GREENSBORO, N.C. -- He just loves being out on the road. For most of his life, he’s been getting behind the wheels of trucks. Today, he’s working to get more people in the driver’s seats.
Karl Robinson is the president of R&R Transportation, a company he started with his father 25 years ago. He’s watched it grow from a single pickup truck to a firm that rolls eight tractors, more than 40 trailers and several other smaller vehicles. He and his 14 employees service clients that include some of the Piedmont’s largest manufacturers.
But Robinson’s company is also facing a challenge that’s keeping it from growing the way he’d like.
“I’m looking for drivers,” he said recently. “I’m looking for an office person, too. I need someone who can learn the operational part of our industry. All the companies in the Triad are looking for drivers.”
Robinson says the trucking industry carries a stereotype that’s not appealing to many young people: long hours, low pay and not much room for advancement. That, he says, is keeping many from getting the qualifications needed for this type of work. Therefore, the demand for drivers isn’t being met.
But times have changed. Federal regulations keep the hours and distances under control. The pay is better (average pay is about $18 an hour and $38,000 a year) and training opportunities are more convenient. Robinson now wants to take this to another level.
He’s the driving force behind efforts to establish what he calls a “logistics institute” in Greensboro where prospective drivers and others can “upskill” their ways into new jobs.
“They’ll be able to learn how to drive a tractor and trailer,” he said. And they can learn new skills that can be applied to go into the office to be a dispatcher, to be a warehouse manager, to also do things such as rate quotes and move up the company where you can eventually run your own company.”
Robinson is building the institute with the help of at least two area community colleges, Davidson County Community College and Guilford Technical Community College, as well as several other organizations and companies.
He hopes the warehouse complex that currently houses the Welfare Reform Liaison Project will also house this institute. The WRLP will also help run the program. He hopes to have it up and running by the end of the year.
With more “upskilled” people in the workforce and especially the logistics industry, Robinson feels the Piedmont Triad will be ready when the economy really does come back.
“If it wasn’t for logistics, you would be sitting in the middle of a field, naked and with no food,” he said. “Everything you see around you, everything under you, above you, is logistics.”