Coalition, Forest River, Address RV Transports
During a hectic week around the RV-building capital of Elkhart, Ind., the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) RV Transportation Coalition managed to sit down Wednesday morning (Aug. 6) and forge significant progress on a number of fronts.
“It was an outstanding inaugural meeting,” reported Chairman B.J. Thompson. “The segments of the industry that wanted to come together were there. We had outstanding representation of transporter members and OEMs, and we were pleased to have the opportunity to have Jeff Hirsch (president of the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association) and owner of New Hampshire-based Campers Inn) and Doug Lown (Coachlight RV, Carthage Mo.) as RV dealer members in attendance.”
The coalition was established in June by the RVIA to resolve growing issues the RV sector has faced – especially last winter – in finding and retaining enough drivers to deliver the finished towable and motorized vehicles that the industry manufactures largely in and around northern Indiana’s Elkhart County.
Much of the conversation, along with CDL licensing and electronic logging issues, focused on measures to boost driver recruitment, including a plan to post RV member transporters’ contact info on a landing page linked to the Go RVing website.
“Another interesting item that came out of the coalition meeting is the issue of driver retention – how we can hang on to the drivers that we have already spent considerable time and resources in developing,” added Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates. “There’s too much turnover on drivers and we want to do more to retain those that we already have. One of the issues that already came up is how we can make it easier for drivers and dealers at the point of unit delivery because there are some problems with the way things stand.
“So what we’re going to do is form a task force of coalition members to develop best practices for the delivery of RVs at the point of delivery. We hope to have a draft of those best practices assembled in time for the RVDA Con/Expo, and we would like to expose that draft to dealers so that we can get some input from them. If we can’t make it by the RVDA Con/Expo, we’ll plan to have it at the Louisville Show so that we can get additional input.”
In related action, Forest River Inc. CEO Pete Liegl told RVBUSINESS.com this week that his 9,800-employee, Elkhart-based company is taking steps to bolster the welfare of part-time transport drivers delivering units on behalf of his company by extending “indefinitely” an additional 20-cent-per-mile reimbursement that Forest River introduced about three months ago.
Liegl took another bold step by announcing that his firm no longer expects drivers to wash the units they deliver for Forest River.
“We’re going to discontinue washing units,” said Liegl.” Specifically, I want to do that because we’re tying up a driver who doesn’t even know where the wash places are at. A lot of times it’s not a truck wash bay, it’s a car wash, and it’s not adequate to take a truck and fifth-wheel through in the first place. It’s sometimes cramped and backed up with cars, so it’s not a good deal and they don’t have the adequate tools at all of these places to do a good wash job.
“What I’m going to do is discontinue it, but I’ll give a $30 credit on every (dealer) invoice once we start that so the dealer now has $30 to hire a wash boy to wash it, and he very easily can. By the same token, now we’ve freed up the driver for several hours to get back on the road and deliver more units.”
Suffice to say that Liegl’s announcement was well received by transporters like Bill Garvey, CEO of Classic Transport Inc. with headquarters in Elkhart and a towable shipping yard in nearby Goshen. “It’s a very positive move and, better than that, it’s coming from a leader – a guy who started this whole Open House thing that we have every September and is so successful,” said Garvey. “I mean I don’t think it could come from a better company to show leadership to the industry.”
All in all, Garvey says the” money issue” is a key factor in curing what ails the industry’s transportation sector, which resulted in a backlog of more than 25,000 units on the ground awaiting delivery last winter.