In January, I flew to Boston. Yeah, I know. You’re thinking I need to get a new travel agent. Unfortunately, I schedule my own travel, so I have no one to blame but myself! I landed in Boston with no problems and drove directly to Woburn, MA to meet with Bill Burrows and the folks at Diamond Truck Lease Corporation, a NationaLease Member.
A chat with Bill, Steve, and Eddie is always a lively one, (actually, Eddie barely gets a word in edgewise), and this was no exception. I learned a lot about what is currently happening in their market, their longtime customers, the challenges they are facing, and their predictions for the future of truck leasing. Bill shared some of his observations from over 50 years in the industry. It is such a tremendous gift to be able to listen to our members like Bill, who have so much experience they are willing to share. It is better than any college course I could take! My education continued into lunch, as Bill took me to Ninety Nine for a burger. Ninety Nine is a New England restaurant chain with now over 100 locations. It began and is still headquartered right there in Woburn. It should come as no surprise that Bill not only knew the history of the place, but has serviced their trucks for years.
From Woburn on the north side of Boston, I headed toward Shrewsbury on the west side. It was a lovely day for driving. There was no snow on the ground due to the recent warmer temperatures, and the sky was clear and bright. However, two things caught my attention. First was what appeared to be waterfalls along the sides of the road. On closer inspection, they were spectacular icicles created by the freezing and thawing of water running down and through the glacial rock formations that edge the highway. The second thing I noticed was the rather ominous electronic road signs that flashed “Winter Storm Warning Tuesday/Wednesday…Plan Ahead for Travel.” My existing plan for travel on Tuesday and Wednesday included driving through three states.
I arrived in Shrewsbury and sat down with John Paulik from Advantage Truck Leasing, LLC, a NationaLease Member. We had a great conversation about a wide range of topics, from ELDs and how they are helping their customers stay compliant, to our purchasing programs, to our upcoming events to their efforts to recruit technicians. Advantage has done a tremendous job of working with community organizations and schools from middle school to post-secondary trade schools. They now have their own training center and factory certified trainer, as well, so that they can develop their own group of technicians. With the technician shortage only getting worse in the next few years, efforts like Advantage is making will help ensure that they have technicians trained and ready to repair and maintain their customers’ trucks.
I drove from the west side of Boston to the south side, found my hotel in Walpole, and scoped out a nearby restaurant for dinner. Asian Treasure was not only right across the street, but their Pan-Asian menu allowed me to have both potstickers and sushi for dinner—two of my favorites! My hotel was just down the street from Minuteman Trucks, Inc., a NationaLease Member, so it was a short drive the next morning to meet with Dick Witcher and Bill Carroll. We had a great conversation discussing NationaLease and the programs we have in place to support our members. We also talked about the upcoming NationaLease Spring Business Meeting in conjunction with TRALA. We all agreed that it will be nice to be in Scottsdale in March after the long winter!
From there, I went south to my next stop in Johnston, RI, where I met with the folks from Ballard Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Member. Since it was lunchtime, we gathered up everyone and headed straight to the English Muffin. Brian Buckley, Tom Plante, Steve Brown and I had lunch in this very cute family-owned breakfast and lunch spot. The entire place was already decorated for Valentine’s Day, right down to the heart-adorned mugs. Both the food and service were outstanding, and everything seemed to have a personal touch, including the unique daily specials written on a chalkboard. Brian told me that the owner’s mom is the cook, which definitely explains the extra attention given to every detail. After lunch, we went back to Ballard’s office and reviewed some of the NationaLease programs. We also talked about their growing business, and the bright outlook they have for 2018.
As I was getting ready to leave Rhode Island and continue south to Connecticut, I got an email from the airline advising me that I could change my upcoming flight due to the severe weather conditions expected. I really didn’t want to leave early and miss my scheduled meeting with Black Rock Truck Leasing, a NationaLease Developing Member. The roads and sky were both still clear at the moment, so I hesitantly decided to take my chances and stick to my plan. I drove to Madison, CT, and checked into the lovely Madison Beach Hotel. It was immediately apparent that both the town and the hotel are summertime hot spots due to their location right on the shore of Long Island Sound. Despite being there at the low season, I found the hotel to be exceptionally charming. My room had a soaking tub, a balcony with an ocean view, and a fireplace. I didn’t want to leave! I eventually tore myself away from the fireplace to go down to the hotel restaurant for dinner. The amiable waiter made wonderful recommendations (the short ribs were extraordinary) and checked in with me just often enough to make the sometimes dreary experience of dining alone very pleasant.
I woke up the next morning expecting to see the beach blanketed in a heavy layer of snow. I stepped out on the balcony and to my great surprise, there was not a single snowflake in sight. I decided to take advantage of this unexpected opportunity to go for a run along the completely deserted shoreline. Other than a few large chunks of ice washing up on the shore, there was no indication of any bad weather on the way. Since my previous evening’s dinner had been so delicious, I went back to the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and enjoyed the view of the ocean along with my crab and avocado omelet. It was just a short drive to Branford, CT, where I met with Michael Beauton of Black Rock Truck Leasing. As they are one of our newer NationaLease members, we took some time to review their progress to date, reexamine some of the resources NationaLease has available, and discuss some of the questions and challenges they are facing. I was excited to hear about their new facility, now undergoing renovations. Since it is only a few blocks away from their current location, Michael drove me over and gave me a tour of the building that will be the home of their leasing operation when renovations are completed.
Even though I had several hours before my flight, I thought it would be prudent to start my journey to the airport as soon as possible. I was still feeling uncertain about the weather despite the lack of any evidence of a storm. There had been some rain the day before, and now the temperature was hovering right around freezing, creating a high probability of icy roads. I drove the two and a half hours to the airport with an abundance of caution, and only minutes before reaching my destination, the snow started to fall. Safe and sound in the airport, and quite early for my flight, I found a spot to sit and watch the weather while I answered emails. By the time my flight was scheduled to leave, the snow had stopped falling, the runways were clear, and I took off with no delay.
“All’s well that ends well,” according to Shakespeare. My trip ended well, not only because I got home on time, but also because I had the chance to spend time with so many of our great members. However, the uncertainty and insecurity I faced due to expected weather conditions are all too real, and don’t always end as well for everyone. I have talked to members from Texas to Maine who have had significant challenges dealing with the severe cold, snow, and ice we’ve experienced this winter. NationaLease has several services available to help our customers on the road, including NationaLease Road Rescue and the free NationaLease Emergency Services app. With NationaLease’s 900+ locations, you are never far from help, but there is no substitute for cautious driving and good judgment. For all the drivers out there on the roads, please be careful this winter. Plan ahead, be alert, and take your time. Let’s do everything we can to make sure that all of your travels end well.