When Lee Junia went to the United States in 2001, he wanted to try something different from the automotive industry.
“At the time, I was looking for something new because I was with the automotive industry for 11 years. That’s where I got to see the logistics side [of business],” he said.
Junia joined a trucking firm in the US that had 5,000 tractor heads and 20,000 trailers, which is huge by Philippine standards. He would start his stint at the human resources (HR) department of that major trucking firm.
“In that industry, HR was so important because there was a shortage of drivers. So the recruiting side of it [the questions were]how do you retain your drivers, how do you keep them happy. That’s where I really learned to appreciate my job, because those guys in the trucking business, they are on road for one whole week, even two three weeks at a time without going home,” he said.
Junia also had to deal with drivers of diverse nationalities like Chinese, Europeans and Americans, and people who had degrees. Truckers who had to deliver freight during the holidays also presented challenges to him.
“So it was a tough time, especially Thanksgiving when everybody was on the road, and then people are calling you that they want to go home because they’re lonely. [Sometimes] you are dealing with a guy who is six-feet something, and sometimes they are very irate coming to you because they are not able to get home,” he added.
Strict safety compliance
Junia also witnessed how strict transport companies and the US government were when it came to complying with safety standards. So it was very common for the trucking company Junia worked with to fire drivers who committed violations.
Before any truck leaves the company’s yard with its freight, safety inspectors also made sure the truck’s tires still have required depth, among others. Trucks that fail inspection are sent to the maintenance area for the necessary works. Also, all the company’s trucks were limited to a speed of 68 miles per hour. Tampering with the speed limiter was automatically a ground for termination.
“That’s how strict the transport industry is in the US. Of course, the cost is passed on to the service user, but then again, it’s a much safer [service],” Junia said.
Also, the company’ drivers cannot drive for more than 11 hours even if they were paid by the miles they cover. Truck drivers under the employ of large players in the freight-forwarding business usually earn $4,000 to $5,000 a month depending on the miles they cover. But Junia said attrition and divorce rates among the company’s truck drivers are high.
The company he worked with also operated nationwide, which required him to be familiar with the highway system and major routes in almost every state in the US.
Because he handled a group consisting of 30 to 35 drivers with a high attrition rate, Junia learned to deal with employees at a personal level. He also had to make sure that his drivers were on the road delivering freight because idle drivers don’t make money.
Junia’s narration of his stint with a major trucking firm in the US can make one realize how advanced the industry is compared to the Philippines. Major trucking firms in the US also employ GPS and have a fully computerized monitoring system.
After working for more than three years for the trucking firm, Junia resigned, citing burn-out from high stress levels.
And while he never thought of getting back to the automotive industry, Junia would strangely be pulled back to it.
“The auto industry has a way of pulling you back. It’s so funny but that’s how it felt,” he said.
“When Nissan [Nissan Motor Philippines Inc.] came up with that opportunity [to join them], I just had no hesitation, I accepted it. I talked with my family, they were okay with it,” Junia added.