By Al Muskewitz
Nina Jolly has worn a lot of hats in her 12 years with TLD Logistics Services and late this summer another layer was added to her career onion.
Jolly, already the Knoxville, Tenn.-based carrier’s HR director, was promoted to Safety Manager as successor to John Wiegand, who passed away suddenly in August.
It’s a daunting task, but one she’s prepared to tackle head on.
“Honestly, I think it’s scary but it’s rewarding because I know that my management sees me as someone they can trust with those positions,” she said. “I didn’t foresee myself in either one of these positions as I moved throughout my career, but it’s an honor and I hope I don’t let them down for giving me the opportunity. But we have a great team and that’s what allows me to do so much.”
It was precisely that experience that gave TLD president and COO Jim Peters confidence to move her into that position. Jolly became a safety supervisor shortly after joining the company, getting “the full roundhouse” of safety, from hiring for all of TLD’s new locations during a significant period of company growth to managing inspections, hours-of-service training, corporate safety, driver meetings, orientations and counseling.
She moved to kaizen coordinator, a Japanese term that refers to activities that continuously improve all functions of the independent Toyota Tsusho subsidiary and set her on the path of the responsibilities she’s handling today. Now, in addition to being the new safety manager, she remains HR director, which encompasses marketing, recruiting and onboarding.
“She’s been very versatile and involved with a lot of different departments,” Peters said. “We were very fortunate because when John passed away we lost a very important player for the management of safety at TLD Logistics.
“The fact Nina worked for John for a period of time and was in safety for probably the first four or five or her career with TLD definitely gave us somebody who was versed in how things worked, what was important in safety and always had her ear to the ground to know what was trending, what was happening in safety. We were very fortunate that she was available to step into that role and she hit the ground running.”
Jolly follows a giant in industry safety. Although Wiegand had been TLD’s safety manager for five years, he developed and instituted a number of innovative safety programs and protocols that are still in place today.
The programs have been a key element to the carrier being among the Best Fleets to Drive For four years running, the application process for which is led by Jolly. And effective. The night before he died Wiegand called Peters to report the company’s CSA scores were all under threshold, including the hours-of-service benchmark that had been a challenge throughout his tenure.
“Intimidating is one word I would use; his retention was pretty intimidating,” Jolly said. “He just knew (things). You could give him one name and he could go back in his head and tell you every single thing that happened with that person; I don’t have that ability. He can call out numbers at the drop of a hat. And the respect the drivers had for him. He could get anybody’s attention at any time.
“I understand the task and challenges we’ve had to overcome as a company and what it took to do that and I’m telling you he did an amazing job with it. It’s not easy, it takes time, and he’s done it.”
The basics of safety haven’t changed much in the time Jolly had been away from it – the regulations and day-to-day protocols – so the transition back hasn’t been difficult except for the time it takes to get back up to speed.
It’s her intention to keep the programs Wiegand set in place rolling, but technology and predictive analysis will be important tools on her watch. She already has implemented a plan in which TLD brings in five drivers a week for one day of training.
“I want to get back to those very basics so I don’t allow us to get in the situation we were in beforehand,” Jolly said. “The drivers were real receptive to it.”
Moving into the safety manager’s position Jolly joins an increasing number of women across the industry in that post. According to the respondents of a recent Women In Trucking survey, 38 percent of fleet safety in all of trucking is managed by women. It’s 44.3 percent among the carriers, 25.8 percent at carriers with a 3PL or freight brokerage and 30 percent at shippers with a private fleet.
Peters said the company’s diversity is a “confident sign of where TLD is headed” and the WIT recently listed it among the top companies for women to work for in transportation.
Peters estimated the company’s non-office employment ratio (excluding maintenance) at 60-40/65-35 male to female, with the number of women on TLD’s driver rolls slightly above the national average. Among the eight employees in feature management positions two are women, as are many of the understudies; four years ago they were all male.
Peters can see within the next two or three years half of its top management team will be comprised of women and minorities. In an effort to attract more women drivers, the company has started going to automatic transmission trucks, an initiative introduced by Jolly.
“TLD has always, from Day One, given me opportunities to succeed and allow me to make of my career what I want to make of my career,” Jolly said. “We give everyone that opportunity.
“I think it’s a great place for females. I have never felt like, oh, I live in a man’s world. TLD gives everyone the same opportunity and I’ve never felt otherwise. I’m just the one who was there and did what needed to be done and they believed in me.”
Al Muskewitz is editor-in-chief of Wright Media Corp.