We are very proud to announce that Fred Klem has been selected as TOTAL's 2017 Driver of the Year! We asked Fred to sit down and tell us a little about himself and what it takes to become TOTAL's Driver of the Year.
TTMS: "Hey Fred, thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself?"
Fred: "Well, I'm a 4th generation driver, my great-grandfather, my grandfather, my father, and his two brothers were all in the trucking industry. I learned to drive at 15 years old in an ‘84 Peterbilt. My father is my biggest hero. He did this job the right way and that's where I learned how to approach things. He did 3.5 million miles in a little over 30 years, accident and ticket free, and he was the best I ever saw…. Before I started driving a truck I did pretty much everything under the sun. I was kind of a jack of all trades and master of absolutely none. I did everything from telemarketing sales to steel bridge work to selling long distance to sheet metal work up in Maryland before I started driving. I was never truly happy doing any of those things. I guess I'm what you call a late bloomer in life. It took me 45 years to find my niche and I finally found it. I really love what I do out here."
TTMS: "What do you like most about working for TOTAL?"
Fred: "It's big enough to do big business but small enough to be able to cater to the drivers in a more personal way. You're not so much a number here if you choose to build relationships with the people in all different departments, not just your FM or your load planners, but even in the executive positions, in recruiting, places like that. The level of access here is really cool. I don't know of anything like it and I've probably talked to 500-600 drivers… They pay you for your experience, they pay you for your hard work. They reward good, safe decision making. They do things the way they should be. I would describe it as family, it really is. Everybody does their best here to make the experience as easy as it can be. In this industry it's a very hard life, but they do a good job here. It's really the perfect employer for my taste. Some people fit and some people won't, but for me this is the company to come to."
TTMS: "What do you think it takes to become TOTAL's Driver of the Year?"
Fred: "Before we started I told you I was truly humbled by this whole thing… I think it takes dedication, I think it takes hard work, it takes compromise on your part. It's not always going to go the way that you want it to go. The load plans are not always going to be perfect. Your Fleet Managers aren’t always going to be able to get back to you at that moment. It's how you handle those situations. How you handle the time that you have 3 loads cancel in 2 days and you're sitting there twiddling your thumbs watching reruns of Hee-Haw on the DVD player because that's all you have in your truck. Understand that we couldn't go into that planning room or dispatch office and know what it takes for them to do their job every day. I can watch it, I can observe and I can see, but at the end of the day it's impossible for me to walk in those shoes because I'm not sitting at that desk. The same goes for them. That's where the communication and the compromise comes in with how we work out here.
It's about learning to live on truck stop food. It's about keeping in as decent a physical condition as you can. There are a lot of things that go into it. You've got to run your truck like your own personal business even though you are a company driver. I handle my business on the truck as though that truck belongs to Fred Klem and not TOTAL Transportation. My very existence counts on the job that I do every day. Making sure I'm making safe choices, that I'm dealing with the customers in a courteous and respectful way. Making sure I'm taking care of my partner, making sure I'm taking care of my rig. Making sure that I know exactly what I need to know in order to get where I need to be safely and on time while taking care of all the things that go along with that. Customer service, relationships on the road, the people you deal with. It's a multi fold effort that goes into it."
TTMS: "What advice do you have for new drivers?"
Fred: " My first advice would be don't come into this with delusions of grandeur. You need to understand exactly what you are getting yourself into and the lifestyle… I would say if you are in this just for the money you are going to fail, and you'll fail miserably. If you think you are going to come here and set the world on fire while being half committed and putting in half efforts, it's never going to work. I would tell them to listen to their trainers. We have an excellent training program here and I know we're constantly trying to make it better. You have to be a professional here. Don't just treat it like it's another job because you'll get hurt or somebody else will get hurt. The simple answer to that question is commitment to the trade in every aspect. Really putting it together if you want to succeed here. Pay attention to your training. Take it seriously, and then learn from what you've been trained on and build on that training. If you are a good student and you have a good teacher and you apply what you've learned, there's nothing that you can't do. But you've gotta be committed to it."
TTMS: "Is there anything else you'd like to say?"
Fred: "In general, to all the drivers: be patient, be kind, and be professional. The people at this Company truly like what they do. They are committed to what we do here and we're all in this thing together. Nobody's out to get anybody, nobody's out to shortchange anybody, or screw anybody around, or not call anybody back….
In conclusion, I know this is going to sound like a Grammy speech but you know…(laughs). My wife is very important to me. She is the most important support that I have out here. She is just as important to me as this career is and without her I couldn't do what I do. I do my job and work my tail off for her and my kids and my grandkids. And without her support and her unconditional understanding about everything that goes on and all the fluid changes that happen. She just takes it in stride and rolls with it because she understands the lifestyle. I tell her that every day but the more that she can see it and know it, is very important to me that she does. I appreciate you giving me the time today…. This is flattering and humbling and I don't know what I'm doin' here but it's pretty cool. Thank you to John and Chris and Tony and everybody that voted, I don't even know how the process works to reach this decision. Whatever the process I love it. I love working for Total and I hope you guys know that my commitment to the company is 100,000% and I only know one way to do it."