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The Interesting Case of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Many of you probably participated in, myself included, the Ice Bucket Challenge. Where most of the money raised has gone to the ALS, but it has some interesting twists the way I look at it.

First of all, how dare we allow such a critical condition to be starved for all this time.  As one guy said on his death bed, the amount of people affected isn’t enough to matter.  We spend money on many material things that don’t matter, but we haven’t funded the research of this crippling disease worth a damn.  So some wonderful idea at the right time comes along that has people more interested in watching their buddy dump a bucket of cold water on there head and it is worth $20 to watch and therefore donate. Really?  It took this to get our attention?

Second of all, congrats to those who figured out this captivating idea.  It probably will not work for any other group with a faction of the success of this.  It was a perfect plot that not even the people who thought of it could have pictured it working out this well. $100 million raised in a month is beyond impressive.

Third, a quick congrats to Facebook, their advertising revenue from this had to be through the roof.

Last, a good luck to the folks at ALS.  You now have very little reason not to turn this truck load of cash into results.  I want to challenge you all that you don’t pay out executive bonuses in the spirit of having cash but actually use that cash to accomplish the goal that you are set out to do.  People are watching and your expectations are very high.  Something short of a good solution would be disappointing and that is what they call pressure.  Ice cold pressure. Good Luck.

Whatever You Do, Keep On Dreaming

If you’re a follower of the Minnesota Twins, first of all, I’m sorry, but I’m sure you heard about the interesting signing the team made last week. The Twins signed an undrafted fireballer who was playing in the Golden State Collegiate Baseball League for the, I’m not making this up, Healdsburg Prune Packers.

Brandon Poulson is 24-years-old and can throw 100 MPH. He’s now $250,000 richer and a member of the Twins rookie ball team in Elizabethton, Tennessee. So why did this signing, a cool signing but a singing that has a good possibility of having no effect on the major league squad, get my attention? The USA Today’s headline will make it very clear: “Twins sign undrafted former truck driver with 100-mph fastball”

Yes, Poulson used to drive a truck. And front-loaders. And backhoes. Now he’s just a couple levels away from reaching the pinnacle every baseball player dreams about.

Never give up on your dreams be it to be a major league baseball player, own your own truck or win the lottery, never give up.

One of my greatest inspirations is Steve Jobs. There’s a lot that went into how Steve Jobs operated, but he always had and pushed for a dream. When asked for advice, Jobs would respond with, ‘Dream bigger.’

Jobs had a dream to put personal computers in front of everyone in America. That dream was those big bulky things with towers, monitors, detached speakers and a whole lot more. Jobs and his team surpassed that dream. Those bulky computers are in the past and we all have computers in our pockets. A lot of those computers in are pockets are directly from the dream that Jobs had in his own company, Apple.

It doesn’t matter what your dream is, just don’t ever give up on it. Your dream might be developing the next iPhone, getting drafted by a major league team or being the best truck driver on the road. Whatever it is, shoot for it and more. Dream bigger.

The Un-American American Crime: Tax Evasion

I am not the typical guy to pound a political opinion and this one will be no different.  I believe this view is valid no matter if you stand with the Republicans, Democrats or another party in your political ideology.

If you read this and you are in Minnesota, you definitely know about Medtronics and what they are doing.  First things first, shame on them.  I get the global competition thing.  I get that tax is too high thing.  I get that it is “good business” and best in the views of the shareholders…

What the hell happened to running your business with shareholders, stakeholders, communities, and the country of your origin all in mind?  I get that Minnesota is a high taxed state and that many companies are looking at many different means to run there business but at least most of them stay within the country.

Two thoughts come to my mind –

1 – If you are elected in November’s election; work for your country in Washington DC and if you are reading this… Hello?!  How can we fall so far behind the world that people even consider this?  I want to hear about a sensible reform that makes sense for all involved.

2 – Have to love Mark Cuban.  Besides being a loud owner of the Dallas Mavericks, he is very open about his views.  He challenges shareholders to sell these stocks and move on to people that want to stay within the country.  He says that it is the rest of us that pay the tax shortfall they are all creating by doing this and it will make it harder to make the move. See: http://blogs.wsj.com/moneybeat/2014/07/25/mark-cuban-on-tax-inversions-if-you-move-overseas-im-selling-your-stock/

Until we find solutions that don’t tempt the wicked, use common sense.  This will help us all out.  Tell your investment professional, you don’t want to own these stocks.

The Two Sides of Volunteerism

I am told that the bigger the city you live in the more likely you don’t see the exact scenario below and less likely you see these type gestures at all.  For full disclosure, our town of Buffalo Lake is 700 people strong, except for the past weekend where we swell to 3,000.

In years past, I could make you a schedule of events for a weekend celebration that would consist of five different jobs and close to 18+ hours of community service or volunteerism.  As a small town and most of its members being less engaged as they should be, we get spread pretty thin in order to make our commitments to a wide list of activities:  Bingo, kid tractor pulls, lunches, multiple street dances, various activities in the city park, kiddie parade, city parade, tractor pulls, bean bag games, 5k run, softball, volleyball, etc.

A volunteer is defined as someone who does something without being paid for the service, but in order to understand the person that I wish to call out, you need to understand what a good volunteer is.  And because I don’t know what the definition is, let’s call it the DESIRE to do something where all the BENEFIT is given to someone/something else and YOU are PROUD to be part of the whole.

An associate just forwarded me a blog posting in which it says:  Go first.  Before someone asks, before someone needs, before help is needed.  Offer.  Volunteer.  Imagine the other person’s needs, an exercise in empathy that just might become a habit.

This particular year, I got to watch this celebration and I saw two different things, one of which is more troubling.  First, I found that each of the clubs where very short of help which is very sad.  The troubling part is there are too many not doing anything.  In some cases, it is usually those without an excuse and that do not serve that are the quickest to squeak about something that isn’t quite right.  Second of all, I found that those who did serve appeared to be tired and wished they could find their way out.  This entitlement trend to our society is destroying the things that make our communities great.  Everyone wants something but wants to be no part of making it happen and then they have the gumption to have no interest in helping but are the first to tell you it is wrong.

Am I the only one that sees this?  It is terrible.

These people put their pants on the same as everyone else and we are trying to tell them how to do it, but they lack the backbone to get involved and fix it themselves.

On the other side of the coin, I tip my hat to the very special volunteers that put in loads of work to better our community.  In the past, I didn’t quite see the whole picture until I was in a position to watch… these special volunteers are nothing short of a blessing.  It is these special people, who have the desire to do something where the benefit is not gained by the actor and they are PROUD TO BE PART OF IT.

To those who aren’t special volunteers, I think Gatorade sums it up best: is it in you?

Self-Driving Truck Still Isn’t Driverless

I am not the first to get excited about the fact that in the foreseeable future there will be a truck that will not require the driver to make all the turns.

I am also aware that the picture on the front of Transport Topics also shows a driver in the seat of the truck order a burger while driving down the road.  It took my thought process two quick seconds to remember; not only is the truck able to drive down the German Highways without issue but the driver is right there in the driver’s seat.

The truck featured in the article is the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 which can cruise down the highway at a top speed of around 53 MPH while the driver can do other duties in the driver’s seat.

The Future Truck has censors that ensure that the driver is in the driver’s seat and that they do not fall asleep. The truck will also notify the driver if they need to retake the wheel and if the command is ignored the truck will pull itself over, not to mention that truck will come with the best log trailer parts from https://pittstrailers.com/log-trailers/.

It is hoped that these trucks might hit European roadways by the year 2025, so just down the proverbial highway.

Today, we are writing a new chapter in truck history. I happen to think that the second or third chapter of this book will be more entertaining than the first.

The Trucking Side of the BioDiesel Mandate

With so much talk about biodiesel and the mandated 10% (B10) in Minnesota, I thought I would use this column to make clear my opinions on it.

There are some end of biodiesel that are very much in favor of using it and they talk about all the benefits of the fuel. Simply, there are many users of biodiesel that would use the product regardless of the mandate.

I have said that biodiesel has had the opportunity to mature its market over the past 10-plus years and for the most part it has.  Now it is time for the product to stand up and be self-sufficient on its own while not requiring the mandate.  We are at a time with this product that we should be reducing the mandate not increasing it.

I have been watching the pricing from Minnesota and its counter parts, mostly focusing on border locations. Since states have different tax brackets, I looked at the pricing net of tax and there is a steady 4-5 cent increase in Minnesota fuel on B5.  Now that the mandate is B10, I will be watching to see if this increases.  My gut tells me it will.

There are many interesting facts about the mandate that only us getting kicked are willing to talk about.

  1. Many industries have been excluded from the mandate; this makes it optional for them to buy biodiesel.  The trucking industry and your automobile are not excluded.  This leaves truckers and you to carry the mandate.
  2. The proponents will talk about the renewable energy.  All of us enjoy seeing success of domestic production of energy.  The reason this is the first topic is because they want to mask the pricing concerns.
  3. Many point to cleaner air and the clean burn of the biodiesel product, but the reality is that the Federal Government has already restricted truck manufactures into better trucks that clean drastically cleaner.  The bio portion of the fuel is a very small measurement to what the trucking industry is doing without Biodiesel.
  4. Money spent on keeping traffic moving would have a more efficient effect on society and would reduce omissions from time our equipment is idling in traffic.  Not to mention, it will allow us to stay more efficient with our rates that get passed down to the consumer.
  5. The industry is very concerned with its winter cloud point of the product and therefore they are very willing to allow the mandate to drop to B5 in the winter.  For those needing a little more information, biodiesel’s cloudpoint (point at which it gets thicker/freezes) is higher than normal diesel fuels.  This makes it more likely to have issues with our trucks on cold winter days.  Or, it requires very expensive treatment additives to work with the product.  Either way, it is lots of effort and expense to truckers.
  6. Many of us that can, avoid using Minnesota based diesel because it is expensive and we don’t need to carry the burden of mandate and the after effects of it.  Think for a moment what this actually does.  Instead of routing our truck to stop in Albert Lea and my driver buying lunch and goodies in their store, we route him to Mason City, IA and as a result of that – he is now buying Iowa goodies and supper and the taxes collected from this sale go to Iowa.  As a proud farmboy from Minnesota, it feels so wrong to avoid fuel where the accessorial sales benefit this state.  The reality is:  I compete with people from all over the country and that competition requires me to go to where the least expense is.

I don’t think you will find that the trucking industry will stand on its head to talk against Biodiesel.  In fact, many of us like the sound of domestic energy.  Minnesota Truckers are tired of carrying the torch.  We think it is unfair, expensive and wrong.

Debunking The Self-Made Driver Shortage Myth

I had this idea come across my desk this week that the driver shortage is a hoax and created by trucking company executives to place leverage in the trucking company’s hands.  I couldn’t help but smile.  The industry intentionally doesn’t hire drivers, so we have a hard time meeting commitments and in result we gain leverage because of the pain we developed artificially?  Pretty humorous, right?

The reality missed is that the leverage isn’t in the trucking company’s hands.  It is in the drivers.  The smart shippers are realizing this and doing everything they can to help company’s like ours to make the lives of the drivers better.  We work hard to do just the same.

The reality is:  even with this hard work done by most of the good trucking company’s:  It doesn’t look good.

According to American Trucking Association and Global Insight; the driver age continues to rise.  The 5% age rise in a decade is alarming to say the least.

I can’t imagine what it is like to have 100% turnover (average for this industry) at a time like this where the replacements are not easily accessible.  It also becomes a challenge for the few of us that have a more reasonable turnover (we had a 22% turnover rate in 2013) because many are now paying large bounties to get our drivers attention.

All of this makes sense to me…. I remember like it was yesterday, it was 1997 when I entered this industry and my father made the bold prediction that one day a truck driver will make more than an airline pilot.  Well, it didn’t happen overnight and we are not there yet, but it appears we surely could be going in that direction.

Lastly, drivers like to make money, but they more want to be part of something too.  If you are in the market of hiring, ask yourself – what do you do that makes you special?  If you don’t think of anything, I would guess that your turnover is closer to 100% than 22%.

Until next week, your assignment is to tell me next time our paths cross one good change the industry can do to make the lives of our drivers better!  To the drivers following this blog, thank you for being America’s lifeline.

Trying To Tie My Words Together

The best writers often tie together all of their thoughts and points into one nicely packaged product. I’d be one of the first people to tell you that I’m not one of the best writers, but I will always tell you that I’m up for a good challenge. I challenged myself to tie together my summer series posts together into one piece. Bring it on.

We here at Kottke Trucking want this blog to succeed and to be widely read. I’m still awestruck at the amount of people who do read my little ramblings. At a recent conference, I sat down and a gentleman leaned over to me and said, ‘My focus is just fine. Thank you.’

This was in reference to my then recent post about the ‘Power of Focus’ where I asked for the readers to tell me how their focus was when they next saw me. Obviously, someone was reading. This blog may never win awards or really be the ‘best of the best’, but we’re really going to try and that’s a huge part of being the best of the best.

I could go on and on about the people who I know in my life that are some of the best of the best. I got to see a lot of them last Monday at our Golf for a Cure event. We had many folks drive many, many miles to help us fight cancer at our golf tournament and those hours devoted to us really put those people at the top of my best of the best list. The time that they gave us and the Relay for Life team that we are intertwined with is the true essence of giving.

We are more than grateful for all of the hours and the dollars that we were given for the event. In this year’s event we raised north of $12,000 in an effort to defeat cancer. The battle has been a long one, but we all believe that it is a battle that will be won.

This is where the power of belief comes in. I believe that the power of belief is the most important of the topics I have talked about. The amazing thing about belief is that it becomes a whole lot more powerful when a magnitude of people believes in the same thing. On Monday, we had a golf course full of people who all believe that we can win the battle with cancer. That is truly amazing and sends chills down my spine.

I don’t expect this blog to be earth-shattering by any means, but it does give me an opportunity to give you all a little piece of my mind, my faith and my beliefs. I hope you enjoy it. I really hope that I tied these all together and appeared like a decent writer.

The True Essence of Giving

Today is a special day for us at Kottke Trucking. Monday marks our 8th annual Golf for a Cure event at Oakdale Golf Club just north of our hometown. Every year on this special day we have our friends from the trucking industry, vendors, customers and our local friends come together to spend the day fighting cancer. Their financial contributions have allowed us to give $100,000 to the American Cancer society, but it’s not the money that makes the even extraordinary.

AdvancedLifeSkills.com has a list of core non-financial gifts: Honesty, Respect, Openness, Concern, Enthusiasm, Assistance and Time.  Today we will have 100 of our friends in Buffalo Lake sharing these wonderful gifts with us.

HONESTY:  The reality is that some of our vendors might feel obligated to attend, but the truth is most are there for the right reasons.  The guys that tell their stories of why winning the battle with cancer is a priority of not only us, but many around us as well.

RESPECT:  The value of surrounding yourself with 100 top class individuals is that they all respect each other and the value they provide the event, your business and your relationship with each other.

OPENNESS:  Each of our longtime attendees to our tournament are very open about how to make it better.  We ask for candid feedback on how to make our process better.  We ask them how to make their day more enjoyable.  We expect our valued attendees to speak their mind.

CONCERN:  This is the main thing that brings a smile to my face on this glorious day.  Today we will announce an estimated total to our attendees (the amount we believe the Golf tournament will provide to the ACS) and I will receive 5-10 calls in the next 20 days asking “how did we do”.  They truly want to know how successful the event was.  True value in giving and concern.

ENTHUSIASM:  Everyone is going to show up today with a smile and a mission.  Let’s do this and have fun while we do it.  Let’s benefit everyone and enjoy each other’s company.  Enthusiasm is a great trait of the best people.

ASSISTANCE:  As each arrives, they will ask what they can do to help.  ‘Play golf,’ I tell each but they want to help the event and its success in just about any way possible.

TIME:  Just the investment of time to take from your personal schedule to give to someone else is a true gift.  In this case, 100 people will travel to a town of 700 people in the spirit of giving.  They are giving at least a day of their time in a bigger cause and they find their investment well spent (we work hard to make sure of it).

If you are reading this and you are on the way out to the tournament; God bless your soul and thank you!  I will say hello on your arrival.  If you are reading this and we will not meet today; I ask and challenge you….How are you going to find your true essence of giving?

The Best of The Best

What is the ‘best of the best’? Can you define what it is? You can Google it, but all you will get is Best of the Best a 1989 movie about an international taekwondo tournament. I don’t really want to talk about taekwondo. Maybe when we get to the final week of this summer series, I will be. You never know.

I believe we can define the best as of the highest quality, excellence and surpassing standards. If you’re one of the best of the best, you’re probably pretty darn good.

Kottke Trucking sponsors a scholarship program at the local high school, Buffalo Lake – Hector – Stewart, in which the criteria is to honor the best of the best in athletics, leadership and learning.  I am fortunate that I live in rural America and got to hear the 21 finalists announced.  I get chills just seeing just how special these kids are and how being from a small town allows these kids multiple opportunities, whereas the large cities mostly force their children to specialize.  It makes me wonder that if some of our lost opportunity and lost innovation in this country comes from the fact that we force our children to be GREAT at something too soon?

Professionally, I find that the best of the best makes me always strive to be better.   For some reason, in my mind, the definition of the best of the best is: the best is never enough.  The word ‘best’ is thrown around a lot: best pizza chain, best company to work for, Best Buy (you didn’t think of that one, huh), best prices guaranteed… but notice that nobody is engaged as the best of the best.

It’s a great thing to be the best of the best and I am proud that our company gets to help highlight the high school students in our community that are just that. I just wonder why nobody claims that they are the best of the best themselves. Maybe they’re afraid to get their butt kicked in a taekwondo tournament.

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Kottke Trucking, Inc.