122: Freight Outlook and Customer Service

During this week’s episode of the Oakley Podcast, host Jeremy Kellett is joined by Shane Smith and Bradley Simpson to take a look at what the rest of 2022 holds. How much freight is there? Is it slowing down or not? Here’s an inside look at what’s going on at Oakley Trucking. 

Key topics in today’s conversation include:

  • Oakley Update: upcoming safety check (3:14)
  • What we’re seeing in the freight industry (5:23)
  • The importance of customer service (11:21)
  • Preparing for bad times (14:33)
  • Areas of opportunity (16:56)
  • Email survey results (22:55)
  • What makes Oakley different (26:18)

Oakley Trucking is a family-owned and operated trucking company headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information, check out our show website: podcast.bruceoakley.com.


Bradley Simpson  0:12  

It is busy, Jeremy. It is truly busy. We’ve had times where you see busy, but I have not seen it this good, this long.

Jeremy Kellett  0:22  

Welcome to the Oakley podcast, trucking, business, and family. This show is brought to you by Oakley Trucking, headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The purpose of this podcast is to communicate with Oakley owner-operators and their families by giving them up-to-date information concerning Oakley Trucking and the trucking industry. From business advice to safety updates to success stories. Also to give an inside to outside truck drivers that might be interested in joining the Oakley family.

Hi, there’s Jeremy Kellett director recruiting here at Oakley trucking. I’m your host for this podcast. This is the Oakley podcast, trucking, business and family. And this is episode 122. So on today’s episode, I’m going to talk to miss Shane Smith and Bradley Simpson who are sitting in here with me operation managers here at Oakley Trucking, knowing all the freight that’s going on and dealing with the customers every day and dealing with our owner operators and we’re gonna visit with them and talk about the future. What’s the layout, what we got looking at the rest of this year in 2022. We’re seven months in now and try to get a feel from them because we hear all kinds of things out there. You hear all sorts of things go on and on. “A lot of other freight,” and “it’s slowing down,” and “not slowing down.” So we’re gonna get an inside look at that and what’s going on at Oakley Trucking because we’re trying to keep our owner-operators informed of what’s happening. I don’t know how I can get any straighter from these guys. Let’s do it everyday. So we’re gonna visit with them here in a minute. But first let’s do it Oakley update sponsored by Arrow Truck Sales.

Let’s listen to one of Oakleys owner operator experience with Arrow Truck Sales.

Oakley Owner Operator  1:56  

I called Kenworth off 440 called Peterbilt called Freightliner. None of them wanted to work with me. So, Jeremy Kellett got me and got me over to Trey. Trey visor, me and him had a conversation. He had sent me to Keith Wilson and never looked back from that point. I was upside down 29,000 and change. They paid off all but $5,000 of my loans on a blown truck. That right there said a lot to me. They were willing to step outside of their comfort zone. To get my deal done. I never felt like a customer. It was more like a family feeling. He took care of every aspect of the deal. He was completely transparent. There was no hidden, no hidden nothing.

Jeremy Kellett  3:04  

So if you’re in the market for a used truck, you owe it to yourself to call Keith Wilson at Arrow Truck Sales in Springfield, Missouri. Tell him you heard it on the Oakley podcast.

So on the Oakley update, we’ve got a safety check coming up August the 21st through the 23rd. And it is focusing on airlines. And I’m sure a few other things that they want to check you on. But be sure and keep that in mind always 21st through the 23rd does not mean that you don’t work those days. That means you check your Erlang and make sure your truck is ready to roll and it can pass an inspection. So just kidding. Another thing I like to throw in there is keeping your equipment clean. That goes along with the safety checks. Keeping your tractor clean, keeping your trailer clean, go keeping yourself clean goes a long ways with DLT and with our customers, we have reputation we got to keep up here at Oakley trucking. And we do that by looking good. And I promise you looking good makes money. So keep up your stuff. Keep up your equipment, and we really appreciate it.

Okay, let’s get started you guys. What’s going on, Shane?

Shane Smith  4:15  

Man, doing good, Jeremy.

Jeremy Kellett  4:16  

That’s this gentleman up here, and certainly me knocking this stuff out that on Friday. How about you, Bradley?

Bradley Simpson  4:22  

All good. Everything’s good.

Jeremy Kellett  4:24  

You guys have been around a long time. What are y’all? 20-plus years?

Shane Smith  4:28  

22, 23.

Jeremy Kellett  4:30  

Yeah. Bradley, pretty close?

Bradley Simpson  4:32  

13. Over 13.

Jeremy Kellett  4:34  

You feel like a 20 year. You act like you’ve been here for 20.

Bradley Simpson  4:38  

That’s right.

Jeremy Kellett  4:38  

So I mean that rarely is a pneumatic Shane is an end dance and hoppers, little bit everything. I got to thinking about the subject and talking about the freight and what Oakley is doing. Right now how we’re doing what you guys are on the front line talking to the customers every day and getting the lowdown on what satin. And we all know we’ve been hearing all kinds of stuff reading the articles and reading the news and you think, man, it’s good. When’s it coming? When’s it going? Oh, is it right around the corner. And that is I just thought would be great to get from the horse’s mouth of what we’re seeing. Now, we know, we got to put that disclaimer out there, Shane, we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. All we know is what’s going on today and what we think is happening. So you want to give us a little rundown, Shane, so you want to Dopson hoppers and we’ll get it we got a few questions here. And we might cover some of them and, and before we actually get to them, but that’s okay.

Shane Smith  5:42  

You bet. Things on the dump side, men have been extremely busy, it’s a time where lots of calls coming in lots of opportunity. Customers out there are looking for know loads to move customers you deal with regularly or increased orders, a lot of calls from new customers looking for trucks because things are tight out there in the market. So everybody’s looking for a truck out there. So they’re, they’re promising you into the world and giving you business and given opportunities. And some of it we can take and some of it we have to pass because it has been so busy.

Jeremy Kellett  6:20  

Well, you try to, I’m assuming. We always have tried to take care of our core customers.

Shane Smith  6:25  

You bet yah. You bet you take care of those that are with you all the time. And that’s the balance on our side. And here, you get to chase and these other people and telling you all these great things, but you’ve got a lot of everyday business that you got to take care of because they’re with you. good times and bad. When you take care of those and that’s no some what we get in here talk about in those relationships, and they call you first because you’ve taken care of him and all of these times. You won’t pick up the phone call you or just send you the orders. You’re saying is this crazy? 23 years you need is busy, Jeremy? It is truly busy. We’ve had times where you see busy, but I have not seen it this good, this long.

Jeremy Kellett  7:08  

Yeah, that’s a great way to put it because it has been it’s been for a little while. About the same in pneumatics, Bradley?

Bradley Simpson  7:16  

Yeah, I can pretty much just shadow his answer and say the same thing. You get new calls from new people. Every day seems like just reaching out wanting to see what we have what we can do, can you do this and like he said, some of it we make try to get in there and do but our normal day-to-day customers, we’re, we’re, we’re doing our best to keep up with what they want. And all the extras that they’re feeding us. It’s been really good.

Jeremy Kellett  7:44  

Why do you think that is? Why has this gone on for so long to be so good?

Bradley Simpson  7:54  

I don’t know. It’s almost shadows, like your home market in the way the housing industry has been going so good, so long and a lot of what we do, like right now, for instance, ties back to us in the granules or shingles for homes. Shingle business is his Bowman and we do a lot, and it gets everybody busy and busy rail can’t keep up, which is great news for trucking when that happens because that’s a, as a price-conscious type deal where they’re doing a lot of volume on there. And when they call a rail car for us is, that’s four loads and they’re missing several rail cars, so you’re getting 16, 20 loads a day out of places that you don’t know, don’t always get to touch the man I don’t, it’s busy, there’s a lot of growth and a lot of go out there.

Jeremy Kellett  8:44  

Well, to me it’s also a testament of over the years, what we’ve, what we’ve made this company be, and being such really good at taking care of customers over the years, and our owner-operators, really the ones taken care of. But being able to do that we’ve had gained a reputation for a long time, and I think I feel like not just now but in the past years, we’re reaping those benefits. Oh, yeah. Of having that name, that reputation and doing what we say we’re going to do. And, and you guys, especially in operations and dispatch, and we’re not leaving to get the loads covered the right mentality. And that’s what gets it done. So the rest of the year, what does that bring? Y’all feel pretty confident?

Shane Smith  9:38  

I don’t see anything right now to indicate that anything is changing or we talk about in here that it’s got to. I don’t feel like things can sustain the way they’ve gone in and the housing market and things that are going on out there but to look for indicators inside this office, in the phones and in the demands of the customers. There are my crystal ball is pretty clear that is going on right now.

Jeremy Kellett  10:06  

What do the customers tell you? Bradley, what do they tell you?

Bradley Simpson  10:10  

Not too much input really from for many of them, which I haven’t directly asked them that question, but from what I hear it’s, Hey, can you do this for the rest of the year? Can you please rockset here and there?

Jeremy Kellett  10:25  

Is it like they’re somewhat panicking looking for trucks?

Bradley Simpson  10:30  

Yeah, I would say there’s some panic there for sure. get rolled over to us. And yeah, I would say so for sure.

Jeremy Kellett  10:38  

You get that feeling in the docks?

Shane Smith  10:40  

You do. Depending on a lot of the times what all you’re getting it, depends on that day, but we’re getting a lot of calls, and a lot of it is today, it’s right now it’s somebody needs this in the immediate future for what we’re doing, there’s not a lot of, there’s not a lot of planning out there forecast, hey, I need you to look at this and do it for so long. It seems like everything right now is right now.

Jeremy Kellett  11:10  

That’s right. Calling right now on these roads right now. And we might live in it for a long time.

Shane Smith  11:17  

And like you say earlier, that kind of getting some of your payback for Debian, that’s what we’ve done in the past is service those last minute needs for a lot of people and you reap the benefit you service that time, and then people call back, they want it again and again. We’re kind of reading that, like you said earlier.

Jeremy Kellett  11:34  

So you mean to tell me, customer service works?

Shane Smith  11:37  

Customer service works.

Jeremy Kellett  11:40  


Shane Smith  11:41  

For sure. Either way you provide.

Jeremy Kellett  11:43  

That’s a good point. That’s right: either way you provide it. We’ve talked about customer service for years and that’s something a lot of people don’t do anymore. Maybe that’s why we’re reaping a lot of benefits now and over the years: because we have stuck with providing a good customer service. Just to give our listeners an idea here, guys, what kind of conversations do you have with dispatch on customer service?

Bradley Simpson  12:14  

Well, we do it every week when we cover meetings, we do it every Monday and every Friday. And that January is the topic that’s discussed in our meetings. Well, we go in there and we sit down and we talk about it, and push it and go through, but it’s always the simple things out there. It’s do what you say you’re gonna do and do it when you say you’re gonna do it. It’s simple in theory, it’s just hard— it seems like— to apply it all times, especially when it’s busy. You can overcommit yourself, but do what you say you’re gonna do. Keep it simple.

Shane Smith  12:52  

Yeah, something goes wrong, you need to be telling them ASAP. Let them know what’s going on. Let the kid I appreciate that. They may not like it right when they hear it, but they understand and they appreciate it.

Bradley Simpson  13:05  

That’s right. And a lot of people don’t look at it. And that is part of customer service is letting them know when things are bad or we can’t do this, we can’t do what you’re asking us to do. Or if there’s a problem that arises through the day.

Shane Smith  13:19  

Something’s gonna go wrong, mechanically from time to time.

Jeremy Kellett  13:23  

Pretty much daily.

Shane Smith  13:24  

And that communication is so vital that our owner-operators are letting dispatch know and dispatch is letting the customer know we’re reporting to one of us, for us to let them know. Tell people what’s going on. If you’re honest and upfront with them goes a long way.

Jeremy Kellett  13:42  

And I think that’s the point I wanted to make is customer service goes a long ways. Even though you don’t get much of it these days and a lot of things we still want to make sure that we give it in it’s that’s something that’s not easy to do sometimes in the world we live in for sure in the trucking business because trucking companies and truck drivers are don’t get a lot of hey, good customer service from y’all. We appreciate y’all Good job. We don’t get a whole lot of that. We get a lot when we screw things up. We get a lot of attention.

Shane Smith  14:19  

Found that out quick.

Jeremy Kellett  14:20  

And yeah, yeah. We talk a little bit about good times bad times. I know we can’t predict the future for sure. But and we know nothing shiny. Like you said before, the downtime is coming. It’s coming. What are we gonna do? What are we going to do in the pneumantics, Bradley, when the bad times come?

Bradley Simpson  14:43  

It’s gonna stay on the phones and keep talking to customers. You got to get your notes out from this year all the people that are calling you got to start calling them back and say, Hey, I need you this time. Can you help me out? It’s got to take whatever we can get to keep everybody rollin. Keep Everybody happy, that’s all we’ve always done is, whenever that comes, it may not be the most beneficial on our side of it, but we’re gonna keep the owner-operators rolling and keep them busy to keep them with us. Because it’ll turn around the other way again, at some point.

Shane Smith  15:17  

We kind of talked about that in passing earlier in, in the break room of how things are going out there and things are extremely busy, last to do for trucks going through, but when in times past when it’s turned down, we’ve hammered it, we work on the phones, we know, we, we get that phone dial and phone bill goes up, we’re called a lot more people and we’re finding something to do. No, we always have and that’s the good part of our business in the diversity that we do, but it all circles back to, to keep busy during the lean times, you have to do good all the time and it keeps a steady flow of business.

Jeremy Kellett  15:56  

You don’t mean you lose money on some dragon term.

Bradley Simpson  16:01  

I mean, you eat a little leaner a little later. But we’ve seen it in bad times and going through and fortunately, we were able to keep keep the fleets busy, keep everybody out there and keep on making checks, keeping those guys around, because there are livelihoods. They make the money for us in good and bad times and keeping those guys around making checks so that, when times are like these, you can make some money back and pass that money forward, like we’ve been doing.

Jeremy Kellett  16:33  

Yeah, that makes a big difference and I think definitely our owner-operators appreciate it too. You betcha. We appreciate them sticking with us through those times. That’s tough and that it’s just a testament those guys and what they do.

Hey, one thing, speaking of—change the subject just a little bit—of busyness, y’all got any specific areas or things that you’re looking for right now. I know we had an email go out during the day, Bradley, on the pneumatics running a little more regional around Arkansas.

Bradley Simpson  17:11  

Yeah, we could really use trucks all over the state of Arkansas for several different types of products kind of a mix of this and that but we can do that with drivers and keep them what I’m trying to get them home Monday through Friday work or you can work seven days a week we’ve got options for both right now. It’s so busy around here.

Jeremy Kellett  17:33  

Is a lot of it in the state of Arkansas?

Bradley Simpson  17:36  

Yeah, the way I’ve explained it to a few people who’ve called that were interested is you may go over to our terminal in Muskogee. You may go down to Shreveport to our place down there. But other than that, it’s basically just corn at a corner of Arkansas. Okay. Different products salt, alumina off the go or Soda ash we go to a lot of chicken feed houses with we call it poultry litter, taking stuff to those places, but we got a lot of opportunity with that with people flash stuff going to Memphis stuff low Netta Memphis coming back. So got a lot of stuff that we haven’t really went headfirst into yet that that we could Yeah, there’s got opportunity. VSI oh, we’re kind of holding back doing what we can but I feel like we can dive in completely if we had the people to do it.

Shane Smith  18:28  

We have a few owner-operators out there, come on, let’s hang out.

Jeremy Kellett  18:32  

What about over-the-road stuff? Where do you typically where do you run? Where do you need owner-operators?

Bradley Simpson  18:39  

Of course, SE is huge. Anywhere from Houston, Oklahoma. Cross 40 Tennessee over into Georgia. That whole areas is huge for us. But Louisiana is a big spot for us for kinda localized work and a mix of over-the-road up in the Ohio area, Pennsylvania. That’s huge for us too is Yeah, Illinois. Pretty much anywhere. I can name we can we can keep somebody busy. That’s for sure.

Jeremy Kellett  19:10  

A couple of weeks out, what you like, except for this local stuff.

Bradley Simpson  19:14  

Local stuff, I can work around that but more over-the-road stuff. Two weeks is definitely better.

Jeremy Kellett  19:22  

Okay. Just to add to that, how many trucks you got? How many in pneumatics do we got? Is it 200?

Bradley Simpson  19:31  

Yeah, about 180, I think, without me having a real accurate count recently, but I think it’s about 180.

Jeremy Kellett  19:39  

Okay. And need 180 more.

Bradley Simpson  19:41  


Jeremy Kellett  19:43  

But dump, Shane, what we got? 400 dump?

Bradley Simpson  19:44  

Right at it. Right at it: 380-400. Hoppers we run 200, 215, somewhere in that neighborhood. Man, it’s everywhere. To think of immediate jobs that we’re working back and forth. We’ve been doing stuff in Louisiana always working on trucks down there. But a lot of our hot spots for se right now is anywhere we’re turning granules out that we’re moving out of which doing it out a little rock doing it out in Missouri, doing it out of North Carolina and monitors has been really busy been doing quite a bit more in Wisconsin, moving stuff out of there.

Without giving details, what about these loads coming up coming out of Canada?

We’ve got some stuff coming up at us Saskatchewan. Fixing to start back up we do that about every year, running back down, got some good miles on that. No getting into the situation there have guys in the dumps and hoppers that can pull because they can go either way. But these hoppers can do tend to get in on some of that stuff bottom Java, where we have to have passports running across up there running across the line, bringing it back to you needed to in pin today. Yeah, I need to study on that. But I think it’s all the way across that line. That is vaccination. I don’t think it’s just like over on Ontario or anything murli would know, but I think it’s everywhere. I think it’s anywhere across the line, have got several loads that are coming up on that here in the next month.

Jeremy Kellett  21:15  

Going to best days. Yes, that’s a lot of miles out. As I sketch one back down south and a lot of people you have to turn just go back and get another one.

Shane Smith  21:26  

In order to keep up with what will be going on during that timeframe, there are significant empty miles that are running back up here to make timeliness of getting in into that run. So if you guys out there that have left some stuff lapse in there, you need to look at that. We’re going to be busy on the dump side really running hard.

Jeremy Kellett  21:46  

And if you got your vaccine and passport, call Shane. He needs to know the trucks that are available to go up there and come back.

Shane Smith  21:54  

Start making me a list.

Jeremy Kellett  21:55  

Yeah, start making you a list. That’s good. Well, I know we need trucks about everywhere. And that’s great to know, man, I’m glad barley kind of zeroed in on some stuff. They’re on pneumatics it always helps with the Arkansas stuff, and then also the south and southeast. It makes a difference. No one and our guys know because we’ve had some swap divisions too. And that’s good to do. But ypneumatic we’re pretty particular on it’s not something you just jump over there and start and do it. I mean, you got to be on your game. You got to know what you do and some common sense and, and be thorough in what you’re doing. Because you can definitely mess some stuff up we go. We that’s why we’re particular only we put over we like to have them work in here. So we know on hoppers are the dogs first know how they work, and get word from the dispatcher on how they work. And if the candidate swapped over, we can do that. So it works really good.

I had some answers. I had emailed this out looking for volunteers and you guys were good enough to volunteer. I had Cowden, he won’t get on podcast. He emails me answers to the questions, so I gave him a hard time about that. But he’s always got some good answers. His answers to these questions are what is afraid look like was wide open danger ahead. And what the customers are talking about in the future. He’s here and from hit from the people he talks to he’s here in fourth quarter 2022 Second quarter 2023 slowdown. So I think it’s pretty much the news as to how do we handle the good and the bad time, something we discussed and he stayed talked about, hey, we keep our trucks rolling in good bad times. Goal is to keep assets during a downturn and capitalize when freight is good. That’s pretty much what we’ve talked about to customer expectations hasn’t changed the message is do what our customers ask and do it better than anyone else. Customers always right during the market, getting compliments from customers, we do get some of that a need to share more of our word is good for us communication, great looking equipment and the best drivers in the business. And that’s what we get from our customers. And we Jason sent me something I don’t like I brought it on one of our customers was doing complimenting some of our owner-operators. But Scott here, he pretty much talks, the same talk you’re doing in here.

Bradley Simpson  24:33  

I think what Jason had mentioned being able to get some increases on some of the customers because of the service we had provided. No getting to increase in some of the rates and some of those guys are working barges and in percent pay and stuff like that and getting to see some of that money because we’ve been taking care of it. And back to customer service. Yeah, I will do that. So you’re able to get to increases and pass that along.

Jeremy Kellett  24:59  

And Jason also answered a lot of these questions for me too, but on how freight look, and he says steel rolling things, if things are slowing down, he would know by sitting in this office, stick to the same principles regardless look after owner operator and customer and company work as much as possible. While there’s a lot to do. That’s something we always talked about getting a while you can just there but and we try to tell our owner operators that hey, man, you get away again? Well, to them, it’s always here. It’s, it’s always that time because we work yesterday we work and like as a difference in a lot of other companies. I was just reading over some of Jason’s answers, and probably the best one to do what we say, what separates from Oakley from a brother Bravo Company, and we do what we say we did. That pretty much sums it up to me right there on Oakley.

Anything else you guys like to add? I was trying to think of any questions that our listeners would want to be asking you if they were sitting across the table from you on this kind of stuff, what go on the inside scoop going on and Oakley. Can you think of anything else that our owner-operators and their families need to hear from us other than confidence?

Bradley Simpson  26:18  

One of the things that we listed on here and, and talk about the questions you were reading that you’d put out some of those guys: what separates us from other dry boat companies? It really is our operators. The process going over there and recruiting and going through, we don’t hire, we don’t hire just anybody that comes over here. We work for guys that have good equipment, we hire guys have good work history to come over and when to be contractors with us. And so those guys make the difference. And it’s part of the everyday, everyday grind that you do doing it right every day. Whether it’s updating, updating Geotab or whether it’s communicating to dispatch where I’m going to be no or are like we talked about earlier communicating when there are problems in that and going back to customer service, take care of those guys. They pay our bills, they’ve allowed us to pay the money that we’re getting to pay right now out with break bonus this go on out, all of that stems back into customer service. And man, we’ve got a lot of great guys that are doing that out there force representing Oakley trucking out there every day, day in day out.

Jeremy Kellett  27:32  

I couldn’t have said it any better. The freight surcharge you mentioned, that 20 cents mile loaded and empty on everything. That’s right, is going we’re doing 30-day increments, just to make sure but I mean, with what I’m hearing from you guys, it looks like that’s gonna keep going, let’s say unless something just happened drastically happens in front of us.

Bradley Simpson  27:53  

That’s right. It’s out there, unless I take care of it and work when you can. There’s opportunity out there, we’ve got a lot of stuff going on summers, summer is fixing to wrap up. We’re running into the eighth month coming here. I guess we’ll get a holiday at the end to end of that month. And then I guess it’d be Thanksgiving after that. So, yeah, man we’re ripping through this year.

Jeremy Kellett  28:18  

And I still do encourage our owner operators to this price sounds better, but HA, HA that extra load, work that extra weekend, and save that money, put some away, put it away. But now is the time that you can do it. You can knock it out, man, pay off the truck, pay off some debt. Now, while we’ve got. We’re always gonna have loads but they’re not always going to be good loads. That’s right, and right now, it’s just a blessing this whole year is and I just encourage our owner operators to hit it a needle, stay out that weekend. And we’ll make sure it’s worth it. We just need some help.

Shane Smith  29:07  

If you get a little more go when you then go get it right now and like say put some away if there’s some extra in there, get it get another load and put it in there though. Santa Claus is coming.

Jeremy Kellett  29:16  

Amen. Anything else you’d like to add, Bradley?

Bradley Simpson  29:19  

I don’t think so.

Jeremy Kellett  29:20  

Good stuff, man. Thank you guys for joining me today and doing this. I think it’s great insight for owner operators and hero BI a little insight of what’s going on in the brains of Oakley truck in your brain. That’s scary. That’s scary. Yes, it’s called out No. I appreciate everybody listening to the Oakley podcast once again man stay and stay in touch with us. If you if you’re interested in leasing on Oakley trucking, give us a call a peer to Office. Check out our website. I encourage you to go back and watch these episodes of the Oakley podcast. We got a lot of good information that helps you make a decision whether you want to come here or not. But by all means call us and let’s get the ball rolling. Here at Oakley joking in a new conjoin a family with so appreciate y’all listening. We’ll talk to you next week.

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