By Reed Black, Land Line Now staff reporter
The newly elected chair of the Minnesota Trucking Association is a former truck driver named Joyce Brenny. Some have described her as a "breath of fresh air," and some have noted she "rolls to a different drum."
She and her husband Todd own Brenny Transportation Inc., located in St. Cloud, MN. In an interview with Land Line Now in late August, she said her experiences in the trucking business have given her a different perspective than many truck company owners have.
Those experiences began when she became a driver as a young woman.
"I drove for a small family-owned company in Minnesota. It was 1980 and there were not a lot of jobs at that time. I grew up on a farm with brothers and was a bit of a tomboy, so it was something to make a living at that point. I didn't know trucking would turn into my lifelong career, but I'm glad it did."
Because she was so young, Brenny first drove intrastate, then drove team OTR for a couple of years, then went to work in an administration position with a trucking company in central Minnesota.
Brenny said as a woman in the trucking industry, she never felt as if she didn't belong.
"Maybe that's because of my brothers, but I never felt out of place," she said.
Over the course of 10-plus years, Brenny went to school at night and worked full time and got her degree in organizational behavior and psychology.
She worked her way through the ranks into management and then spent eight years as general manager. During those years, she met and married Todd Brenny, who was employed as an over-the-road driver. Then, in 1996, she began to think about taking her career to the next level.
"It just felt like something needed to change," she said, citing driver's rights and "ulterior motives."
"The people were not being put first and I could not embrace that culture … so I talked to my husband about starting my own company."
Her husband agreed to support her goals, and she says the "rest is history." Since founding Brenny Transportation Inc. in 1996, the pair has added three divisions to the company: Brenny Specialized Inc., Brenny Global and Brenny's National agent division. They have 50 trucks and 100 employees. Many are women, as Brenny wanted to offer a safe environment where women could move up the ladder, share their skills and make a good living in trucking.
"We have definitely created an open culture," said Brenny. "We have no hierarchy at Brenny. …We are a team; the doors are open. … I wish members of the industry could tour my facility. It is set up so different. No walls, no partitions, big windows, big door; drivers are not shut off from dispatch. Drivers can sit in dispatch and ask questions if they want. We welcome it."
The OOIDA member is passionate about a really good trucking company being an environment where people come before profit. Then, she says, profit will come. She doesn't hesitate to offer her opinion on that.
Brenny feels that professional truck drivers have been undervalued for far too long, and her goal is to improve the overall standards of how they are treated.
"I have many ideas on how to make that happen," she says. "Most of those ideas we use within our own company. It also involves teaching and mentoring other trucking companies."
Truckers donating their valuable time at loading and unloading facilities, for instance.
"We really need to educate our customers on their role," she says. "We need to have awareness brought to our customers so they can help, and they can help bring our message to lawmakers."
She says "if they have made the decision to move their freight by truck, they have made the decision to be involved in the trucking industry."
And EOBRs? Brenny's disdain for the on-board recorders is well known.
"Many of my cohorts in the American Trucking Associations know I am not a proponent of EOBRs. … What I am trying to get across is that we truly do want to succeed, and EOBR is not going to improve the safety of our industry. We are proving that we don't need those. … I am all about the choice," Brenny said.
On her company's website, the first thing you see is the company's CSA scores.
Having those scores on the front page of Brenny's website sends a message, she says.
"It says 'hey, we get it, we know what we are doing, so keep those onboard recorders out of our trucks. We can manage ourselves. It's obvious; look at the scores.'"
Brenny wants the general public to know how important trucks are. She chuckles when she speaks of those who think rail is the way to go.
"Rail moves only one-half of 1 percent of our nation's freight," she said, adding that trucks are here to stay and our government officials need to realize this.
As chairman of the Minnesota Trucking Association, Brenny has big questions and lofty goals.
"It goes without saying that trucking is definitely over-regulated and we want to know why," she says. "What have we done so wrong?" LL