Chris Davies

Interview by
Published on
August 2, 2022

In this episode...

Fleet Manager Chris Davies knows that every truck FreightWorks puts on the road is carrying precious cargo in the form of drivers and those whom they love. While all trucking companies in America deal with breakdowns and wear and tire with those unpredictable moments on highways and byways, at FreightWorks each of these moments is a chance to practically serve our driving team. In an open-hearted conversation, you’ll hear about the values and principles guiding all work in our shop and why phrases like “We’re listening” and “How can we get this fixed and get you on the road?” actually mean something. When you drive for FreightWorks you join a growing family. In this episode, you’ll learn more about the guys we affectionately refer to as “the shop.”

Chris Davies

Chris Davies is FreightWorks' Fleet Manager


we want drivers to be safe we want drivers to uh enjoy their job they want drivers to really enjoy the truck um as much as drivers don't want to break down we don't want to see them right now we want them to make money if they're not making money we're not making money welcome to life of the mile delivered by brakeworks one of america's fastest growing podcasts actually produced by trucks indicted to tell stories propelling drivers i need to do something like industry all

your host let me tell you this real quickly before we get into some very engaged content here today please make sure that you subscribe to the youtube channel like share help us develop this audience it's how we're able to keep coming to you the way that we do i am thrilled because it's extremely hard to get our guests here into the studio and there's a good reason for that he's been with us before chris davies is the maintenance and fleet manager for freight works he's got tremendous responsibilities right before we came on he's checking his phone because there's a whole lot that goes on in the shop and so chris is just great to great to have you thanks glad to be here with you again butch well you know what uh we we've had a couple of little trips that we've taken you know that trip to peterbilt was great uh wonderful to have the opportunity to see those trucks coming in but you know today we're going to have a real open-hearted conversation to try to demystify what happens in the shop you know i was i was reading here recently and of course i came into braid works with no background in trucking and logistics but i was reading recently that there's so many moving parts on a truck it's an incredibly sophisticated piece of machinery and even things like for example a family car has a hundred to two hundred foot-pounds of torque an 18-wheeler's got a thousand to 2000 uh foot-pounds of torque you know people gripe sometimes about what it's like to have to do a u-turn in a car but imagine doing that with a 18-wheeler that i'm told needs 55 feet of turning radius you got tires you got rims you got all these moving parts and you're ultimately responsible chris for making sure that the fleet is safe and that the wheels are rolling that's a big job quite the job to be a matter of fact so right and so let's talk a little bit about um just your your approach to things i mean you never really know when you're going to get the calls that say i'm broken down i mean the industry faces these issues it's not unique to freight works uh right i mean you you deal with a piece of equipment and it's a piece of equipment that depreciates you got to deal with it right correct and so i think a big difference and i believe most drivers understand this is that you kind of related this to uh cars or maybe not related it but kind of use that analogy and so you know cars uh most people are trading the cars before they hit you know 100 000 miles and uh so we're putting on over 500 000 miles now with the new trucks we're trying to stay under 500 000 but you're putting a lot more miles on a semi truck and so there's a lot more like you said moving parts but there's a lot more wearable parts that kind of wear out on truck so a lot of times we don't know what to expect especially as you know the fleet's been getting older and we're actually working pretty aggressively to upgrade the fleet but until we are able to upgrade the entire fleet then the older the truck gets the more things that break just natural and so a lot of times a lot of things that happen are just really unknown and it's kind of hard to predict well this is going to fail or that's gonna fail i mean um you can't replace everything on the truck it'd be nice you know sometimes to kind of say well uh yeah these these 10 items are going to fail but i mean it's just a lot of things when an old truck gets old is just unpredictable so you never know exactly what's going to happen well well and you know it it seems to me too that one of the things about the whole area of trucking and and logistics is that you get different drivers that drive differently in trucks right and you have the personality of that you have different loads you have different routes and the like but but there's one thing that i know chris about you from knowing you personally and that is that you have a real heart for the drivers you really want them to have a piece of equipment that's good and it's safe and like can you talk a little bit about just the nature of how you interact with drivers the kinds of things that drivers can do that help you do your job even better i mean sometimes in the driver's lounge i've talked to a driver and had them say uh oh i'm struggling much with my truck a little bit and when i go a little bit deeper they're not quite sure what they're struggling with it may be that they got problems at home they got issues elsewhere but the truck becomes a good place to to blen to blame so you deal with a lot of human emotions don't you correct i think one of the main things um that helps us and i think that we're trying to work on ourselves is just communication so as you said a lot of times we're hearing it from other people of hey i got an issue with my truck and you know that communication piece i think is really important and one thing that we've asked the drivers actually is not only maybe tell us in person but actually send us an email and when i have that email in front of me that kind of keeps it in front of me to make sure that their items are addressed and i keep it in front of me until the truck is actually finished in the shop we've started a new checklist that we provide to the mechanic stating everything that the driver states in his email and therefore the drive the mechanic can go over that checklist to make sure that nothing is missed and it clearly defines everything that we want the mechanic to do and even at that i had an example this morning of uh going through a driver's email making sure that we satisfied everything that he wanted and i went back with a mechanic and said hey did you get this done you know he requested this to be done so my heart our heart is to address every issue that the driver has in the amount of time that we're given now there's some times that we time doesn't allow to address everything we try to communicate that back to the driver but really we try to take the driver's input on their vehicle and do everything possible to mitigate correct the issues that they might have we have started doing a lot more test drives to make sure that um as you said different drivers see things different ways so sometimes a driver sees it one way and we test drive it and we might see it the same way and if we do we try to fix it we might see it a different way we try to communicate that back but our ultimate goal is to make the drivers uh happy with the equipment so right and and really uh safety is obviously priority number one and so you want to make sure that the truck is safe the truck is workable and and usable and the like what i also find uh chris and this is not being dismissive of drivers at all you have some drivers that are kind of uh we're going to make it work attitude and you have other drivers where you get a little rattle a little shimmy a little something and they can infer i'm not dismissing them but they can infer from it my truck's having real problems and me with no technical background when i ask a few questions can discern that sometimes it's just it's been a long month and that you know what i'm saying and that kind of feeds into things i totally agree with you so it's it's amazing to kind of maybe hear that from the outside coming in

and we just ask for everybody's patience and we try to work with everybody where they're at and we realize one thing that i believe we've kept firm too and i don't think it's changed is that um there are times that it seems like you know maybe the driver can continue to drive um and maybe make it to a repair facility that whether that be here whether that be on the road somewhere but if the driver doesn't feel safe it's his call i mean he's the one driving the truck it's his safety it's the safety everybody else on the road whether we say it's safe or not if the driver says hey you know i don't feel safe then we're going to send service to them we're not going to push them uh to that limit and one thing that i meant forgot to mention is we just um i mentioned time and time is of the essence obviously and i wish we had more time sometimes to to do everything we need to do but as you realize and as hopefully everybody else realizes i mean we have 135 trucks on the road we have over 200 trailers on the road and that's just in the grand scheme of things that's a lot to keep up with and to kind of maintain and so um we just ask for everybody's patience you know i mean a lot of times not only are we trying to get the truck fixed for the driver but we're trying to meet the driver's schedule or the dispatch schedule and so there are time constraints so a lot of times

we're trying to make sure we're staying safe and there's times that hey we're having to say hey we got to keep our truck longer and sometimes it's not very convenient for the drivers we try to compensate them accordingly but we want to make sure that we're doing the right job doing the safe job and making sure that we're turning out good work well and you know it's interesting i have friends that have been military pilots that have told me that even with these incredibly expensive uh jets military jets there are times where they're sent up where they've got a tag on something that's got to get completely fixed later i mean that's military aircraft and because you have to balance the readiness of your force up against having things 100 perfect so it's never the case that freightworks sends out trucks that that aren't safe for the driver and that will do the job for them i know that i'm confident of that but you've got you got to have a give and take to realize particularly talk about this some of the supply chain issues getting parts and all of that how has that affected things it's definitely affected it uh we've tried to mitigate that as much as we can i think we've discussed that before a little bit so we try to keep good relations with all the dealerships in the area uh and we are willing to overnight parts do whatever it takes uh but i mean we just overnighted a part out to nevada because they couldn't figure out uh couldn't find the part but that definitely does play a role into some trucks not being ready in time it's caused a huge amount of effects even on new trucks so a lot of the new trucks we're waiting for delivery currently that we were hoping to have probably last month they're just now being finalized because of parts so it's definitely playing a role in it let me let me ask you when it works really well with a driver how is the driver communicating with you describe kind of the best case scenario of a driver has a situation and what should the driver be doing that helps you do everything that you can do with your team so we'll start with communication so the best thing or the easiest thing for us is again if they send an email clearly describing what issues they're having um i don't mind the detail i'll kind of concise it and kind of put it in words that the mechanic can maybe understand or so they're not reading like you know a paragraph if that's what it takes but really communicating communicating early so one thing that we have trouble with sometimes is receiving an email or a driver just maybe showing up at the shop saying hey i got this problem can you fix it you know sometimes there are emergencies we realize that so i'm not trying to negate the emergencies but you know if a driver knows he's coming here to the shop you know notify us in a couple days in advance and hey i'm coming to the shop uh these are my issues you know i sent you an email um this is when i'm going back out and uh that helps tremendously so therefore we can kind of plan we're just not getting maybe like a surprise of hey you're here you know i'm leaving out tomorrow and you know i got 15 things that need done on my truck and it's just like hey well my shop's already full we kind of already started for the day we'll get you tomorrow you know if i can kind of plan ahead of time then really saves us and it saves the driver from having to wait um i'd say that's the best the best way to communicate chris for people that don't know because we know that there are prospective drivers that actually get to know the company before they come here to orientation by watching light by the mile can you describe a little bit what the shop is how many people what kind of equipment is there just paint the picture for people if you can of of what the shop you know what the shop is in terms of staffing and resources and and the like yeah so we have um four full drive-through base so we keep one really dedicated to trailer and trailer maintenance although a lot of the trailer stuff maybe gets done outside the shop and then we do have um three other pull through base so we can fit a total of six trucks on those bays and then we have another bay in between that kind of handles our bigger jobs um so we do a lot obviously inside the shop but unfortunately the shop's not quite big enough so we're actually doing quite a bit of work outside the shop i think we have a total of 14 uh 15 of us complete between the shop mechanics and all the support so um we have myself and tony who handles a lot of the driver complaints and road calls we have a parts guy that pretty much handles all the ordering of parts and the shop foreman really helps him out and then we have a delivery guy a parts guy that actually spends i would say 75 of his time uh picking up parts and so we kind of keep the trucks on the road and that really helps us out we're not having to wait till the um the dealership delivers that we can actually kind of stay on our time and say hey i need that part let's go get it and he's also giving drivers a ride and then we have a couple mechanic assistants that kind of help once the smaller jobs and then i think we're up to eight mechanics currently between truck and trailer and really i think we got a great team right now we are looking for some more help but we got some pretty solid mechanics i mean i got one mechanic uh that's been in the industry for i think 25 plus years another mechanic that's i think coming close to 20. and then we have some mechanics that you know maybe haven't been in it so long but they um they're very dedicated uh they're willing to learn and they've you know moved their way up i had a mechanic that started out as a tire mechanic and um he's moved his way up and has applied himself and really it's one big family so it's a great atmosphere and we try to keep it that way we try to keep it not necessarily as a dealership a lot of dealerships you just feel a lot of pressure and

a lot of demands and so yes we have pressure because we have time restraints but we try to keep it more of a family atmosphere and where they enjoy coming to work so i'm not sure if they've shared this with you so this might be a confession but i'm often over here when the group comes over and takes a break and i i uh the mechanics and and i sit and talk to them and it's just great you know they know i don't know anything about what they do every day but i ask them questions and it just feels like there's a good camaraderie there and while they're getting their coke or their water or their snack i'll ask them questions about typical things that they fix and how they fix it and what did what do different noises mean and and there's a podcast there waiting to happen sure yeah at uh at some point so we definitely uh try to um initiate teamwork or maybe i shouldn't say initiate we try to um really promote the teamwork you know working together and i think you can see that and we try to we do hire new employ uh new mechanics new employees we try to make sure they're gonna fit into our uh our family and um and really i just try to keep the i don't have a lot of experience compared to some of them i've just learned it here at freight works and so a lot of times i'm working more on the organizational side of things the management side and they obviously know that kind of the nuts and bolts of the truck and obviously i've been learning it so i really just take input from them and say hey this is what we have going on what's your input we had an issue on the new trucks and somehow we ended up with myself and three other mechanics inside the truck the other day kind of talking about this issue and it was kind of interesting to kind of hear them kind of bounce ideas off and once said well why can't we do this and one said well why are you doing it that hard we could do it this way and so i really just try to interact and kind of be their support as much as i can and you know especially when it's getting hot right now uh i've taken them to get icees a couple times and i think i got a mechanic waiting for me today because i told him before i went on vacation last week he wanted an ic and we didn't make it so he's uh he's holding me to it so i think i'll be going after lunch this is chris davies the fleet maintenance manager here at freight works this is light by the while delivered by freight works make sure that you subscribe to the youtube channel listen to all the audio podcast platforms that are out there as well chris we also do work on reefers correct and what kind of maintenance things do you have to do there so you have the reefer box on the front of the trailer and then you have the trailer itself so um a lot of the reefer just the regular pm that we do like the oil change uh belts batteries alternators we're doing here at the shop that our trailer mechanic would be doing and then if it goes beyond just the regular pm and we're actually having a fault code come up then a lot of times we're subbing that out to um the carrier dealer and let them handle it for us so okay and what about we're doing tanker work now too correct where do i tank how will that affect things so on the tanker side tankers a little more involved especially when it comes to the the tank itself we can do again regular pms as far as the brakes the the air lines the tires a few of the minor things on the tank side we can probably handle um but a tank doesn't really require a whole lot of actual maintenance it requires special testing that has to be done um and there are certain intervals of testing and we can't do the testing here but when it comes just to basic maintenance we can do that here now typically when it when a a truck comes through here a driver is coming through here are they checking in with you or not all the time or sometimes or never or how does that work so um when a truck shows up actually i do a a yard truck every morning actually i we do a kind of two yard checks if you want to say so my shop foreman walks the yard every morning what are they looking for so he's pretty much looking to kind of see what's on the yard he's looking at uh the federal sticker so the annual federal sticker to make sure that's up to date and not expired or coming due maybe he's looking to see if the pm's come and do and then also he's looking at tires on the trucks to kind of make sure that now the tires are warner he's pretty much looking to see if there's anything obvious and taking record of anything and see visually on the if you want to talk about the trailer side actually uh my trailer mechanic actually does a yard check every morning of every trailer so uh he actually is hooking up to the trailer with electrical box making sure that all the lights work on the trailer he's looking at the tires he's looking at the brakes on the trailer he's pretty looking at the federal the pm to make sure that's all good so um that's for every trailer that comes in we're really doing a good and trying to do a fairly good inspection or as much as we can with the resources we have to do that then on the truck side in addition to my shop format i'm actually looking on the computer to actually just verify that we reporting everything here that we should have here and then also i'm looking in the system as i double check to make sure that nothing's the federal is not due the pm's not due and then also looking through driver emails to say has anybody sent an email about their truck and is it here do we need to do any work on it um so really even if they don't send anything there's a good possibility that maybe their truck needs tires maybe it needs a pm maybe it needs a federal and we're going to pull it in and do that but again if we don't have any write-ups then that's all we're going to do unless we see something while we do the pm so um so a lot a lot of this really comes down to the basic principle the obvious principle you got to communicate got to communicate accurately and consistency and with consistency chris one of the things that i know about you because you're you're not just a colleague but a friend is that you really care about the drivers you care about their lives you care about them it's hard for that to be seen sometimes when you're hunkered down having to manage the ecosystem of mechanical things that you have to manage but i mean you you have a heart for for them don't you absolutely i mean we want us we want drivers to be safe we want drivers to uh enjoy their job they want drivers to really enjoy the truck um as much as drivers don't want to break down we don't want to see them break down i mean we want them to make money if they're not making money we're not making money and

part of the fulfillment i guess has come with a new truck so i've been working on the new truck for a couple years and due to some covet and some other things that just made a lot of unknowns for the actual trucking industry which everybody i think felt the effects of it uh it was delayed a little bit and so i have a lot of enjoyment and seeing the new trucks roll out and seeing drivers yes we've had a few bumps in the road rolling out the new trucks and we've worked through the issues and enjoyed working through the issues and hopefully we see some more improvements on those issues because we're constantly making changes whether it be the truck or the apu um but we've got a lot of positive feedback on the new trucks and i think it's as much as the drivers have gotten a little frustrated or maybe a lot frustrated with the older equipment we could understand the frustration and i'm just looking forward to rolling out more peterbilts get more people in new trucks and really seeing that driver satisfaction go up because as much as freightworks cares as much as the owner cares i really care about the drivers their safety and um that you know this is there's more to life than trucking and so we want them to enjoy life we talk so often here about the fact that pratt works as a family we really care we're going to keep our promises we're not going to lie to people and i often tell people we never want to forget that for many drivers there's a home where there may even be little children looking through the window waiting for mom or dad to come home and we take that very seriously i'll tell you this too one time i was out in the shop i love going there by the way when i put on a safety vest and go over to to the shop i feel like i'm in the middle of real work you know sometimes i'll say to myself you know butch it doesn't feel like real work you're doing here and get your uniform and get dirty well i i would love and you know what your your team by the way keeps telling me that they're going to get my hands in the grease and out there and i would love doing that we may consider a podcast like that but one time there was a driver there and i pointed you out and you were over at your computer screen working multitasking and i said to this driver you see him you know what he's doing he's making sure your truck works well and that you're safe and uh the whole the whole team appreciates you for that you manage just a whole lot and often in the din and the noise people don't get the chance to see and appreciate all that you're having to manage each and every day and you and tony really talk real quickly about how you and tony relate to each other because we're gonna do a podcast with him sure so tony's actually the director of maintenance so in the hierarchy he's would be my boss but pretty much he handles all the breakdowns on the road and so anytime a driver actually breaks down on the road and needs immediate service they're calling the maintenance line and tony's answering and so that's his primary focus and then obviously for any bigger decisions inside the shop we're bouncing off or bouncing it off at him to kind of get his input or get his a take or get his decision and let him be the decision maker i mean he's been in the industry 30 plus years so he has a lot more experience and i've learned a tremendous amount from him uh wouldn't know everything i know now and still even like with the new trucks i mean i'm bouncing a lot of that off of him saying hey what do you think on this what should we do on that and so um he's a great resource and um he has a big heart for uh for people as well and um he's just great to work with so i've learned a lot well you know every time i go over there one thing i can be certain of in the shop is that there's going to be a lot of activity a lot of ambient noise just a whole lot that's uh that's going on and as the new drivers come in one of the commitments that we have chris is to make sure that they understand the heart of the shop which is to suffer serve support encourage and and be there for for the drivers 24 7. because when they're out there on the road they want to know that they've got you right correct and i think one thing to mention about the shop guys and one thing i've maybe forgot before is um if we just consider the mechanics and their time so you know a lot of times drivers like to come over and talk to our mechanics and it's not a problem of we don't mind mechanics talk and uh you know anybody really but you know the mechanics are here to do a job and keep focused and they that's they got to make sure they stay focused on their job and if they get pulled in too many directions then you know your truck's not going to be fixed properly or they're going to forget to tighten that bolt and then you're going to get down the road and your truck's going to break down and then it's like well why'd y'all not fix my truck well it's because you know the mechanic got pulled off talking to somebody or somebody came and distracted him we got to make sure as much as we like to uh the fellowship and the teamwork is always welcome um sometimes i think it's easy to forget of just walking over that is really talking to somebody so that's why we just asked drivers to really focus talking to eddie who's a shop for an foreman john my assistant myself talked to tony that's what we're there for is to talk let our mechanics focus on their job that they do best and yes if we need your input we don't mind getting that involved but um let them focus on what they have to do that is well said chris i'm just afraid that again we get pulled in too many directions sometimes and some of the mechanics really like to talk and you know they're really open to help i mean they start telling the driver and i'm not trying to negate that in one bit but we got to keep them focused on what they're doing that's that's really good well i'll tell you this they seem to know when their break is up because they get up in unison and walk out together and say see you butch we'll see you next week yeah so we kind of implemented the break schedule just to help the i mean it's helpful in the summertime take that 15-minute break um in the morning and the afternoon and uh it gives them their time you know morning afternoon to do what they need to do and kind of stay focused the rest of the time on what they need to do and that's to work on your truck work on the trailer and uh make sure we're producing safe and good work so you also had a big project recently as we round the home stretch here where you were getting trucks ready to sell right correct yeah so um in addition to all the trucks on the road that's the only truck that's trucks that were actually uh tag trucks so i didn't talk about any other trucks in addition to the 135 so we've experienced a lot of uh i guess you called churn in the shop recently so um we had a lot of leash trucks that we had to get back and i think where today would be the final uh lease truck to return so that was a lot of work and then we actually uh sold several trucks at the auction that were just um you consider them non-operating trucks or they were sitting here not making money and so the shop's been stretched and pushed in many different ways to work on several different projects so um that's why we just asked for everybody's patients and we're not trying to ignore anybody we're not trying to put anybody off and one thing i forgot to mention is a driver brings a truck in and they're not going out for a week and so really it's my job to try to prioritize what trucks we work on and as much as i like to start that truck a week ahead of time if the schedule doesn't allow to start it until you know maybe three days before they go out because we have all these other emergencies that we weren't aware of uh just be patient with us we're trying to get your truck done in a timely fashion and we realized you're off for a week and we're working as hard as we can to get that within the week but um due to some unforeseen circumstances sometimes it just it pushes the schedule a little bit and so um it's trucking i mean i hate to say it that way but i mean if trucking was so easy more people would do it so that's quotable that's that's definitely quotable you know chris uh as as we uh end here today it's it's been great to have you i've told people you're like a battlefield surgeon and you don't want a battlefield surgeon that is so emotional and all over the place you want somebody that's disciplined and focused and you know bluntly i think sometimes people may misinterpret that you care for the drivers immensely you care that they're safe you care that the equipment is good and you have to manage a lot there and folks here at freightworks we're not a perfect company but we're a company that takes very seriously keeping our promises keeping our commitments a key part of that here in our company values and our company protocol is chris and the work that he does as the fleet and maintenance manager if you're interested in kicking the tires and seeing if freight works might be a good place for you call us go to life by the go to the freightworks website somebody here will tell you a little bit more about whether or not we're the kind of team that you want to be part of chris davies maintenance manager for freightworks this is life of the mile delivered by freightworks twice a week we come to you we believe it's the fastest growing podcast delivered by a trucking company and we're so grateful you've been a part of this episode today thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by a trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to the channel by clicking here we'll see you there

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