“If you had told me I was going to end up in trucking, I would have said you were absolutely nuts,” says Joe Briner, director of procurement and fleet operations at G&D Trucking and Hoffman Transportation in Channahon, Illinois — and an HDT 2023 Emerging Leader.
His dad worked in construction and drove a dump truck, but Briner went to college, graduating in 2013. However, like many new college grads at that time, he struggled to find a job. until a chance meeting with the wife of a trucking company owner who had been his high school basketball coach let to a job at G&D Trucking/Hoffman Transportation.
“I started trucks not knowing a fifth wheel from a steering wheel and got thrown right out into the parts room,” he recalls. But he learned quickly, with the help of the parts manager and others in the shop.
One of his first tasks was learning how to use a new fleet maintenance software system that wasn’t getting used, then training everyone else how to use it. For some of the technicians, that training included how to use a computer.
He added a master’s degree in business in 2020.
As director of procurement and fleet operations, Briner is the “right-hand man” for the company’s director of operations. That means one day he could be working in purchasing, the next day in safety.
“I love my job, because it's not the same thing every day,” he says. “As you know, in trucking. If a day goes by without a problem, then you get worried because then you think something's really wrong.”
Investing in Safety
Asked about achievements he’s proud of, Briner points to safety. Drivers for the company have not had a rear-end accident in more than 10 years, even though the carrier’s approximately 150 trucks cover up to 12 million miles a year.
With a company owner who believes in investing in safety, he says, “I don't think there's a bell or whistle out there, when it comes to safety, that our trucks do not have.”
The latest power units are equipped with the Bendix Wingman Fusion advanced driver assistance system, as well as air disc brakes, the Bendix BlindSpotter side object detection system, roll stability, and SafetyDirect. In addition to forward-facing cameras, there are rear-facing cameras on each mirror, and the company is testing cameras on the back of the trailers.
“Obviously, you can have every technology known to man, but there's still that human error and human element involved,” Briner says. “And the way we combat that is we don't [just] hire anybody. Our hiring processes are very strict.”
The company's drivers average more than 30 years behind the wheel and more than 3 million miles of safe driving.
Since he joined the company, Briner says, “We've grown exponentially. We've added two warehouses since I've been here. I’ve helped implement our systems in those two warehouses and onboarded a lot of people.
“It's really, it's an exciting industry to be in, and I'm very thankful to be in it.”