As a driver

Article published in

TEAM 2021

Experience leads the way

The company’s drivers are Powder-Trans’ representatives to the wider world. As a driver, a great deal of professionalism and knowledge is required.

The company’s drivers are Powder-Trans’ representatives to the wider world. As a driver, a great deal of professionalism and knowledge is required.

Collectively, Powder-Trans drivers drive hundreds of loads and tens of thousands of kilometres daily on Nordic, Baltic and northern European roads. But the driving itself is ultimately only a small part of the work. In order for the loads to arrive safely, at the right time, with consistent quality and as environmentally friendly as possible, a lot is required.

For Juha Vuorinen, driving is natural.

“Driving is actually just a fraction of the responsibilities. To load correctly, to wash the tanks, to consider the environment and ensure that everything is done safely while taking schedules into account requires a lot,” points out Christian Blomqvist, operations director at Powder-Trans.

Therefore, Powder-Trans also places high demands on its drivers, and as a result the company has knowledgeable employees. New drivers are attracted by an interesting industry, while many experienced ones have stayed for decades.

“It is interesting and varied work. I have worked in the bulk industry for 32 years, so clearly I enjoy it,” says driver Juha Vuorinen. 

 Vuorinen has worked for almost 20 years as a bulk truck driver at Powder-Trans. His colleague Johan Backlund has a similar background. Like Vuorinen, he has driven trucks and heavy vehicle combinations all his life. He has worked at Powder-Trans for over 21 years.

“When you have been in the industry for a long time, you know the working methods, but there is always something new to learn,” says Backlund.

Lifestyle and variety

It is early morning when Johan Backlund starts from the terminal in Lieto with a transport to Sweden. Before starting, he inspects the tires and lubricates the propeller shaft. The night before, he had connected the trailer as well as the electric and hydraulic hoses and washed the entire equipage in the washing hall a stone’s throw from the terminal.

“One day you can be in Sweden, the next in Norway. Of course, the variety is attractive. Many places are familiar, but even though I have been working at this for so long, I still always discover new places.”

According to Backlund, the profession is very much a lifestyle.

“If you have been working in this job for a while, it is not possible to stop. In large part it is about freedom. You plan most things yourself, but of course you are also responsible for a lot. You do not have to wait for loading and unloading for several hours at a terminal. It is completely different from ordinary freight traffic.”

For both Johan Backlund and Juha Vuorinen, employment in the transport industry has always been a matter of course.

“Actually, I am a trained chef, but then I fell into the transport industry. As a young man, I dreamed about driving big vehicles and a life on the road,” says Backlund.

“It is an interesting industry. It all starts from an interest in driving trucks,” concurs Vuorinen.

A typical day for Vuorinen starts early in the morning, sometimes around five. During the day there are usually a couple of loadings and unloadings.

“There are long days from time to time, but I do not see it as particularly heavy work.”

Vuorinen thrives in every way both behind the wheel and at Powder-Trans.

“I look positively to the future. Sure, there are challenges, but I’m really happy.”

The outward face

Backlund and Vuorinen are two of the more than 120 drivers who today belong to Powder-Trans’s own employees. In addition, the company employs a large number of drivers via contract carriers.

“They are our outward face to customers and on the roads. They are very important parts of the transport chain and handle the work with great competence. I really lift my hat off to our drivers,” says Director of Operations Christian Blomqvist.

The fact that many drivers also know their vehicles well, and can even make small repairs, is another plus. The industry has many challenges, but at Powder-Trans the outlook is positive. When asked about challenges, the drivers mention traffic culture.

“That’s the first thing I think of. It used to be worse in Sweden, but now it has gotten worse in Finland as well,” says Johan Backlund as Juha Vuorinen nods in agreement.

“Sometimes it’s really challenging, just like driving on slippery roads during the winter.”

Other trials are, for example, ferry timetables and cramped loading and unloading facilities. But the two drivers also agree that challenges are there to be solved.

“I always try to develop and improve. That’s how it should be,” says Backlund.

Article published in

TEAM 2021

Unique driver training on slippery roads

In 2021, at the beginning of autumn, Powder-Trans arranged a training day for drivers to practice driving on slippery and wet roads.

The training took place on a practice track in Paimio a short distance from Turku in south-west Finland. The course, which was organized by Powder-Trans together with the CAP Group, attracted a full house with as many as 30 participating drivers.

“It was a very successful course about driving with heavy vehicles on wet roads,” says quality manager Juha Hietakari, who is also responsible for training at Powder-Trans.

As Powder-Trans has ISO 39001 certification for road traffic safety, it is important for the company to continue to improve traffic safety and driver knowledge. Powder-Trans has previously had several collaborations with, for example, schools and day-care centres, but exercises on a practice track are something new.

“We are constantly looking for new ways to improve traffic safety,” says Hietakari.

Realistic situations

The idea of driving with heavy vehicle combinations on slippery tracks was new even for the CAP Group, but when Hietakari and Juha Kleimola from CAP Group visited Paimio, they started sketching out the idea.

“Being out in the field is completely different from sitting in a classroom. The drivers could see how the rig behaves when the tires lose grip and how long the braking distances can be,” says Hietakari.

Hietakari also points out that as a driver you can be lulled into a false sense of security as modern vehicles today have so many technical aids. But if the tires lose grip, you have to know what to do.

“Therefore, it is very good to practice in the autumn before the roads become slippery.”

Important lessons

During the training, they also concentrated on the importance of loading, speed, and safety distance in road safety and how to react in dangerous situations.

“It was a very good education and really important for the drivers, especially before the winter and slippery road conditions arrive,” says driver Jouko Toivonen.

Toivonen has driven for Powder-Trans for three years. Although he was sometimes surprised by how fast the vehicle could stop, it was also an eye opener to see how the trailer could easily lose grip in slippery curves even at low speeds.

“It is really important to keep track of your speed, especially when turning.”

During the training, the drivers got to experience, among other things, how 40 meters of space is required to brake from 35 kilometres per hour to zero on slippery surfaces, while on dry surfaces less than 10 meters is needed.

“We learned how the car behaves in bad road conditions. Even if this was done under controlled conditions, we picked up a lot,” says Toivonen.

Article published in

TEAM 2022

Customized training – a matter of course at Powder-Trans

One of Powder-Trans’s trump cards is its own, extensive and tailored training for both new and experienced drivers. Occupational safety is prioritized, but the environment, quality and customer service are also considered.

Powder-Trans has long had its own training department. After hiring a new trainer in Karl-Anton Karlsson in 2022, driver education has progressed.

“Training drivers and monitoring their driving habits is time-consuming. Therefore, it is good that we have hired a person to do this full-time,” says Juha Hietakari, who is responsible for quality and training issues at Powder-Trans, among other things.

Hietakari has previously handled part of the training himself and will continue to handle certain aspects. Thanks to the employment of Karlsson, Hietakari can now focus more on his other areas of responsibility, while education is strengthened.

Safety is prioritized

Occupational safety is always the priority in Powder-Trans’s training activities. The goal is to minimize the risk of accidents both in traffic and during loading and unloading. Powder-Trans’s own tailored training is approved by the transport and communications agency Traficom.

“When we are training our drivers to receive the occupational health safety card, we can use examples from real life. It is easier to absorb the information and the training becomes more rewarding. At the same time, we can learn from potential situations,” says Hietakari.

The occupational safety card training is mandatory for Powder-Trans drivers. Most of the drivers also attend a first aid course. For new drivers, understanding safety and correct working methods are the focus.

“When a new driver is hired, they may go on transport assignments with a colleague for a few days. After that, there will be theoretical training and various practical questions, such as working clothes and learning computer programs. Finally, an evaluation is made. Everything is flexible according to how quickly the driver learns, and everyone learns at a different pace,” says Karl-
Anton Karlsson.

In addition to the first weeks of training, the drivers are monitored and educated throughout their career. How this is done depends on the driver.

“It is usually done individually. Sometimes it is done by phone, sometimes I go along on a transport mission. Some drivers want to go through issues together,” says Karlsson.

More complex in bulk transport

In addition to the training sessions themselves, the work in the training department involves both planning and follow-up. Karlsson compiles training material, monitors statistics and prepares reports.

“I also monitor the drivers’ economic and environmentally friendly driving daily. The weekly report is a very important tool and clearly shows what can be improved. If you are interested, economical driving is not difficult. It’s a matter of attitude,” says Karlsson, who himself had a great interest in sustainable driving when he worked as a driver.

Overall, the training aims to develop the right attitude towards safety as well as customer service, driving style and the unique nature of dry bulk transports.

“It is completely different from ordinary goods. Mistakes in unloading can lead to major problems. I usually say that the driver should take an extra few minutes and make sure that everything is done correctly. Cleanliness is another matter, as is safety. It can mean large financial losses and hundreds of tons of waste if something is unloaded and mixed incorrectly,” says Karlsson.

Therefore, the training department is working hard to improve knowledge of these aspects. Quality is a watchword, and thanks to Powder-Trans already having such a knowledgeable staff, they aim even higher. That pleases Karlsson.

“We have truly professional people at work. That Powder-Trans has become such a well-functioning company would not have been possible without good drivers.”

The carrot before the stick

Even though you have come a long way, there is always room for improvement. Juha Hietakari points out that the training follow-up could be increasingly performed in real time throughout the day as the driver is driving, loading, and unloading.

“Such following-up has already been done but should be expanded,” he suggests.
Then one could follow up the same parameters again after a month or two to analyze the improvement. Karl-Anton Karlsson agrees.

“Safety is a high priority. But you can also always improve your economical driving. Especially now with high energy prices and ongoing crises, you want to optimize even more.”

This benefits both the environment and the economy, and by extension, society and the customer as well.

Powder-Trans’s training department is there to motivate improvement among the workforce.
“Training is based more on the idea of the carrot than the stick. I’m here to help,” says Karlsson.