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Chris Bachman - SRS Drivers’ Championship - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Chris Bachman - SRS Drivers’ Championship - PODCAST TRANSCRIPT
December 5, 2023 at 12:00 p.m.

Editor's note: The following is the transcript of a live interview with Chris Bachman of SRS Distribution. You can read the interview below or listen to the podcast.

Intro: Welcome to Roofing Road Trips with Heidi. Explore the roofing industry through the eyes of a long-term professional within the trade. Listen for insights, interviews and exciting news in the roofing industry today.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Hello and welcome to another Roofing Road Trips from RoofersCoffeeShop. My name is Heidi Ellsworth, and we are here today to talk about something really fun and that is a driver championship and that is from SRS and we are here with our friend Chris Bachman. Chris, welcome to the show.

Chris Bachman: Thanks, Heidi. I'm so appreciative to be invited on today's podcast.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I'm really excited to have you, and I'm just excited to talk about your driver's championship because it's so different than anything... Usually we're talking about shingles and TPO and PVC and all the different types of roofing, but today we're talking about really the unsung heroes of our industry, and that's all of the drivers who get all the materials onto the job and do it so well. So before we just really dive into everything celebrating them and the championship, let's start with an introduction. So if you could introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your history, that would be great.

Chris Bachman: Thanks. So again, my name's Chris Bachman have the pleasure of leading our safety risk and regulatory compliance teams here at SRS, which includes all three verticals, the Building Products Division, which is obviously our largest, but also our Heritage Pool and our Heritage Landscape. And it makes up a pretty interesting number of locations When you look at 429 building products locations, which is a roofing division, and then you tack on another 337 Heritage Pool or Landscape locations, that equals about 766 active locations that we have throughout the United States. So pretty impressive. We also have an astonishing 11,000 employees now in the organization. 7,500 of those come from the Building Products and Roofing Division, and then the balance of that, the 3,500 is in our Heritage [inaudible 00:02:20] locations. So great to be able to partner with all three verticals. All three verticals do have professional drivers, and it's our honor to recognize those folks each year and allow them to participate in what's become the best in class from the Driver Championship Rodeo that we hold each and every December since the inception back in 2017.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it. I love it. And the company culture of SRS and Heritage really celebrates your employees celebrates safety, professionalism. So before we dive into the championship, why don't you share with us just a little bit about the importance, especially with your role with SRS and Heritage, the importance of safety and the culture that you've built, and that the company's built.

Chris Bachman: Yeah, so I mean, first and foremost, the culture with SRS is so unique, as everybody's aware, make money, have fun and give back is our mantra. And we do this not just to be bigger than just business, but it's more of a mission. It's our passion that we do each and every day down to each and every delivery with our customers. But every employee is so valued at SRS and Heritage, they have such a ownership and stake in the business both professionally and personally.

And we have several tenants in the organization around our culture, and obviously the most important one is safety. We want to ensure that every employee goes home the same way that they came in each morning. And that's our personal commitment, not just to the business and to the employee, but to their families and beyond, because we hold that value extremely close to our best every day.

And the other great thing is we as professional drivers in our business have lots of risks, especially when it comes to the amount of miles that we drive. We're north of about 80 million miles a year that we drive as a company-

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Geez, wow.

Chris Bachman: And we're going to tick just above 19 million work hours as an organization in 2023. And when you look at the dynamics of that and how much we do things well each and every day, it's a real testament to the organization and how we put in safety and the value that each employee provides to the business and to the customer every day. It's a remarkable story.

And the Driver Rodeo is just one of several opportunities that we have to say thank you to our professional drivers and the staff that they support and the metrics that they have to hit, the hurdles that they have to cross just to be eligible for the Driver Rodeo each year, it's pretty impressive. So we take by far the best of the best within our business, and it's extremely competitive just to get that nomination and truly an honor that folks look forward to each and every year, and I couldn't be more proud again to help champion that. And it's a collaborative effort between senior leadership, between our fleet group, our transportation university group. We collectively work throughout the year to prepare the program to do bigger and better every year. This year is going to be the best since the conception of this and it doesn't go without the help from everybody internally to pull this off.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah. Well, let's talk about it. Tell us a little bit about the history of the competition... Tell us about the competition overall, what it includes and what are some of the lessons learned since 2017?

Chris Bachman: Yeah, so 2017 was the initial inception of the program. We have typically done it here in our headquarters of the McKinney, Texas area. And we've learned from each year's succession and implementation of the program, and there was lots of wins and losses. You looked at the eligibility hurdles, who's eligible, who is not, and we had to define those, and that got very granular to not only having a minimum of 12 months of employment, we use seniority as the tiebreaker in some cases, it's specific to the job title, whether it's logistics specialist or in our other divisions in Heritage CDL driver, that was the first and foremost.

And then really getting vendor sponsorship. We've had the pleasure of all of our great vendors that support us in our day-to-day business of actually participating both physically and financially, which has helped tremendously to offset most, if not all of the cost for most of the years when it comes to travel arrangements, hotels, pulling off the actual program, feeding them, all that stuff that I think folks don't realize when you bring in a couple dozen drivers around the industry to take them off the road, to take them away from their daily activity of servicing the customer and then bringing them into an opportunity that they may never experience again.

And then we've actually tied it into bringing a local DOT officer in for them to hear, not from the SRS Fleet and Safety Staff or the Transportation University Staff about why you have to do A, B and C correct every day, but they hear it from that DOT officer that's out on the highway, that's looking for trucks to pull over, and they give them their perspective of why they should do a pre-trip, why they should do a post-trip, why they should not speed and not use your cell phone, and all of the things that happen in the day in the life of a driver when it comes to DOT compliance, which equates to CSA performance.

And then kind of buttoning that all around the overall budget of the program, as I mentioned earlier, and getting vendor sponsorship and just making sure every little detail is spot on so the drivers have the most unique experience that they can have so they feel good about going back to their branch and saying, "That I not only participated, but hey, I was a winner," which they're all winners. And then getting the group fired up about what it takes to get back there next year because there's a return on investment here. What we found over the last three years is we've had a vehicle accident reduction of 18%. We've had a DQ file of compliance, which is part of requirements for a driver from... Or actually I say up to 97, 98% compliant, which is better than best in class, it's world class. Most companies excel to be at 92% compliant when it comes to DQ files.

We've seen a very small increase in our auto premiums year over year, which includes a tremendous growth of the organization both organically and organically. Since I've been here the last five years, we've grown fourfold and to have a very minimal auto premium increase just doesn't happen and we've been able to equate it back to the things that we've been pushing around DOT and driver compliance, which is part of their criteria. And then I think from a safety and a driver culture perspective, it's been the best in the company's history. So we're able to really have that ROI related to the rodeo.

But to finish your question, it's pretty dynamic. It's a three-day event for the contestants. They come in, we do a celebration dinner to kick it off. In the morning of the event, we do a written test, we go out and we do a pre-trip test, and then they actually do the rodeo, which is the course test and that is part of how we grade them. We bring in, as I mentioned, a DOT officer to do a presentation as we're in the background calculating the scores. And typically when we look at the winners, we do first, second and third place. Every year it's so competitive and it's so close in scoring that it comes down to the 10th of percent in some cases, so tons of competition.

And then this year we have the unique honor of tying this into the SRS Las Vegas Bowl. So the contestants are going to not only have the event that we've typically held every year, they're going to have the opportunity to go to our concert on December 22nd, and then anybody that's able to stay on the 23rd, as it's around the holidays, we'll actually have tickets to go to the Bowl game. So again, a once in a lifetime opportunity for these drivers that may have never traveled before, may have never been to Las Vegas before, are going to be able to rub elbows with our CEO and our executive leadership that'll be at the concert and also the event. And so again, just a once in a lifetime opportunity. So we're extremely blessed. Our vendors have been super supportive this year. The majority of our vendors are actually going to support. They also help us judge and they get behind us every year, and we could not have asked for more from those folks each year and it gets better and better.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That is so amazing. I'm just thinking about it and how neat that's going to be to be able to watch this. So tell us, who are some of the sponsors?

Chris Bachman: So, some of the sponsors are our trucking vendors that are typically theirs that are building our trucks each year. We have other sponsorship through some of our software companies that we use through Fleet Analytics or Safety Analytics. So it's really the folks that provide us day-to-day services so that we can deliver our products each and every day to our customers. And we reach out to everybody each year and we have never had a problem with participation. We have different levels, we have platinum, we have need silver levels, and sometimes it gets a little exciting because everybody wants to be the platinum sponsor.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: I love it.

Chris Bachman: They get a little bit more recognition at the award ceremony. But yeah, it's a wonderful experience, something I've never experienced before. I've done this in previous worlds prior to coming to the SRS, but I will say that it's best in class, if not borderline world-class from what we've been able to create over the last six years.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Wow. Well, okay, let's talk a little bit about these logistics specialists. First of all, how many do you have? And second of all, just give us the high level job description.

Chris Bachman: Yep. So there's about 2,100 logistics specialists and they're day-to-day task is to provide the highest level of service at the lowest risk. The majority of our business, as you know, is in the roofing vertical, and lots of construction materials along with that both to residential and commercial. And really they face unique hazards. I think some folks don't recognize all the issues that they deal with each day from road rage to job site issues, to roof loading houses or apartment complexes. Within that logistics specialist group, we have crane operators. That's a very unique skillset. And again, as I mentioned before, we provide such a great service. We do this day in and day out. I think we're going to top over 2,000,000 deliveries this year alone just on the roofing side. And when we figure out how well we do things every day, we do it flawlessly without any issues 99.99% of the time.

And it's amazing. As I mentioned earlier, we're tracking 80 plus million miles this year alone, along with over 19 million hours worked. And to be able to do that almost flawlessly each and every day, it's a testament to our culture and to making safety a priority, both at the job site, at our branch locations and obviously on the road. And these logistics specialists are dealing with a lot from customer issues to weather to roadside conditions, to the heaviest amount of DOT compliance that I have seen in my 25 years of doing this. So there's a lot. And the expectation is that you do it right every time, at least in the customer's eyes. And we hit that mark pretty much every day.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: That is great. So, okay, I am really intrigued by the fact that all of these logistics specialists who come in for the championship do a written test. I just hadn't thought about that. That is really cool. And so they do the written test and then they do the course, obviously, and those are put together. So what are some of the skills and what are some of the key things that help these folks get to the championship? What are the types of skills that you're really looking for?

Chris Bachman: Well, first and foremost, there's got to be a good working knowledge of the mechanical side. So as part of that skillset and pretesting, we do the written test, we do the actual free trip inspection test. They've got to be cool, calm and collected. We ask that of our drivers each and every day, as I mentioned earlier about the road conditions, the road rage, the weather that we deal with. Communication's key. I mean, I think 50% of safety is communication. So understanding what they're being tasked to do, understanding what their hurdles are throughout the day. Communication is a huge skillset. Navigation skills, I mean, we all have this technology through Google Maps or our internal programs when we route our deliveries every day. But there are so many variables with bridge weight issues and closed roads and things that they have to basically audible as they're out routing their services every day.

So those skills are extremely important, and they translated to their performance throughout the year. So one of the things that we do to navigate through who's eligible for the Driver Rodeo is we have a driver recognition program that we put in place several years ago that is really the measuring device to determine who's initially eligible. And that's a quarterly recognition, and it goes into a scorecard that looks at both leading and lagging indicators. So you have no DOT violations, you have a hundred percent complete of your training requirements. You have a hundred percent DQ file, you have no preventable vehicle accidents, you have no out of service violations within the DOT, and then your hours of service, which is your recording through the amount of time that you spend on and off the road goes into effect.

So we take that recognition throughout the quarter. We recognized all of those drivers in that recognition, so they're rewarded for doing their job safely and efficiently and effectively, which translates into that ROI mentioned a little while ago. And then at the end of the year, we take that aggregate of the driver scorecards of all four quarters, and we force rank them from a hundred percent down. And then we take into account their tenure, so greater than 12 months, as I mentioned earlier and then tiebreakers in each of the district regions boils down this seniority. So there's a lot that goes into the ingredients of this recipe throughout the year. And drivers go to this rodeo with not a blemish on their record, which is extremely impressive. And this year we had some of the highest number of a hundred percent scores that we've ever had in the past. So I think that's a skill. Being able to do all that plus deliver to the customer is pretty impressive.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: It's very impressive. And you really can see the quality of the men and women who make it to the driving, to the championship. So tell me just a little bit about some of the winners of that championship over the last years. I mean, it seems to me like that would just be huge in their career and in their branch, and just a little bit of bragging rights.

Chris Bachman: You bet. So we've actually had a nice track record. We have a gentleman that's returning this year. He's been here three prior years. We've had two gentlemen that have won multiple times as winners. We've had several that have repeated, that have just missed the top three categories for the winning, which again is tough to do. And then last year we actually had, our first place winner was a female driver, and she gets the honor of defending her title, and she'll be coming back this year to Vegas to try to repeat. And we made a big deal about that. [inaudible 00:21:46] to the female truck driver, [inaudible 00:21:50] female in the roofing industry. We do an unbelievable job of marketing this entire campaign through social media. We'll do the same again pre and post this year.

And I think that's one of the unique things that comes to mind is besides the actual rodeo, we take advantage of marketing this program as we go out and look for new talent for the organization, we talk about the Driver Rodeo and the driver recognition program that's part of the rodeo and how you become eligible and how you can participate in that. And we have drivers that have told us that one of the many reasons that they stay with the company is the chance to get back to that rodeo every year. So again, going this year, we actually opened it up to guests this year because of the magnitude of the program. And we're finalizing that list right now and it looks like 2/3rds of the drivers are actually bringing a significant other or a spouse to be able to help go out and get behind them and cheer them on and take the opportunity to enjoy Vegas and all the great things that we do with the Vegas Bowl.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, the Las Vegas Bowl and Concert. Wow. Okay, so what do the champions win? What are the prizes?

Chris Bachman: Well, first and foremost, I think it's bragging rights.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah.

Chris Bachman: [inaudible 00:23:27]. We actually have a Rodeo plaque in our headquarters here in Texas, and the grand champion, or the winner gets their name on that plaque, which is displayed here, which, it's a big deal. And then top three winners do get a cash prize that we provide each and every year.

And I think the other thing too is I think the prize, again, that folks don't always realize is it's fully sponsored, paid for, it's not a dime out of the employee's pocket. We cover their wage while they're away for those several days. And then really, it's the opportunity to rub elbows and interact with the C-suite. Our CEO Dan Tinker actually sets aside a period of time during the award ceremony to recognize each and every driver for what they do, a personal handshake and time with them. And then he opens it up for Q&A, and what's working well, what's not working well, how can we do better? And that's an opportunity, and I think just a prize in itself for them to have a voice with the organization about their role and what they like and maybe what they don't like.\

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Right. Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I think it is... Just, I can't wait to hear the results. So if people are out there, and I mean, I'm just going to say, for all of you out there working in the field and having your SRS driver pull up, you should mention this, mention the Driver's Championship. Are they participating? It's just a great thing, great topic, a fun conversation to hear about what's going on. And we'll of course have all the winners and all the information on RoofersCoffeeShop after the 22nd so that everybody can find out who won and what all happened. If people want to get more information on this, Chris, or maybe see some clips, I don't know if you do any video or anything like that, what can they see?

Chris Bachman: Well, as I mentioned earlier, we'll socialize this on a couple different media sites, specifically LinkedIn. So we actually have out there now a video from 2022 where we did it at the Texas Motor Speedway. Obviously, I'm more than happy to entertain any calls or help anybody that's looking to kickstart the program. I actually did a presentation at the National Truckers Association back in May and actually had a couple of companies come up and ask for a little bit of help, which I'm always willing to do. There's no secret sauce, every company does it differently. We're continually learning on this and taking feedback from the drivers, but it's just one way to give back.

And I think one thing I didn't mention was the drivers are so proud because we give out a lot of swag so we have a very unique logo that we create every year through our marketing department. So we give out hi-vis shirts, hi-vis vests. We have some really cool swag this year for every participant. So we're going big or go home as we [inaudible 00:26:52] this year. And those drivers wear that out in the public. They wear that at the branch. They're very proud. We've done jackets in the past. So we do some things that help brand this and get the message out to not just our fellow employees, but to our customers and alike.

And obviously, I don't know if there's a way to drop my email in there, but feel free to reach out to me via email. I'd be happy to share any lessons learned, any best practices. It's about recognizing the drivers in the US that do the lion's share of this hard work, provide all kinds of product and services to everybody, not just roofing. And I think it's our duty to recognize them because it's hard work and it's not easy, and they're away from their families, and it's just something that we feel, again, is the right thing to do.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Yeah, it is. And just kudos to you, SRS, Heritage for everything that you're doing to really lead the way on safety and getting all that product out there delivered safely and in the best way. So Chris, thank you so much. Good luck with the competition and we can't wait to hear the results.

Chris Bachman: Thanks so much, Heidi.

Heidi J. Ellsworth: Thank you. And thank you all for listening. Wow, you never knew, right? This is the kind of stuff that's happening in roofing every day. Please check out all of our podcasts under the read list and watch navigation on RoofersCoffeeShop, and look for Roofing Road trips. Also, please check out the SRS directory. You'll see information on there on the Driver's Championship, and we'll have information once the winners are announced. And like Chris said, follow the social media. We'll be having all kinds of stuff out there, both on SRS and RoofersCoffeeShop. Be sure you have also tuned in to your podcast channel. Subscribe and set those notifications so you don't miss a single episode. We'll be seeing you next time on Roofing Road Trips.

Outro: Make sure to subscribe to our channel and leave a review. Thanks for listening. This has been Roofing Road Trips with Heidi from the RoofersCoffeeShop.com.

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