Trucking Industry News that we need to talk about are the trends that is impacting your daily life at your dealership.
Welcome everybody to Service Drive Revolution. I’m Chris Collins, and this is Christian Lafferty.
We have a special guest today, Chryssa Hunlock, who is the closest thing to wonder woman.
She currently is the district parts manager for Daimler Trucks of North America, which is America’s largest truck manufacturer, carrying Freightliner and Detroit diesel, Western star, and Thomas built bus brands. Chryssa Hunlock has been with DTNA since 2012, minus one year during the pandemic where she was working directly for a truck fleet as the director of driven engagement and technology, she holds her class A, C, D, L, and has driven tractor trailers across the country prior to this role at DTNA.
Chryssa will go in depth with trucking industry news and discuss why it is impacting our work.
She was also a Technical Sales Rep, helping sales men and women and customer specs and customer spec the powertrain on a truck, as well as the district service manager, assisting dealerships with repairs in business strategy. In her current role, she covers California down to Bakersfield helping to grow parts sales and assist dealerships chase parts and truck repair.
Learn more about the Automotive Industry, HERE.
Chryssa Hunlock told us that,
As we sit here today and different from the last time you and I hung out, the problems are worse than they were. As an industry, when we talk about trucking, there’s a shortage of drivers that is almost insurmountable for the industry. Then the shortage of Technicians, I remember us in Portland talking about all the things that Daimler was doing to help vocational schools and supporting them in the McKenzie study, you guys commissioned on how to retain technicians and all of that.
How do you see it now compared to years ago? What are your overall thoughts on recruiting in the labor force?
Chryssa Hunlock answers my question and tells us,
“Definitely worse, like you said, with the pandemic and a lot of people leaving the workforce, going on unemployment, for different, various reasons, taking care of loved ones. This has all made what was already on a downward trend much worse everywhere I go, the dealerships I visited previously when you and I hung out last time. I was a district Service Manager then. I was living in that service world as their OEM rep and we were pushing through, which Daimler still is. We want to get that truck fixed and back on the road, as quickly as possible, even as the OEM…
We’re partnering with the dealership saying, “what do you need,”and the answer is always Technicians.
Now that I’m in parts sales, it’s the same story, except it’s not Technicians. I need someone to work with cores. Shipping back cores or someone to be on the front counter in the call center. It’s still just a massive shortage of people willing or interested in being in the trucking industry overall. For me, certainly my time when I left was most recently, just a couple of months ago, when I rejoined Daimler, but I spent about a year working for the truck fleet and the driver shortage was right in my face there too.
I’ve been in this industry in this corner of the world and I don’t know if it’s true for every blue collar job?
Is it every skilled trade? Have we been shoving degrees at people for too long and now there’s no people who work with their hands or is it specific to the trucking industry? I just know that here within this industry, it is just getting progressively worse year over year and this pandemic has really expedited that.”
The latest Trucking Industry News is something that the world needs to acknowledge.
I responded to Chryssa Hunlock and told her that 60 minutes did a piece months ago about this and it’s not specific to our industry. They can’t find plumbers, most kids have some sort of skill set and knowledge, and maybe higher IQ or going into programming, they’re going into it, but they’re not going into certain industries they don’t perceive as being cool. Like nobody perceives a plumber as being cool or a technician. They don’t have the same stigma that a plumber would, but, if you talk, if you’re hanging out with your friends and you say I’m a coder that has a little more value to the younger generations coming up.
When they did a piece on it, they were talking about how plumbers could make a couple hundred thousand dollars a year and they can’t provide their services for the amount of demand that’s out there.
I think we see that all the time in service departments, whether it be a truck or car dealership, that they’re booked out three weeks and they’re just trying to shove more into the pipeline. It diminishes the experience, the attention to detail, and the outcome of its customers’ unhappy and stressed out employees. That’s just doing more and more and more and more stress day in and day out. So it’s harder to retain employees and the retention of the customers is diminishing.
Chryssa Hunlock comes in and builds off the idea by saying,
“The trucking industry is even more unique there because at least 70% of all goods are moved by truck. If we don’t have enough support personnel to keep trucks on the road, then we don’t have stuff on the shelves, you know? It’s so tied to all of our daily lives that we should all be pushing and figuring out how to make trucking more sexy or whatever needs to happen.
Like you said, making it a cool job for the people entering the industry. I’m hoping that the emergence of electric trucks and autonomous trucks and all this new technology that’s coming out, I’m hoping that that’s going to be the push that we need to fill that gap that you’re talking about. That it is going to get the younger generation interested again.
You have some of the older generation that comes down hard on millennials, which I am a part of. Then there is Gen Z that just doesn’t want to work hard. They want to be behind a computer, but I think it’s more than that, they want a purpose to what they’re doing. That’s what really drives me in this industry, I see the long term effects of work that my work has within the trucking industry. That all of us contribute to that. If I don’t want the price of avocados to be double the amount, I need to do my part to keep trucks on the road and keep commerce moving. It is all really tied together.”
I want to point out that I think what makes Chryssa so special and unique in the industry is that she’s thinking about that bigger picture. Chryssa focuses on the end outcome and I think a lot of times what happens with Service Advisors and Technicians and Parts people.
I don’t think we too often think about the outcome of what we do and how important it is. Trucking Industry News and trends will change the way we see our environment.
We’re just thinking about this pain in the thing we have to do. I had an experience pre-pandemic that I was dying to tell you about and talk about. It was so interesting to me because we created Service Advisor training and manager training for international trucks. Pre-pandemic we were doing live advisor training and one thing that just completely blew me away that happened was during my time in Baltimore, Dallas, everywhere that we went to do the classroom training was that Service Advisors would talk about how drivers would bring in trucks. They would go to the waiting room and three hours later, the Service Advisor would go to update them and the driver had left and taken another job with another company. It wasn’t one time, it wasn’t two times, it happened three times.
I ask Chryssa,
“How common it was that drivers would just up and leave and take another job with another company because the truck had been in service for a couple hours?”
Chryssa chuckled and replied,
“It’s all too common and as the director of driver engagement for CIMA Freight Lines, I was running the team for recruiting and retention as well as training the drivers. What I found was driver enrichment was really important because every fleet out there is trying to do the same thing, they’re trying to attract and keep drivers. Drivers can go put their thumb up on the highway and get a job. We picked up guys whose truck broke down and we got a phone call and we’ll do whatever it takes.
We’ll scramble. We’ll ask some other driver to go get him or pick him up. It is a dog eat dog world out there and in all things trucking. Every single piece of the industry has to make sure that they’re taking care of what I call the talent.
They’re the talent because nothing happens without the driver and so we need to be taking care of them, whether they’re at a service repair facility, which is always a bad day, a lot of them aren’t getting paid when they’re sitting there. If they’re an owner operator, they’re definitely not getting paid. There’s different ways to apply empathy to what you’re doing, but it’s a completely different ball game.”
Hearing Chryssa’s clever response, I then asked her,
Chryssa replied by saying,
“Yeah, parts are kind of tricky. It’s not as clear cut as the Service Department, which is usually a simple truck fix or treat me nice while it’s broken. Working for parts is interesting because parts are partly warranty and repairs when the truck is down, but it’s also being a partner to your local customers and asking who supplies your oil. We can put them on a parts truck and deliver them for you. Meanwhile, they might have a different brake drum rep that is also trying to get that business.
The good part is salesmen that are out there in California truck centers, who I work with now, along with running Freightliner, they’re just banners year over year making groundbreaking numbers and parts sales. I think a lot of it has to do with the hustle.
They are absolutely willing to hustle and get their outside people out there, making the connections. Building the relationships and asking how they could help their customers while being willing to listen.
So much of trucking is based on relationships and that’s very similar to what I was talking about before. Those are soft skills, but I’m sure at some point during your Service Advisor Training, you might’ve picked up that there’s trucking fleets that won’t do business with a whole dealership family, just because someone’s off another brother 10 years ago, it’s generational. Trucking is so much related to family that every relationship really does matter.
I know I was just talking to one dealership who doesn’t want to do business with a particular oil supplier that’s in the area because they found out it’s not somehow completely affiliated with the US and there’s some Canadian affiliation. They want to be fully U.S, you never know where these ties come from. Just what I’ve learned in trucking is everything that comes around goes around and burning a bridge will last a long time here. It’s about beating the streets and being willing to constantly be fully engaged, fully listening, and then ask to offer help. On top of that, being willing to do all the follow-up and you know, it’s a really busy world.”
Christian Lafferty chimed in and gave us insight by telling us,
“I think there’s something to that too, for example the organization of the whole thing. If you think about the most successful parts departments, I’m going to guess a couple of things. One is that they probably got a really good outside sales program. They probably have a really nice clean inventory and they probably have not got a core issue.
So I think that it’s kind of like how you do everything. But what I see with the parts departments that work the best, they absolutely tell 100% to what you said. They remember that they’re in the relationship game.
Many times, I’ll see Parts Departments where they’re like, well, I just move parts, but it’s way more about the relationship than they think that it is.
The ones that are doing the best, they run it clean and then they run into the relationship. I totally get it about the generational thing too encase. I like to think about my grandfather and how he would react to these situations.”
After listening to all of this, one thing is that I’m coming from the car side of things. The amount of sales to the outside Service Department is a pimple on the backside of the parts department. Like the Parts Managers swing a way bigger stick in. Here’s something that you’ll hear in a car dealership a parts manager will say,
The jockey will say, “Well the Service Department’s my number one customer.”
You’ll never hear that in a truck dealership. The Parts Manager will be like, “Tell the service manager to make an appointment. I’m busy.”
There are so many trucking industry news we have to follow up with.
Carissa then enlightened us by going in depth with her statement, saying,
“It’s partly true but I was gonna say that the relationship that we were talking about before. Whenever I come into a new role, the first assessment I’m doing is what motivates this person? What are they paid by the business? Are these commission-based outside parts sales, are they commission-based. These are going to be the things they’re looking for. But of course there’s a lot more money to be had in quantity alone.
If you’re going to go out, beat the streets and say you want to supply all of your brake shoes. All of your oil and all of your drums and all these filters and all these high turnover dollar items.
But you have to have a good relationship with the service department too because they are going to make you quite a bit of money on top of that.It’s a smaller fraction, they’re maybe not your biggest customer all the time but certainly I wouldn’t want to not have enough of radiators on my shelf so that my own service shop has to go get a radiator from somewhere else that can happen. I’m here to make sure you know that we’re partnering with them just to make sure that OEM we’re giving them is the right deals so that they’re stocking the right parts so that they can supply not only all those outside customers, but anyone that walks in the door, cash customers, as well as, you know, the Service Department.
Talking about Trucking Industry News and trends, we can figure out how this impacts our workplace.
That’s something I really respect about the dealership I’m working with now is they come right out and talk about how we believe in sitting down with the service department, we need to work in tandem. That can’t be overlooked and there’s so much overlap there that, I mean, I say it in the trucking industry, I’m not really sure. I haven’t read any studies or done my own research, but I’m not really sure every industry is as tied to each and every component as the trucking industry.
If my parts pricing person who sits in some office, you know, in the middle of the country, out here for Daimler for the OEM. Additionally, if they clock out at 5:00 PM and they had one more part that they needed to price, their computer method of putting the price in the system.
If they clock out before doing that last one and go home, I’ll get that tomorrow.
That means that the dealership can’t sell that part because it’s not priced yet. If there’s a customer that needs it tonight, sorry, you have to wait till tomorrow, we’ll get the pricing in. Then you have to wait another couple of days for the PDC to deliver it. Then another couple of days for the shop to get it to do the repair.”
She really went into detail when she said this specific thing,
You’re just not looking at the bigger picture. You’re not understanding how you fit in this ecosystem.
I would have to say that Chryssa is one hundred percent right. I think it is interesting and I think that car dealerships suffer from this, but truck to a larger degree, for some reason, I’m not quite sure why. Because it’s kind of the same when you talk about a parts department and staffing a parts department, there are not a lot of people coming into the industry that see themselves as a parts counter person. As part of the counter, people leave the new kids coming up. They don’t really have a system like our system for training people for the last 50 years.
Furthermore, they are in the saddle on the job, paying attention, learning and what I’ve seen over and over again and in dealerships in the last few years the parts counter people that are good are so busy.
But it doesn’t really train them how to be a parts counter person. It doesn’t train them on the mindset. There’s a lot of turnover at that middle to bottom part of the parts counter.
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Chryssa Han Locke, you are a star in our industry. We love you and think the world of you and we really appreciate you coming on and talking to us. We need to hang out more soon and catch up, but this was great. Thank you to Chryssa for tuning into this episode of SDR.
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