TEAM Safe Trucking to Continue “Trucking On” Under New President Bob Lussier
TEAM Safe Trucking (TST), a well-known strategic partner of FRA, has recently transitioned to a new President. Bob Lussier officially took the reins from Richard Schwab at the group’s Annual Meeting in Coeur d’Alene, ID, on October 6. Bob is a second-generation logger and timber buyer and brings 38-years of experience into his new role. He is actively engaged in numerous professional associations supporting the forest products industry, including serving on the Board of the South Carolina Timber Producers Association and serving as South Carolina’s proxy to the American Loggers Council’s Board. Bob and his wife, Cindy, own and operate Great Woods Companies, LLC of Bennettsville, SC. TEAM Safe Trucking, Inc. was founded in 2015 as a non-profit group seeking to elevate the standard and performance of the forest products industry’s trucking sector.
Last week, I had a conversation with Bob to welcome him into this new role and learn more about his strategy to move TST forward. It is fair to say that Bob has big plans to build on the past accomplishments of TST’s leadership team. I would like to share some of the highlights of our discussion.
- Comments on leadership from Miranda Gowell, TEAM Safe Trucking’s Special Projects Manager, and Past President, Richard Schwab.
“Miranda has been doing a great job in securing funding and grants for TST, as well as in developing the training modules we have. Richard Schwab has done a super job getting TST to where they are today. I’ve got a big set of shoes to fill, and I hope I don’t let him down. He’s a hard act to follow!”
- What motivated you to accept this new challenge?
“My career started in southern New England at a very young age. It brought me to South Carolina 12 years ago. I’ve experienced tremendous change throughout my career. God has blessed me for over 35 years in this industry and guided me to be successful. I feel it’s important to pass the knowledge I have gained and give back to an industry that has been so good to me. When Past President Richard Schwab approached me with this opportunity, I realized it would be a great place to start. We all see the struggles around us, but until we step up, nothing will change. As Crad Jaynes, Executive Director of the South Carolina Timber Producers Association, tells his Board and membership: “If we’re not sitting at the table, we’re on the menu”!”
- What is your plan to hit the ground running?
“I’m a business owner, so I know how to lead, direct, and motivate employees. This is a different dynamic so it will be my job to engage the TST Board and various committees to align everyone to get them to help TST have a positive impact on our industry. In the upcoming months I will be reaching out to the Board and committee members to get their input on what needs to be done to bridge the gap between what we have available and what’s actually being used. We could possibly recruit some new committee members and rekindle the fire the group had at its inception”.
- What are your thoughts on recruiting young professionals into the trucking workforce or associated supply chain?
“FRA, ALC, TST and all of our state organizations all need to work together in Washington DC to get legislative reform allowing 18-year-old CDL drivers to drive on the interstate. I feel that’s important because quite often, by the time a person is 18, they have already made a career decision. I personally feel the Youth Careers Act will help address this. The forest products industry gets in your blood at a young age, as it did for many of the baby boomers that are in it today. The Millennials and Zoomers (Generation Z) haven’t been exposed to that. I want to find a way to get them involved at a young age with TST resources to train them and make them safe drivers, and I’m hoping the insurance companies will see the value in them as potential employees.”
- The workforce shortage issue is a serious concern for our industry and the nation at large. What are your thoughts on this?
“Our forests are sustainable, and our timber supply is sustainable. However, our workforce is not sustainable, and that’s a major problem. You are only as good as the weakest link in your supply chain.” Bob further expressed his concerns that these labor shortages have forced many sectors within our industry to operate shifts significantly understaffed and implement a way too “lean” manufacturing process. “You can only trim so much fat within an organization. We can’t continue to operate this way.”
- How can FRA assist TEAM Safe Trucking’s leadership on accomplishing their goals?
“There’s a lot of knowledge and information out there that is not being used. TEAM Safe Trucking is an undervalued and underutilized resource. The information is out there and it’s free! We need to get this information out there to the people that need it and can benefit from using it. I look forward to teaming up with FRA as one of the key components to bridge the gap with the forest products industry drivers. I feel FRA can help TST because they represent so many different regions of our country. This can help TST better understand the trucking issues that affect these different areas so that we can prioritize and address these problems”.
Please join me in congratulating Bob on taking on this exciting new challenge. I have no doubt that Bob will continue to grow TEAM Safe Trucking during his term as President, build on the outstanding work that Miranda and Richard have accomplished to date, and help expand TST’s footprint across our industry. TEAM Safe Trucking is in great hands, and I look forward to doing my part to help FRA and TST keep the momentum going. And I’ll sign off with a few last words from Bob…
“I look forward to working with FRA and its membership in making TST the go-to resource for the forest products trucking industry”.