We sat down with Suddath Relocation Systems van operator recruiter Matt Gill who shared his insights about the van operator industry and what he hears about life on the road.
Q: What do you look at when hiring a van operator?
A: Driving is only a portion of what van operators do, so while we look at their driving record and certifications, we also consider a number of other factors. Customer service is a big part of the job, so we look to see if they are good with people and check their customer service skills. We also look at things like getting the job done efficiently, how they handle packing and loading, setting things up and special customer needs.
Q: What are some of the best benefits of being a driver?
A: The money and the freedom to go where you want to go are definite benefits. You can travel and see the country and stop different places along the way. You get to be your own boss. It’s interesting, no two days are the same and it’s always changing.
Q: What is an unexpected perk?
A: Working with different people; you get to meet people from all different backgrounds, and you learn to laugh and adapt to different environments, both positive and negative.
Q: What is the biggest challenge van operators have?
A: Ensuring customer expectations are met. You never know what to expect and things don’t always turn out the way you think they will.
Q: Do you have any advice to overcome this?
A: Be flexible and like what you’re doing because every day is different and presents new challenges and solutions. Like today, this new driver called me because he was struggling to get his truck into a place—it was too big and wouldn’t fit. We made a plan to get him a smaller truck so he could unload and reload more easily and complete the job.
Q: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry?
A: Finding and hiring new van operators. The job still has many benefits and perks as I have mentioned, however it requires a good fit with someone who can spend time away from home and work independently. Also, due to increased fuel prices and required federal paperwork the scope of the job has changed. I am hoping we can find a way to offset some of these influencers to a decreased van operator pool, because it can be an awesome job.
Q: What separates Suddath® from other companies?
A: What separates Suddath is its size, booking capacity and consistency. Suddath has 22 locations and a home office; this provides a lot of opportunity for the van operators to book tonnage in those markets. A reliable company with a great reputation, Suddath is successful at closing jobs. In fact, I believe we are the largest booker in the UniGroup system (United Van Lines and Mayflower Transit), hauling more tonnage than any other company.
Q: What is the biggest advantage of working at Suddath for van operators?
A: Being a big company that books a lot of tonnage means more consistent work outside the busy time of year. Whether they are veterans of the industry or rookie drivers, our van operators have solid schedules even in the off season.
Gill says that it used to be that there was a lot of loyalty with van operators, but today companies aren’t seeing that as much. Despite this trend, Gill believes that van operators continue to stay with Suddath for 25-30 years. Suddath commits to hiring the best and hardest working drivers with exemplary customer service, and they consistently provide work for their drivers year round. Suddath stands head and shoulders above the others and will continue to attract the best van operators around.