“I always liked the big trucks growing up,” says Matt Brennan. While it was always in the back of his mind, it wasn’t his first career choice, he says. But after getting a college degree and spending some time in broadcast TV and sales, he didn’t like where he was. Brennan drove a truck for a few years, then transitioned into management. Today, he's the transportation manager at Kurtz Bros. in Independence, Ohio — and an HDT 2023 Emerging Leader.
As a beneficial reuse company, Kurtz Bros. specializes in landfill diversion, making and delivering topsoil, mulch, and compost. It operates eight Class 8 tractors plus another nine to 10 single-axle small dump trucks for residential deliveries in season. The company brokers out about 80% of its freight, meaning in the busy seasons there will be 40 to 60 trucks on the road between Kurtz’ own trucks and the owner-operators it uses.
Brennan heads up the transportation department, managing the inflow to its production yards from various suppliers, and then the outflow from production yards to stores or commercial customers, as well as residential deliveries, with small single-axle dump trucks delivering a few yards of mulch to a customer’s house.
“I oversee all of that, from the dispatch perspective to driver management, recruiting; I kind of wear all the hats.”
Brennan has been with Kurtz Bros. for less than a year. Before that, he was with a FedEx Ground contractor, running 30 linehaul trucks. There, he says, he managed the transition from a five-day work week to a seven-day work week. He’s proud of the fact that he was able to cover weekends outside of peak season using 100% volunteers, rather than forcing people to have to work weekends.
“That’s something I really push for is driver engagement, making sure they don't feel forced to do something.”
Driver Engagement Helps Improve Efficiency
At Kurtz Bros., Brennan is proud of how he’s been increasing efficiency and bringing costs down.
“I've got drivers that are more engaged, so they’re helping drive that efficiency. And just dispatch efficiency has been a huge savings point.”
He explains that he had a strong dispatcher already when he joined the company, but he took steps to empower her to use what she already knew, to take the ball and run with it.
“The other thing is just looking at the overall picture — all the obvious things, trying to minimize the empty miles. maximize utilization. One of the bigger things was looking at the entire market as a whole,” he says.
Previously, drivers tended to serve either the Cleveland market and the Akron/Canton market. “By looking at the market as a whole, we were able to utilize drivers across all the stores and minimize those empty miles.”
“I really believe that the drivers are kind of the core of this. By driving engagement and bringing them into the fold as part of the part of the team, I get a lot of suggestions from them on ways to improve efficiency. You know, it’s hard for us to sit in an office in the dispatch office behind a computer and see everything that's going on.”
One of Brennan’s current projects he’s working on is improving the amount of off-season work. It makes it a challenge to retain drivers when they don’t have much income in the winter.
“So one of my big projects in the here and now is driving that offseason work; find some things to do in the winter to keep [drivers] busy, so we don't lose them.”
A longer-term priority is improving safety. When he was with FedEx, the trucks used smart in-cab cameras, and he’d like to bring that to Kurtz Bros.
“I believe heavily in the dual-facing cameras, if implemented properly. I think it helps drive safety and accountability.
“So that's kind of the things I'm pushing for here to bring what was a little bit of an older fleet into the modern way of doing things.”