HDT's 2024 Truck Fleet Innovators are, from left, Shane Blanchette of QCD, John Paape of Roehl Transport, Nathan Klein of Sun Logistics, Volker Bargenda of Standard Logistics, and Kyle Neumann...

HDT's 2024 Truck Fleet Innovators are, from left, Shane Blanchette of QCD, John Paape of Roehl Transport, Nathan Klein of Sun Logistics, Volker Bargenda of Standard Logistics, and Kyle Neumann of Foodliner.

Image: HDT Graphic

The tough freight environment the trucking industry has found ourselves in the past couple of years makes it more important than ever for fleet managers to take a close look at operating efficiency and costs. If you’re doing things the way they’ve always been done, it’s time to ask if there’s a better way.

That’s the attitude that has led HDT’s 2024 Truck Fleet Innovators to success.

When HDT’s editors choose who to honor with this award, we’re not looking so much for a single innovation as we are for a mindset, a willingness to do things a different way.

It goes beyond just using the latest equipment or technology to thinking of new ways to use it, working with suppliers to improve or add features even they may not have thought of. Someone who is not afraid to take a look at a company’s processes or culture and work to improve them. And who foster a culture of innovation throughout the company.

We look for someone who is willing to fail — because you learn from failure. If you never try new things because they might fail, you’re unlikely to bring about innovation in your operations.

And we look for people who want to tell their story and share their experiences with others in the industry.

Our 2024 Innovators represent a variety of fleet types, including private and for-hire, last-mile LTL and nationwide truckload. Those fleets haul a variety of freight, including dry van, refrigerated, flatbed, tanker, and more.

These Innovators lead the industry in areas including artificial intelligence, zero-emission vehicles, information technology, driver retention, efficiency, maintenance, trailer spec’ing, safety and more.

Read their stories in the coming days on Truckinginfo.com through the links below.

HDT’s 2024 Truck Fleet Innovators Are:

How Did HDT's 2024 Innovators Get Where They Are Today?

When we started the HDT Truck Fleet Innovators awards in 2006, it was common for these leaders to have spent their entire career in trucking, often growing up in a trucking family. They may have started out as a driver, or in the shop. They might be a second- or third-generation at a family-owned carrier.

Increasingly, we find that these leaders brought in a new perspective to trucking after working in other industries:

  • Volker Bargenda started his career as a journalist in Germany.
  • Shane Blanchette spent 20 years in marketing and business analysis for beverage distribution companies such as Anheuser Busch.
  • Nathaniel Klein was just planning to help his father-in-law out in between tech jobs.
  • Kyle Neumann started out working with truck dealerships, but 18 years ago traded his dealer hat for maintenance.

John Paape worked as a communications analyst for the Navy, a research technologist at the Mayo Clinic, a network engineer for a chemical company, and other jobs before bringing his IT expertise to trucking.

“Transportation and logistics in general, I’ve been kind of blown away by the dynamics in this space,” Paape says.

“I probably underestimated the complexity and velocity of what goes on in our crazy industry until I got here. But I love it. And I think going to any other industry at this point in my career would just seem a little boring.”

Why the Willingness to Fail is Necessary for Innovation

Too many companies are hesitant to try new things because they are afraid they will fail. And some things will fail, says Klein.

“We want to be the best place to try. We’ve given everyone the opportunity, the chance to test things out. And we’re talking about dock workers to drivers to the ops head. If you have an idea, we’re open. I think you have to create that openness and a safe place to fail. And that's been our culture is a very safe place to fail.”

Bargenda starts with this attitude as a priority in the hiring process. He believes someone with years of experience may not be as good a fit as someone who brings in a fresh perspective and is willing to challenge the status quo.

Blanchette literally came into his position from a continuous improvement role.

At Foodliner, Neumann says, “I'm very fortunate, we have an owner that wants to be on the cutting edge, not on the trailing edge. So when I bring these concepts to them, Greg McCoy's our CEO, it doesn't take a whole lot of convincing.”

“So it’s kind of fun for me to be given the latitude to say, ’Let’s help design this for the future.’

"I know that’s kind of a corny thing. But we want to build a better trailer for the future, for whomever is here after we’re hanging up the cleats and moving on.”

How You Can Meet HDT's 2024 Truck Fleet Innovators

The 2024 Truck Fleet Innovators will be HDT’s guests at the Heavy Duty Trucking Exchange event at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, Sept. 4-6, for the awards ceremony. HDT’s editors will moderate a panel discussion with the Innovators exploring their successes, challenges, and the importance of innovation.

More info on HDTX, an intimate networking event, and how fleet managers can apply is at HeavyDutyTruckingExchange.com.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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