George Thellman

Interview by
Published on
June 13, 2022

In this episode...

Technology serves many purposes, but at its core is a very simple yet relevant function: to help make things efficient. In the trucking industry, today technology can do so much for drivers, owner operators, and other stakeholders especially if advancements are embraced and put into practice. Safety, in particular, can be positively impacted by analytics and tech. George Thellman of LYNKS by RAN Transportation is a big proponent of streamlining operations through technology - a single sign-on on a platform to start the day for drivers, digitized paperwork instead of manual processes, and many more help the back office and especially drivers save time. As the daily workload is made easier by technology, imagine the domino effect that helps ease the work-life balance of drivers, employees, and have long-lasting benefits for owner operators and the industry. Don’t miss this conversation with George Thellman on Life By The Mile, delivered by FreightWorks. Join in and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

George Thellman

Director Of Operations at LYNKS by RAN Transportation


if you're focusing on all your operations and in the sense of the processes you're not focusing on your drivers so allow the technology to streamline your business you can focus on what is important you know your drivers so again like i said using technology to streamline that helps you do that welcome to life of the mile delivered by brakeworks one of america's fastest growing podcasts actually produced by trucks indicted to tell stories compelling

this is life by the mile delivered by freightworks i'm your host butch maltby make sure by the way that you like share subscribe push that little bell get the updates we've got episodes out every week it is a joy today to have george stellman he's the director of operation for lynx you know i i'm gonna read something that i want you to tell me what the company really does okay because you get people that write on the website and they're great writers but let me read this and then you tell us exactly what you do lynx is a multifunctional cloud-based transportation management system designed for carrier shippers and brokers of all sizes our easy to use and affordable end-to-end solution provides the resources you need to manage and grow your transportation business now for all the folks that are youtube watchers and are on the audio platforms why don't you tell us as the director of operations what you do well let's put in layman's terms well you know what lynx cms does is it it actually helps you operate your business more efficiently and i mean i know that was a lot of gowly [ __ ] and buzzwords and so forth but you know like i said in simplest terms stuff that you're doing manually right now we can help you uh be more efficient by digitally transforming your business and not only doing it on your computer but doing it in your truck on your on your phone on your tablet anywhere that you need to access the internet well you know the interesting thing george i was reading here recently uh tom quimbly the ccj senior editor he said recently in an article some of the bigger factors impacting job retention according to workhound include stress level concerns about paid long hours perceived lack of respect lack of work-life balance and an increasing transitory culture particularly among younger employees talk a little bit about how technology can address those issues that's a salad bar of potential driver complaints that when you take it together can create this toxic surge that has people leaving a company so talk about how technology can help in those areas sure i mean you think about it um you know inside the the truck things are becoming very cutting edge with all the sensors the internet of things telematics you name it but when it comes to the user experience for those drivers that's where you know there's friction um there's app fatigue there's there's tons of things and i've heard it too many times saying too many windows too much work so how do we make it more appealing to the younger crowd i mean i understand the average age is 55 but where the retention really is the problem is the younger crowd and they're used to these cell phones with the one click and they get a whole bunch of stuff so that's where we come into play and trying to make that be more user user-friendly more streamlined less windows less work and uh you know that cutting edge feel to things even though it's still the basic business practice it's just putting it in a different light yeah and so it's not so much probably is it george that it's a rejection of technology it's it's people want something that's usable user friendly something that they can see that materially impacts in a good way their life right well yeah you think about you know and this this industry is no different than any other industry you go to your comfort zone and you go to what you're used to right you know you always hear well my my dad always did it this way or my mom always did that way so we're going to continue doing it is it right or wrong it's indifferent um but if you create a more comfortable user experience people are more apt to use it if they're not afraid of the technology you think about it outside their truck they're on facebook twitter youtube they're doing it all outside of their business they're just not comfortable using the technology for their business and uh and so what you have is you have a lot of drivers i guess that are saying i want to know that this is going to practically benefit me so how do how do you deal with drivers that just don't want to go down the road of seeing what do you see that works in helping a driver understand these technology platforms properly applied are going to help your life what how do you talk to them well you know you find out their pain point uh for example one of our our customers you know when we were talking to them during this discovery they said you know they're a seven truck operation they were eight let's go back to seven we have two office people and they want to get to 10 by the end of 2022 and they want to get to 15 by first quarter of next year and i asked some point blank what's holding you back he says i would have to hire another back office person to handle another three trucks well what are you do what are you doing technology wise we're using google spreadsheets in email right there if you can show them by just giving me a shot give me 30 days i will show you how easy it is to use our software to fill that gap get you to your 10 trucks without having to hire another person to manage what you're doing that's basically what it comes down to right and you know what you know what's so interesting george is there are people that have gifts uh apparently the way that you do that are this point of interface between drivers and technology and management and the like you kind of live in that nether world don't you uh in between all it's it's like trying to teach people who speak german how to speak french i mean you you have to live in all of those worlds don't you yeah you know that's one thing you know as you you look at my background i mean it's uh it's of of things and i think that's what helps me out today is to be able to think of it from a technology standpoint because i was a developer at one point but also had an as an end user in my previous career in the space i would actually go on site and watch users use the software and that still resonates to me to this day you know saying why do i have to click it one more time that doesn't make sense and so to notice to all technology people out there you know listen to your users they're the ones that know how to use it you're just the one that created it let's george let's talk a little bit about the whole area of driver retention because in doing the reading and the literature and looking at links and and and your role in all of this there's some notion in the marketplace that the focus on recruitment really ought to be redoubled efforts on retention you know keeping drivers that you have and we know the high cost of driver replacement give us your insight and perspective on what forward-thinking companies are doing to address the whole issue of retention in my experience and of course the discussions that i've had over the last year and a half with people in those positions you know it's a matter of actually listening uh to your drivers making them what they are they are professional um outlets of your business so treat them that way they're not just a number they actually are a professional human being and treat it that way and i agree it's it's more costly to lose and recruit than it is to retain and so as i i know you see all these finite bonuses and so forth you should put that on retention bonus right and encourage in inside competition amongst drivers for either safest you know safety you know um turnaround times they're within the bounds don't create um negative behavior that may be risky you know keep it the sense that they're still safe but again work on making them a professional uh driver that they are that's that's really good and you know some of the data suggests that among millennial drivers the turnover is like uh 18 months or so i mean it's you we're really in kind of a churn and burn kind of environment and so so many companies seem to amp up on marketing budgets and recruiting budgets and just sort of accept the fact we're gonna have a big back door and drivers are gonna leave and uh and yet you still really believe that technology properly applied is a way that can help deal with the holes in the bucket right well yeah i mean think about it too is if you're focusing on all your operations and in the sense of the processes you're not focusing on your drivers so allow the technology to streamline your business you can focus on what is important you know your drivers so again like i said using technology to streamline that helps you do that you know folks were this is life by the mile delivered by freightworks this is uh george thelma he's the director of operations for lynx they're a cloud-based transportation management system make sure that you like engage subscribe share become part of this this community here we love being able to bring you marketplace experts like george with insights that he's giving now take take your hat on for a minute that looks up around the corner and talk about where you think technology is taking us in terms of the industry what are we going to see in the years ahead

well i mean i think you're starting to see it already i mean the pandemic accelerated things you know people were already digitally transforming their business since the 1980s but the the dawn of computers but more and more digital in the cab when it comes to workflows automating um i i see that you'll maybe not have to read a lot of your junk email you'll start seeing the some machine learning to pick out the important emails and and key it up for you to look at instead of reading through 10 emails to get to that one and possibly some automated responses again trying to get not replace humans but make humans uh work more efficient and more smart and and when you look at the whole area of safety what what are some of the things that you see that may be coming there um in my past experience with with safety i mean obviously you're getting more and more sensor data um they've been collecting data now for for many moons now right and it's not collecting the data that accounts to using the data that counts and you're starting to see more and more data aggregators out there in the safe safety data spaces presenting i would say smart driver training based on behavior attributes you understand you hit this certain threshold um you may want to take this proactive class right proaction is the best reaction and so i think you're going to start seeing that more in the safety arena when you look at drivers uh how do you deal with the reality that some believe it's more and more intrusive i mean forward-facing cameras and all of the interpretation of their driving based on analytics how are we going to deal with the human dimension of that you know obviously that's a big concern i remember when i moderated panel last year at the safety security hr conference for ata um that that question came up and the answer was is you have to show your drivers that this is not meant to be a disciplinary and you have to hold through that don't use it as a disciplinary but use it as a positive reinforcement and also you want to be able to identify areas of improvement and that's why you have to look at it it's not a way to unearth the dirt but ways of how you can improve because a safe driver is a profitable driver and it's a lot easier to defend them when you have defensible information it's not saying get you in trouble right right and it seems to be true too and correct me if i'm wrong here if you have a company or an enterprise that lacks in the area of trust any new technology is going to be quickly interpreted as they're intruding on my life again but if you have a an environment that's family driven values driven you keep your promises the drivers trust you they feel respected you make good on every prom promise and when you make a mistake you admit it that's going to be isn't it a culture that more easily adapts change to change yeah you know also think about it it's like you said it's it's it's if you treat your drivers right they're not looking at the alternative motive they're looking at it as a business motive right so when you treat your drivers as a number you they tend to go that route and and no pun intended with the route aspect but you know right they feel like a commodity right yeah and that's why they're leaving right right it's one of the things that we find here at freight works at the risk of it sounding like a commercial we we have drivers that aren't used to being called by their name or us knowing who their family is or knowing anything about their background and it's one of the things that we really have attempted to do here at life of the mile is to tell the rich vibrant diverse stories of of uh of drivers you know and that's how you end up with episodes like uh 5 million miles 250 pounds and six playful ferrets i mean it's the story of a driving team that drives with ferrets they lost 250 pounds and have driven more than 5 million miles and to really celebrate the story of what some have said are the last american cowboys uh is is something we're really committed to do george let me let me ask you this listeners and viewers on our youtube channel are always interested to hear the personal story from our guests can you give us a chronology of your life how did you get to where you are wow uh that's a loaded question um do we have time for that butch um well just give us i'll tell you what give us an expedited run but take as much people really love this they love to know the story behind the face and the voice yeah so um well let's just go back to the last 10 years um lived in florida lived a life of a realtor and so forth loved dealing with people and when the real estate market crashed i moved back home to cleveland ohio and got back into my roots of technology and that's what kind of led me into working for a very large player in the tms world i i dealt a lot with the fuel haulers um turns out actually i have a lot of friends and family in the trucking industry that i never knew i did right and so when i went to the family picnics i had commonalities to talk to me with and

yeah i didn't realize i had it right and so um it really was able to marry my my passion of dealing with people and finding ways of helping people and this industry is full of fun persons right you know i've never met really a meat soul in this industry it's co-option everybody's in competition with each other but they're always willing to help the little guy out and that's what really gravitated me to lynx is helping the little guy out and taking my background of technology and people skills and moving it forward that is so good and so uh cleveland was your home yeah originally from east cleveland met ohio and i moved to florida um my wife uh you know was down there and um got my real estate license did a little bit and then came back up here so what one of my best friends in in in college was from parma that's a suburb right yeah that's on the west side i mean that's that's that's where drew carey is from and it's known for their pierogies and plastic flamingos okay now you see this is the rich this is the deep and rich side of of you george that we only get into when we start excavating you know we can talk about the technology stuff but this is the story behind behind the story do you remember your first computer yeah um well i had two of them um i had the commodore 64. then my dad was a head custodian at cleveland schools and he brought home the ibm 286. oh that must have been something yeah uh both were very interesting obviously the commodore you plugged into your tv and it was more game oriented and the ibm was truly just doss there was nothing else yet right so um i learned how to program at an early age so i got to do you know the hangman play oregon trail and so forth right so early on it stuck with me well i'm i'm uh much older than you so my first computer was called an osborne and it looked like a sewing machine it was big had a handle on it small screen slash commands floppy disks that you would put in there and uh my first telephone looked like something that somebody in world war ii was using as a walkie-talkie so technology has come pretty far and and pretty fast and when we talk to the older drivers it's so interesting because they'll say to the younger drivers you have no idea what it was like to have to shift all the time have no air conditioning have no technology at all so you really get some different generational perspectives on the whole question of how is technology going to help me don't you well or even think about you know when you would go to the truck stops and you'd be in the driver's lounge and there was a wall of phones right and those phones were to the load board essentially right the old-fashioned load board you had a tv screen that had a number for you to call and find out where your next load was coming from you know now it's just not all in your hands it's no different it's just uh the speed of it is faster do you george do you believe there's been a proliferation of apps some of which are not very good that has created a a sense on the part of some drivers uh uh too much there's too much out there i don't know what to pick from and they just gravitate as you said to what's familiar i i think i think that's over i would say over the last five years you've seen an of of apps and they they there's nothing all encompassed being there maybe cater to one aspect you know one of my my friends in the industry he's a director of operations at a trucking facility and they said that day one they have a driver download 15 apps on their personal phone and and i'm just thinking of myself 15 apps now talk about app fatigue right and that just speaks to what you just said there is there too many apps out there and i think we need to start coming back to streamlining into one application you know why do you need one to do this and then wanting to do that why not just have one that does both george if you were talking to some people that had some technology aptitude and interest in this industry that were younger they were coming out of uh college what would be some of the coaching or mentoring inputs that you would give them if they're interested in the industry and they want to get into doing what you do and have a path to do it what would you tell them well you know interestingly enough i actually got to speak to some high school students uh prior to the pandemic uh one of my passions is actually mentoring the young minds and i'm on the advisory council for one of the career tech programs here locally and i would tell them look you might be just looking at the programming aspect the code but you take that aptitude and there's so many different facets that you can take from that not just in a cubicle you know you may be that extrovert and like to be in front of people so maybe a project manager be the right role for you or even working for a trucking company itself and being the receiver of the technology or this yeah you know the cto making those decisions of what applications they use internally so i i think this industry does not get good um spotlight that it deserves you know everybody thinks of the industry being that's rough and tough you know um low educated people and so forth and in reality it's there's a lot more intelligence in this industry than people have you know actually lead them to believe 100 percent and of course it's one of the things that at freight works we're committed to is to try to help drivers understand you are part of the backbone of our economy our supply chain and really encouraging driver drivers to embrace the professionalism of what they have now let me ask you this where we believe you know god gives people gifts were you always kind of gifted to look at situations and say i want to figure out a way to fix that or look at things as an end user you know what i'm asking some people i think are just gifted that way where they can look at a flow or a process and say that can be better it would is that you is that the way you were made yeah i would i would agree and you know that's my blessing and my demise at the same time um you know my my honey do list is a mile long because of that right um i tend to do the things myself instead of hiring somebody um you know this past weekend i i put a gazebo in my backyard yeah again i mean leaky roof figure it out um my dad always taught me that you know use your hands use your mind and if you can't figure out there's somebody will help you that is notable that's that's really good that is that is that's really good so you know being able to parachute into the world of the driver and ask the question what can we do to make life easier better more efficient something that helps their bottom line that's really a driving force of what you do right yeah i mean before my brother-in-law passed he was 25 truck driver and i was able to bounce ideas out with him over the last couple years unfortunately passed a year ago memorial day and um but that helped me understand how to make it easier in the truck for the younger crowd and you know again thankfully finding my way to links is now giving me that voice back right being able to take what shane told me and now applying it for the better the industry the mark of a good conversation is that we start to see the mile marker saying that it's coming to an end we still have a handful of minutes here i've got a couple more questions and we want to end it with something that we're going to give you if if you were to communicate to what we we have other companies that listen to the podcast if you were to communicate a succinct message to companies about technology about what they can be doing that they're not doing paint a picture for a minute for companies here are things that you need to have a wake-up call about what would you say

well i mean the last few years have been really good right you know the economy was going good and then of course the ramp up after the pandemic was good but without technology you're finding these inefficiencies and in my opinion the small independent truckers actually are in the cap bird seat right now and people like what everything you see in these headlines say that they're not but most of them are not adopting technology yet and if they do they'll be able to survive at a i would say at a faster clip than larger companies that are not as as agile it takes six months to change their process so the only thing i would say that the people you know that are listening that embrace technology don't fight against it will actually help you weather rough roads ahead you know what george one of the things that i've appreciated by the way this is george stellman he's director of operations for lynx and one thing i've appreciated is that there are stereotypes about people that have your motivated abilities and you're much more affable and friendly and not green visored and over in the corner than a lot of people would envision i think it comes from what you said early in the interview which is that you fundamentally love people you like people you enjoy interacting with them that certainly has come through today yeah and that's the other thing unfortunately you see a lot in this industry everybody's revenue centric and not customer-centric and we need to go back to our roots figure out how to help the driver and it will come temple no question and one of the driving principles that freight works which is an asset-based carrier coast-to-coast driver team solos and the like is we're a strong believer in the maxim it's a conviction that we're interested in relationships more than transactions and that's one of the reasons why you know we we trust that we're going to be able to stay in touch and this is not just a one-off interview but you're now part of the life of the mild team and in the spirit of that i now do my qvc imitation here george so we have three things to offer you i'm going to show them to you this uh is a cap that we debuted at the mid-america truck show which by the way was my first experience there that was overstated it was mine was it it was over stimula it was incredible and and we did i don't know i think we did 16 or 18 interviews but this went over really well because it's got the red white and blue you know the faux black and the stars there it's got the leather patch there for life of the mile and then we've got our more traditional freight works with the logo there with with the uh cap blue cap and then we've got a genuine yeti mug it's got the life of the mile logo on the front it's got the freightworks logo on the back coffee iced tea sweet tea whatever it may be so uh tell us which one of those you want we're gonna send it to you as soon as you email your address i actually like you the uh traditional hat with right here pre-work salutes logo on it yeah okay you're the first taker in a while so i'm gonna we're gonna start to tabulate which people take which gift that we give and then we'll have somebody that comes up with some analytical interpretation of what kind of people are picking these out we'll send this a little that looks like a hat that i'll be wearing on the golf course during the golf league so we'll be good to go great well take us pictures so we can post on our social media and speaking of social media once we get this this pulled together we would love the opportunity to push it out since we've had some mention of links on whatever your platforms might be and whatever we can do to help you you you know how to reach us here george thanks for taking time you know what i love i love when people in the middle of a productive day are willing to do a podcast i'm grateful that jordan uh here kid on our team has a linkedin relationship with you and that uh this this all worked out it's been great to get your insights we're grateful thanks much for having me as well sure this is life of the mile delivered by freightworks make sure that you subscribe to our youtube channel like share become part of this team we've got great guests like george stellman and we look forward to having you on again soon thanks so much 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 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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