Driving For Success

Travel is always a great opportunity get out into the field and talk to you, our audience. Nothing’s more satisfying than indulging in a plate of pork barbeque, beans, and slaw while shooting the breeze with readers.

Last week (as I write this, that would be the week after Labor Day), I found myself sitting across from a cooperative location manager and a young rig driver at an equipment manufacturer’s product demo day in Pennsylvania.

The driver couldn’t have been more than 22, seemed pretty ambitious, and was willing to talk. The manager was a well-worn veteran of the trade and also very friendly. So, I had to ask them a few questions.

“Do you read CropLife IRON?” I ask. All of you should know that this is our sister publication, a dealership equipment product tabloid, and I always try to get feedback about whether people like it or not.

“It’s good … it gives us a chance to compare equipment all in one place,” said the manager. The young applicator chimed in: “It’s got a lot of pictures … and I really like pictures.”

Well, that’s good news, seeing as that’s the whole point to IRON … making it a quick yet informative read. So I dig a bit deeper with the applicator. “What did you see today that you like? What do you want in your equipment that you don’t have now?”

He thought for a second, and then began bouncing up and down on his chair, simulating turbulence that comes with working among and around Pennsylvania’s hilly terrain. “I hate this,” he says. “I know it’s the fields, but there’s gotta be something better.” Then he chimed in with: “Hey, maybe you can write a story about how much more work I can get done with new equipment that isn’t so frustrating to use!”

“So, this stuff really gets you frustrated, eh?”

“Yeah, it drives me nuts. And if I get frustrated in the morning, I’ll stay frustrated all day.”

Well, there is something encouraging there — this guy senses, accurately, that if he’s more comfortable in the rig, he will do his job better and more efficiently. Whether or not he gets a rig upgrade or not, however, is largely up to you.

I’ve been around enough applicators to sense that complaining too loudly about equipment is like a baseball team that steals a base with a 10-run lead — it’s against “the code.” Everybody is working hard out there, and no one wants to be the complainer. It’s especially true for the most experienced guys.

Manufacturers of equipment have done enough focus groups and research to know two things for sure — user comfort can have a positive impact on productivity, and applicators respond to improved performance.

Next month we’ll be covering some of the buying basics in our semi-annual Equipment Decisions report. We hope you’ll find it useful as you review your fleet and decide whether it’s time to upgrade.

But whatever you do, be sure to have an open discussion with your applicator drivers as part of the process. It’s doubtful they’ll complain about under-performing, uncomfortable rigs in front of their peers, but they’ll probably share some valuable insight in a closed-door office meeting.

To my new friend in PA, I hope you get the rig of your dreams …

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