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Podcast

How to Build a Successful Fleet

Learn how you can set up and build a successful fleet today, and far into the future.

Episode 227: The trucking industry is the backbone of society. It provides us with everything we need to not only survive but thrive. We need commercial fleets to be successful.

My guest today is Josh Turley the CEO of RTA Fleet and the co-author of The Fleet Success Playbook.  

My guest today is Josh Turley the CEO of RTA Fleet and the co-author of The Fleet Success Playbook.  In this episode, learn how you can set up and build a successful fleet operation today, and far into the future.

Josh is a third-generation owner and the CEO of RTA: The Fleet Success Company. His passion, and the mission of RTA, is helping people work ON their fleets, rather than IN their fleets. 

Guest Website: RTAFleet.com

Guest Book: FleetSuccessPlaybook.com 

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

You’ve heard me say it before, and you’ll hear me say it again. The trucking industry is the backbone of society. It provides us with everything we need and really as individuals of this society that we live in, we need the commercial trucking industry and the fleets that operate inside of the industry to be successful. And that’s what we’re gonna talk about today, how these fleets can be successful right now in 2022 and beyond looking forward to this conversation. My guest today is Josh Turley, the CEO of RTA Fleet and the co-author of The Fleet Success Playbook. Josh is a third generation owner and he’s the CEO of RTA. The Fleet Success Company as they’re called. His passion and the mission of RTA is helping people work on their fleets rather than just in their fleets and day to day operations. Josh, welcome to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So glad to have you here.

Josh Turley:

Hey, it’s great to be here.

Jamie Irvine:

So with your mission of helping people work, you know, on their fleets, not just in their fleets, you wouldn’t by any chance, be a disciple of Michael Lee Gerber, would you?

Josh Turley:

Oh, just maybe, you know, like maybe pivoting a little bit from Emyth to the fleet myth.

Jamie Irvine:

Right? Exactly. Exactly. I actually in a previous podcast that I had called Build a Better Business, I interviewed Michael Gerber and got to know him and what a great business guy. So any business owners out there by all means go read the Emyth but we’re not here to talk about that book, we’re here to actually talk about a different book, which I’ve got in my hands right here. So Josh, you know, one thing I noticed about you and everything that you’re doing, you seem to be someone who is very passionate about creating intention in everything that people are doing in fleets. And you also have strong feelings about how important it is to use that intention in kind of opposition, to being reactive, which often in our industry, we see a lot of people being reactive. Why is it that you feel so passionate about that and what are some of the very specific drawbacks that come from having that more reactive approach?

Josh Turley:

So I think as far as why I’m so passionate about it probably traces back to my grandfather. I mean he kind of really started our whole company, started our whole movement, but personally for me, I’ve seen what it’s like when you kind of let life just lead you and you know, you get to the end of the day and you just feel like, what did I get done today? And you just feel drained from that. And so for me, it kind of started off with that was this intentionality of just really setting out and saying, this is what I wanna spend my time on. This is what I wanna spend my life on. This is what I wanna spend, you know, like where we need to spend our money. And so as I’ve kind of taken some of the business lessons that I’ve learned from, you know, people like Michael Gerber, people like Patrick Lencioni who talk about really purposely creating the type of environment you want to have, purposely creating a strategy instead of just going on a whim because I’ve lived it and I’ve done it both ways.

And I’ll tell you that it’s much, much better if you can be intentional about it and course correct and say, yeah, you know, we didn’t do very good this time, but we know where we want to go. And so this is what we’re gonna do to do it better next time.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s one of the things I particularly like about when you create like a system inside of your business, a methodical way about doing something you’re striving for like best practices. And if you have an actual system, you can measure it and you can say, you know, did it create the result we were hoping for? No, it didn’t. Okay. So now we can adjust. That’s one of the biggest advantages I see to having that intentional approach. What other things do you see that that’s a real big advantage?

Josh Turley:

You know, and being able to see the basically the outcomes of the experiment, like you mentioned, right? But also when you get to the end of the day, like you can’t really blame anybody else, you know, it’s not that life happened to you it’s you went out and you happened to life. You know, we talk a lot about building an intentional culture and building, you know, hiring the right kind of people. Jim Collins talks about that all the time. Right, get the right people on the bus, wrong people off the bus, you know, like when you’re intentional about something it’s no I meant for that to happen. And if it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to then, well, like I’m the one who needs to go fix it. Dave Ramsey says that all the time. Right. Which is say, you’re the biggest problem in your business, but guess what? You’re also the best solution. And having that kind of ownership, I think just, it changes your outlook on life. It changes how you approach problems, when you realize that you have the ability to go and make a change, then like you don’t get to blame other people for any of your challenges and issues. And it just changes your whole outlook and ownership of that.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. That maximum responsibility. So you, co-authored a book called The Fleet Success Playbook. I’ve got it here in my hand. Excellent read. I really, really enjoyed it. I picked up something and I want to quote you in it. It says in the fleet industry, uh, this is describing who the book is for. So it’s people in the fleet industry and you have a desire to grow beyond simply showing up at work. You wanna make an impact. You’ve felt the weight of responsibility and stewardship that’s been placed on your shoulders and you wanna make sure you do it right first. I’ll go on record as just saying, this is one of the great examples of really calling out who something is for. So you did fantastic there, but I wanted to clarify something, what did you mean when you say that the person who this book is really for is someone who’s felt the weight of responsibility and stewardship that’s been placed on their shoulders. What did you have in mind when you guys wrote those specific words?

Josh Turley:

So when I’m thinking about that, I’m thinking about the person, you know, that like they’ve been a lot of us when we got into fleet, we didn’t grow up in high school and college and say, you know what I wanna be, I wanna be a fleet manager. Like we kind of stumble into it on accident. And then we fall in love with it, but I’ve seen plenty of people out there that, yeah, fleets just, it’s another stop on the career path or you know, and I’ve met some of these managers and they’re just, Hey, I’m doing this so I can get to the next thing. And they don’t really take ownership. They don’t feel that weight. They don’t really take that ownership and feel this responsibility to their people. They don’t feel like they owe anything to anybody else, you know, or like, how can we help them in their careers?

It’s more about what can I get from this? And so when we wrote this, we really were focused on, you know, that second person, which is somebody who really believes that they can make a difference, that wants to make a difference, that has kind of assumed that mantle of responsibility, instead of just seeing this as another stepping stone or another step on the path to their greatness. I think you kinda see that in stewardship too, you know, it’s somebody that you are responsible for, that you are here to cultivate and grow and nurture, versus just manage and put your thumb on and, and dictate to, right. There’s very different, you know, one’s very bottom up the other was very top down and we were really writing it for that person. You know, that person that wants to grow and cultivate something instead of, you know, leave their thumbprint on it.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. It makes me think of the person who stumbled into the job in 1984 as a shop hand. And now like almost 40 years later, they’re in a position of maybe middle management or something. I remember when I was selling parts, I would sometimes talk to a senior tech or a fleet maintenance manager and maybe we’d be getting into a disagreement on what the cause of a problem was. And I remember one person emphatically saying, I’ve been doing this for 30 years of the only thing I could think to say them was, well, maybe that’s five years too long because yeah, you just get into it. And it’s like, you know, what are you adding to our industry here?

Josh Turley:

And I think that was it too, right? It’s like, what are you doing? What do you wanna do to improve, to get better? You can’t just keep doing things the same old way. You can’t sit there and say, well, you know, this is how I did it and this is how we’ve done it forever, why do we need to change? When somebody has that sense of responsibility and stewardship, they recognize that, well, the world is changing around me and I have to adjust how I do business. I have to adjust my processes, my practices, so that we can keep doing this.

Jamie Irvine:

So in section one of the book, you use a case study from the city of Vancouver, just clarifying. Is that Vancouver, Canada, or Washington?

Josh Turley:

Washington, not Canada.

Jamie Irvine:

Oh, I was hopeful!

Josh Turley:

I should have thought that it was Canada, right. Like, you know, but no.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, as a Canadian and I used to live in Vancouver and sell parts, I actually sold parts to the city of Vancouver in Canada. So I was like, oh, if this is the fleet, I actually know who they’re talking about. I think they probably need a little bit of help too, so we’ll have to send them your book, but okay. So it was Vancouver, Washington. So what three main issues were they facing? And I guess the thing is that you, did you choose those three issues because they kind of represent the main issues most fleets are facing. So first of all, what are the three? And secondly, is that what most fleets are up against?

Josh Turley:

And if I recall, you know, from my conversations with Dan over there at Vancouver, Washington, you know, like they were struggling with just, you know, cost overruns. They had, you know, a bunch of, you know, leaders that have come through that department before and they weren’t quite getting the support they needed. You know, one of their big things was they hired a consulting agency that told them what they needed to do, and then they didn’t do anything. They just kind of sat on it. And so he’s sitting here looking at this like, well, wait a minute, like, we’ve got this great system, we’ve got this great, you know, process. Like we just need to fix some things. And part of it too, is the people, you know, it was like, we just need to get some of this sense of ownership in our team and the pride.

And we were lacking some of that. And so for him, he really did set about like, okay, well, what else is in this report? What else is missing? And so it was, you know, getting cost under control. It was getting the team all aligned on the same vision, where do we need to go? What’s most important, how do we have adopt for them? It was customer service, you know, how do we get this really customer service mindset, so that our customers feel taken care of and heard and listened to. And how do we get the shop more efficient? You know, I think that most of us run into that all the time, which is, you know, getting the cost under control. How do we make sure that we’re hitting our efficiencies and optimizing our processes.

Jamie Irvine:

That’s so, so important. Whenever I think about optimizing your processes. I always think of the movie, the founder about Ray Crock and the McDonald’s brothers. Anybody who likes Michael Gerber has seen that movie. I think you and I have traveled in very similar circles for a long time. But there’s a part of the movie where they actually go and like map out the kitchen at a tennis court with chalk. And they spent like six hours that day with a bunch of teenagers, like just practicing and optimizing and nope, that doesn’t work and they move. And it was, you know, I mean maybe there was a little Hollywood there to give us the gist of it. But the point was is the McDonald’s brothers. They said, look, it takes us 30 minutes right now in this, in the restaurant industry to get this out, how can we get that down to three minutes then?

How can we get down that down to 30 seconds? And they pulled it off, which is one of the reasons McDonald’s became what it is. Of course, Ray Crock is another huge reason, but we’ll talk that at another time. But the point being is, is that like you said, in this industry, we have sometimes gotten stuck in our own ways and our old ways. And we just like, have not innovated the way we do things for a very long time. So that makes a lot of sense to me. One of the things I picked out in the book too, is you talked about the importance of data and certainly in the last few years, data has become more important than ever before, but you don’t know what you don’t know. So how do you know when you’re putting bad data in the system? Because if you put bad data in, you’re gonna get bad results out, right? Like how do you, how do you identify that first and then correct it.

Josh Turley:

So my grandfather had a saying was that we over code and we under report, we spend so much time worrying about what goes in that we don’t really think about, well, what’s coming out and it really should go the other way. Whereas if we’re trying to figure out how do I know if I’m putting in good data or not, I’ll tell you, is it really doesn’t matter until you figure out what you’re doing with it. And so my thing is always to look at well what data do you need to make the decisions you wanna make? And really that’s probably the first question is, well what decisions do you need to make? And then you figure out what data, what reports do you need to run off of that? And then how do you get that data into that report? And that’s where you kind of build that process.

What ends up happening is there’s a lot of tendency for us to, you know, in his words over code, which is we, well, we wanna put in all the data, one of two things happens. We either end up doing a lot of processes and data entry that’s just wasted because we don’t use that data on the backend or the other side of it is we putting in the wrong data because we don’t understand what it’s being used for on the back end. We see this a lot in telematics actually is that there’s so much data coming off of the engine, but we’re not doing anything with it. And so, you know, everybody’s out, well, we need all this data, we need this data. Okay. But why? And so I, you know, in the book we recommend, you know, ask why five times, why is this data important?

Okay, well, why is that important? And really get down to the crux of what decision are you really trying to make, and that will help inform what data goes in. And then you can set up the policies and the practices and make sure that you have a good data flow process. And you understand, this is how we do our vehicle numbering. This is how we do our parts numbering. This is what this data looks like. And you can establish kind of good guides around what you’re looking for because you understand the end result that you’re trying to generate from that.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah, parts people are very familiar with the application of the 80/20 rule for, you know, principle on distribution. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that it’s not just applicable to parts and things like that. It’s also applicable to outcomes and the amount of data, you know, really that 20% of data will give you 80% of what you need to get the job done. Right? So that law of distribution seems to hold constant, no matter what we’re talking about. We’re gonna take a quick break. And when we get back, we’re gonna continue our conversation. There’s a few more points from the book I wanted to highlight. So we’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account.

Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications. Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were getting an introduction to this great book, The Fleet Success Playbook, if you’re in the fleet business and you really feel a responsibility to make a difference in not only your fleet, but also the industry, this book is for you. Josh, thank you so much for being with us. The city of Vancouver as a case study in section one of the book made rapid improvement. Like they went from being a real, having some real serious challenges to just like three years later getting shortlisted on the 100 best fleets list in 2021. So if someone’s working at a fleet right now, is that kind of turnaround typical? Is it possible for everyone? What’s the average timeline, if they start putting some of this stuff into action right away?

Josh Turley:

I’d say three years is good. You know, probably not average, it’s probably better than average. It depends on how much buy-in you have from and support you really have from your higher ups. You know, you’re coming into this as a fleet manager, how much sway do you have over the direction of the fleet? How much sway do you have over some of these decisions that are being made that could, you know, in a city fleet, you may not have to, you know, decision making authority over what vehicles you get to buy. Well, that has a huge impact on your costs because now you’ve got a non-standardized fleet, which means that you have technicians that need all this other training and you have to have more inventory. And so you have to kind of look at that as how much support and how much decision making authority do you have, how much control do you have over the people that you get to work with?

Dan was able to go in and he had quite a bit of support. He had to go fight for some more support and kind of make the case for why fleet needed to be and why some of the changes they needed to make needed to happen. But they were overall very supportive of what he was trying to do. He got his team behind him. And so he didn’t have to make a ton of changes on the staff, because they all kind of rallied behind the vision. But I’ll tell you is that that process can go anywhere from, you know, maybe 18 months to two years, like in a really good case. And it does take some time to start seeing some of the fruits of that. I’ve seen rebuilds that, you know, they might take five, 10 years. It depends on really like how fast you can afford to go.

At RTA we actually went through this process ourselves, you know, kind of rebuilt the culture, revitalize the team and you know, that took for us, it took anywhere from five to seven years, depending on when you wanna start the clock and a big part of that is, you know, trying to figure out well, who are we? And then, you know, who’s on the bus that shouldn’t be on the bus and how do we kind of slowly rotate those pieces out? We like to say, it’s, you know, well, we’re not firing anybody. We make ’em available to the market. I usually don’t like to fire people. I like to inspire them to leave. And so we kind of go through that process with everybody and we’ve picked our north star, we got everybody aligned. And if you weren’t aligned, we like encouraged you and helped you find that next place to go. Because that’s honestly the biggest drag that you will have doing any kind of initiative like this is going to be, it’s a change process.

And so it’s gonna be the people because people resist change. It’s just natural for us. It’s scary. We don’t necessarily wanna jump right in and do something new and different. And so that’s usually the biggest hold up is gonna be people, you know, is getting them behind you, but also figuring out like who’s not gonna get on board with this and getting them off and out of the way as fast as possible. And if you don’t have the support of your higher ups, if you don’t have the support or you don’t have the ability, you know, there’s a lot of shops that are unionized and you just don’t have the ability to move pieces around, sometimes that can be really difficult. So it takes a longer time.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. And I definitely know with some people, it’s not that they need to leave the company, even it’s just that they’re in the wrong job. They just, they’ve got talent and skill and a personality profile that lends them to this job. And somehow they ended up over here. And if you can just get a couple people to swap, it’s amazing the impact it can have.

Josh Turley:

So you talked about that in the book a little bit. He had a gal that was working for him in accounting and or she wanted to be an accounting, but she was working for him in fleet and he was like, you just seem miserable here. And she’s like, I am. And so just having that candid conversation, he was able to help get her into a new role, you know, elsewhere in the organization. And we have that all the time is like, you know, I don’t literally think you’re cut out for this role, but you’d be a wonderful over here and that’s always the second part of Jim Collins thing. We always say, right, people on the bus, wrong people off, but right in between those two is right people on the bus, in the right seats. Because they just, they need to be where they need to be. They need to be in a good spot that leverages their strengths.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. Well try, try taking a really highly analytical accountant or an analytical technician and put them in an outbound sales role or vice versa, take this person who’s ideally suited to be in an outbound sales role and stick them in an office by themselves trying to do lots of detail work. It will not work for very long. Okay. So I’ve got the book here and we talked about, as I was reading, I picked up the four pillars of fleet success. Right. And so first of all, like what are the four pillars and why those things?

Josh Turley:

Yeah, so we, we broke down the four pillars as stakeholder satisfaction, intentional culture resource efficiency and risk management and we kind of broke them all down and we have definitions for each of these four, but you know, basically stakeholder satisfaction is just figuring out who you impact. What on earth do they even expect out of your job and the job you’re doing and making sure that you’re meeting those expectations. Intentional culture about taking ownership of the type of environment, the type of people, the type of mission, right? Just owning that culture, uh, and then going out and creating it. Resource efficiency all comes down to time and money, right? Those are our two most finite resources. We’ve gotta make the most out of them. And then risk management’s just all about being proactive, proactively identify control, mitigate threats to the organization.

And as stakeholders, we sat down, we probably, those were the final four we ended up on, but there was a lot that were up on the whiteboard and we’re trying to figure out like, how would we make a model out of this? What are all the things that a fleet manager would really need to know and understand? And are there things that, you know, as we looked at organizations like NAPA, ATA, APWA, like there’s just a ton of associations out there that have done a great job with educating fleet professionals, but they, there’s still some things missing from their vocabulary. And as we looked at it, we said, okay, well this kind of fits here and you know, where would you put customer service? Well, that kind of goes here. And then we’ve got this other thing over here from, you know, well, how do I know that we’re doing a good job?

And you know, as a SAAS company, you know, we’re a software as a service business. There’s things that we learn about that fleet has never heard of. And so we took things like NPS, you know, our net promoter score, we took things like customer service, you know, we call it CSAT once your customer satisfaction rating and taking lessons like that and applying it to fleet. I said, okay, so how do these all fit together? And we’re like, well, it really just comes about stakeholder satisfaction. You know, it’s job satisfaction. A trucking is gonna have customers, a city government doesn’t really have customers. They have taxpayers and they have people that are really affected, but aren’t paying anything in that regards. And so that’s where we kind of nailed down with, well, maybe stakeholder satisfaction’s the right term there. And it kind of covers this broad umbrella, which is customer service, customer satisfaction, you know, kind of this net promoter score of like evangelism, how much support do you have?

Jamie Irvine:

The book was published just in 2022, but we live in a truly dynamic time. Since the publishing of the book, and just what you’ve learned in that period of time between when the book got published and now, is there anything else that needs to be said or added to the book to address these dynamic times that we live in? Or have you really found that the principles in the book are, are holding constant throughout this really challenging time we’re living in right now?

Josh Turley:

The principles definitely are holding constant. I think if I were to go back, as soon as we wrote it, you know, we had to get it published. And so if we’ve ever written a book, like there’s definitely this thing of like the book kind of grows and grows and it’ll never be perfect enough. And so you just kind of have to say, nope, this is it, we’re shipping it.

Jamie Irvine:

And you don’t wanna drop a 2000 page book…

Josh Turley:

Here’s a college textbook for you, right. That nobody wants to read. And it almost got that way a little bit. Like if you were to break out the sections right now, about half of that book is just spent on intentional culture. And so there is already in my mind, I’m like, well, the part two of that would probably be, let’s spend more time in the other three pillars. But I’ve tried to think about, well, why was it that intentional culture took so much page space in that book? And it was because nobody has really talked about it in this industry before. And so it needed a lot more attention. But if I were to come back with a part two, it’d be, let’s give more tactics and get more plays that people could run in each of those four pillars. But overall the principles, the pillars are the right pillars, you know? And so looking at it, knowing what we know now, knowing what we know about, you know, the fuel craziness that happened, since we published it, like when we were published, fuel was still, you know, $2.50, $3 a gallon which seems like a long time ago.

Jamie Irvine:

And don’t, we wish we could go back to that. We thought it was expensive when it was at that and now we’re just like, oh, please, could we go back to that?

Josh Turley:

Right and so looking at those kind of things, like I look and say, oh, we could have given some more specific plays on how to deal with high fuel costs, how to deal with budget shortfalls, things of that nature, but the overall principles are still good. So maybe a part two will dive do a little deeper dive.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, we want people to get access to the book. So what’s the best way for people to do that?

Josh Turley:

Yeah. So for right now easiest way is to go up to fleet successplaybook.com. They can fill out a form and we can send them a copy of the book. We are gonna be having our second printing going out. And so you’ll probably see it, uh, up on Amazon. I know I’m slated to go record the Audible here at some point, because I’m a big Audible guy. I love listening to audio books. And so going out and recording the audio would be kind of the next step for us as well.

Jamie Irvine:

As soon as that’s done, let me know because I will re-listen to the whole book again because I enjoyed reading it, but I love listening to Audible. Yeah. That’s great.

Josh Turley:

So for now just fleet successplaybook.com and you can fill it out there and we’ll get you in touch with what you need to get the book.

Jamie Irvine:

We’ll put that link in the show notes for everyone listening. You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. My name is Jamie Irvine and we’ve been with Josh Turley the CEO of RTA Fleet and the co-author of The Fleet Success Playbook to learn more about their software as a service, go to RTAfleet.com and the fleetsuccessplaybook.com is the link for the book.

So we’ll put both of those in the show notes. Josh, thank you so much for coming on the show. It has been an absolute pleasure to talk to you today and I absolutely love the book and recommend it to every fleet person out there.

Josh Turley:

Absolutely. Thanks for having me on.

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