Being a fleet driver for JHE Production Group isn’t easy, but it certainly provides a tremendous amount of pride for those who belong.
Described by JHE’s Special Projects Senior Manager Terry Hodges as the “best truck drivers in the country,” they are capable of executing what many would consider impossible. Imagine bending a trailer around a light pole, backing down a narrow trail between trees, accomplishing a lengthy, tedious task to perfection in 15 minutes or avoiding a $300,000 Ferrari while parking a trailer. For JHE’s 22 full-time and 25 to 30 part-time CDL drivers, these tasks comprise just another day in the office.
“We train our people to do things differently than what they have done before because we stress there isn’t another trailer sitting out there that you can go hook to,” said Hodges, who noted one specially-constructed trailer costs in excess of $1.2 million. “Everything we own is one of a kind. It can’t be torn up. There is not a spare of anything we own.”
JHE’s on-the-road inventory consists of 48 tractor-trailers and 28 smaller trucks and trailers. Seven times each year two people are placed in each truck because they must run non-stop in order to reach their destination on time. In 2012, more than 770,000 miles were traveled and the amount of fuel consumed exceeded 168,000 gallons.
“We are one of the very few companies that have a presence at every Sprint Cup race,” said Hodges. “We are the first one in on the experiential activation side and pretty close to the last ones out. We do 32 of the 38 opening ceremony shows for the Sprint Cup Series. In 2011, we did 29 concerts at pre-race, Stone Mountain, Ga., and Appalachian State University.”
“When we do a show like the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race opening ceremony at Charlotte Motor Speedway seven tractor-trailers are used and all of the trailers are touching each other,” Hodges explained. “If a driver doesn’t hit his mark with the first one, none of the rest of them will dock. When we go from the (finish of the) Sprint Open to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star pre-race we have about a 15-minute window at best to bring everything out, detach it, dock it, set it and level it, and get power, lights and TV screens on so we’re ready to roll when TV goes live. We practice and practice and practice. We did three practices the week of the All-Star race. We do the same thing for Texas and Daytona.”
“Our pre-race shows in Texas are massive. If you don’t pull the trailers in, park them and level them correctly, the stairs won’t fit correctly and then you have a safety issue. Everything on the driving side looks very simple, but if you don’t do it right, the repercussions are horrible because nothing fits,” says Hodges.
The pride the drivers take in their ability to meticulously execute their rigs carries over into each tractor-trailer’s appearance.
“If I dropped a sandwich on their truck floor, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up and eat it,” Hodges commented. “Our guys in the Speed stage trucks live in their trucks for 38 weeks. All of those guys never leave the race track.”
JHE’s fleet drivers continue to showcase their expertise, ability and flexibility on-the-road to deliver consistent, quality results for a variety of clients.