to accompany CHAPTER 10: Human Resources, Job Design and Work Measurement
In March 2019, Bill Southard, owner of Southard Truck Lines, in Canyon, Texas, purchased a dozen new tractors from ARC Trucks.* His relations with his drivers have been excellent, but the new tractors are creating a problem. His drivers do not like them. They complain that the new tractors are hard to control on the highway; they “wander.” By wandering, the drivers seem to mean the tractors take more work to control at highway speeds. Moreover, when the drivers have a choice, they choose the older tractors. Two drivers have even left the company and Southard believes that, instead of helping him keep good drivers, the new trucks have actually contributed to losing them. After many talks with the drivers, Southard concludes that the new tractors do indeed have a problem. He further believes that this situation has serious negative implications for the future of the firm. The new tractors are fully outfitted with the newest navigation features, as well as numerous expensive creature comforts. They get better gas mileage, should have lower maintenance costs, and have the latest antilocking brakes.
Because each tractor costs over $100,000, Southard’s investment exceeds $1 million.
He is desperately trying to improve his fleet performance by reducing maintenance and fuel costs; however, these improvements have not happened. Additionally, he wants to keep his drivers happy. This has not happened either. Consequently, Southard has had a series of talks with the manufacturer of the trucks.
The manufacturer, ARC Trucks of Denton, Texas, redesigned the front suspension for
the trucks that Southard purchased. However, ARC insists that the new front end is great and operates without a problem. Southard finds out, however, that since he purchased his trucks, there have been further (though minor) changes in some front-suspension parts. ARC claims these changes are the normal product improvement that it makes as part of its policy of continuous product improvement.
Despite several strongly worded requests by Southard, ARC Trucks has refused to
make any changes in the tractors Southard purchased. The new trucks do not seem to have a higher accident rate, but they do not have many miles on them either. No one has suggested there is a significant safety problem, but Bill’s drivers are adamant that they have to work harder to keep the new tractors on the road. The result is Southard has new tractors spending much of their time sitting in the yard while drivers use the old tractors. Southard’s costs, therefore, are higher than they should be. He is considering court action, but legal counsel suggests that he document his case.
1. What suggestions do you have for Mr. Southard?
2. Having been exposed to introductory material about ergonomics, can you imagine an
analytical approach to documenting the problems reported by the drivers?
Additional Case Study: The Fleet That Wanders
*Large highway trucks are made up of two components; a tractor that pulls a trailer.