys on the equipment, and then we can pull the equipment in and fix it, or just leveraging all our tools available and all the resources available, rather than putting that all through one tunnel where the guys can. Come to one person, those tools in place really just made things a little bit easier and helped us adapt quicker. And we were able to work all year long. And then, I don't know if did you guys hear about the Derecho that we had in Iowa?
Matthew Dziak: [00:18:04] Yeah. Tell me more about that.
Adam Bliss: [00:18:05] So we had a storm that came through with these horizontal winds that, you know, Cedar Rapids got hit really hard. It was hurricane force winds that just damaged. A whole bunch of buildings, took down a whole bunch of trees. And fortunately in one of our services we offer, since we clear trees all the time is wood waste grinding. And so we have three big horizontal grinders that we load trees into and grind them up into mulch. And we actually sell most products as well from that.
But that was a big need this past year. We actually had a very productive year. Unfortunately, some of these situations, there's a lot of negative outcome, except a lot of people in our company working. We did a lot of work last year because of this negative situation.
Matthew Dziak: [00:18:43] It was definitely a time where somethings that were uncovered and some people had some unfortunate outcomes and others really thrive. And whether that was by sheer luck or plan, it does sound like the technology and the resources that you had in place really kept you ahead of the game. Like you said, you had an initial layoff, but you were able to recoup that immediately and ended up really having the business grow because of this.
Adam Bliss: [00:19:07] Yeah, I think that's the key things are always going to change. There's going to be unknown situations that come up and the companies and the people that can , adapt and innovate to assist in those scenarios are going to do better and survive. And that's what we want to be. That's one of the big things we do is innovate and adapt.
We're pretty versatile and flexible. That's why we work all year long. Typically don't ever lay off in the winter and we pushed snow too. We'll do whatever with trucks and heavy equipment. We'll figure it out and get it done.
Matthew Dziak: [00:19:33] Yeah, it sounds like you guys have a pretty resourceful operation that we started off talking about renewable energy and your impact there and your participation there. And it comes full circle. How it's not just about clearing out the trees and helping the community in that regard to get back to normal, but that you're able to actually turn a business out of that where you said you can create mulch and you can do these things that will help not only other commercial businesses, but also just everyday residents who might want a little bit of normalcy by doing some gardening.
Adam Bliss: [00:20:01] Yeah. Speaking of that, we try and do a lot of things where it can reuse resources or help somebody get more out of something that they've been used in. So we talked about hauling equipment for wind farms. We're also doing a lot with recycling, those wind blades. That's a big problem. There's these huge windmill blades that they replaced and then they need somewhere to put them and they end up in the landfill.
More working on what kind of products we can turn that into in order to leverage those down the road. We've done sandbags screening where we'll screen the sand out of sandbags after they get used and disasters and pull that sand out. So it can be used for a company we've also done shingle grinding we'll grind up shingles for a landfill, and then they will utilize that. Product that we make to a certain spec. They'll utilize it in the gravel roads. In a portion of Iowa, they utilized it, they laid it down on the roads and mixed it with the gravel and it gets hot and kind of seals together and just makes it less dusty, which is a big problem with large amounts of gravel roads. And we've got multiple magnets pulling out any kind of metal out of there, and we make a product for them that they can reuse.
Matthew Dziak: [00:20:59] That's really fantastic. There, there's just so many avenues that you guys are tied to, and it just underscores the importance of having your software, your technology, anywhere you go.
Now, if you had to maybe rewind back when you first started, if there was one thing you could tell yourself back then that you know, now that would be a really big help. What would that be? And why?
Adam Bliss: [00:21:20] That's a good question. Let's see if I could tell myself anything, I guess it would be to not assume that the solutions in place, whether that's our company or another company we're working with, or even a fleet solution or an ELD GPS solution. Don't assume that those are already the best ideas out there. The way we use them, we've been able to suggest a lot of improvements or advancements to the various solutions that we use to in order to make them better. And our company and other companies, like we talked about, the ones that thrive in these uncertain times are the ones that adapt and innovate and taking feedback. Whether that's personally, professionally or corporate wise has just been a big impact on our business and the businesses we work with.
[00:22:05] That's great, Adam, I'm going to build off that question. If there was one problem you could solve or one solution you could provide in fleet management, what would it be? And don't be afraid to dream big here because I have all kinds of aspirational thoughts that I have in regards to fleet. So feel free to shoot for them on. I'm really curious to hear your thoughts.
Adam Bliss: [00:22:24] Oh man. I would love if we had one product that would tie in the GPS and ELD aspects. Would tie in the fleet maintenance side, project management and billing and invoicing dispatching.
And that's why I mentioned that we've chosen products that have an open API where they can communicate and integrate with other. Programs, because most likely with the things we do not super realistic at this point to have one product that can do all those things really well. That's why I'm going to continue to choose solutions that are more technologically advanced and can communicate and integrate with other products in order to make that happen and reduce the amount of workload that we have.
And I want to reduce the number of apps that we have. If you come work for us, I don't want to ask you to download 16 different apps and have logins and passwords for it. I don't know if you guys have ever shared this frustration, but people do not remember their passwords ever.
Matthew Dziak: [00:23:18] No you're so right.
Adam Bliss: [00:23:19] It's the most common problem. But in order to minimize that the fewer apps and the fewer passwords, they have to remember the better, especially in the trucking and construction industry.
Matthew Dziak: [00:23:31] No doubt about it, Adam, this has been such an informative session. I can't believe just the amount of impact your organization has in the community and the area in Iowa that you serve. Really thank you for joining us today and just sharing your knowledge on this specific part of the industry.
Adam Bliss: [00:23:47] Thanks for having me. I'm always interested to learn from other people and share with other people. So I appreciate it.
Matthew Dziak: [00:23:54] Thanks for listening to the Fleet Code. If you're looking for a modern software solution to effectively manage your fleet, be sure to check out Fleetio.com/podcast. To learn more. Join our monthly newsletter to stay up to date on all things Fleetio. And don't forget to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by following at fleet.