The employees, who wish to get into biking on a new level, can receive their own equipment from the company. They have even built their own race team within the company and plan to start competing in XC Marathon races. We have learnt that the project does not only work as teambuilding, but it also improves the life quality of employees.
It is quite rare for a company to invest in bicycles that the employees can use to practice sport or leisure activities. As far as I know, it is unprecedented in Hungary for race-goer employees to receive Specialized mountain bikes, what is more to get other financial support from the company. We should add that we are talking about a transport company with 270 drivers and more than 200 trucks commuting on the roads of Europe - which makes it a particularly surprising story. We have interviewed the owner of the company, Szabó György, to tell us about the uncommon initiative.
- This is an amazing initiative from a transport company. What was it that gave you the first impulse?
- One of my friends, Erhard Zelmer, convinced me to try MTB marathon. Later on, I trained with a coach, who inspired me to find partners in the company to make cycling popular. At present, there are more than a dozen bikes being used by our colleagues, who train regularly and are likely to take part in races. Many more of the workers practice biking actively with the bikes provided in our sites in Frankfurt and Paris. The Úttárs "Roadsters" MTB race team will most likely give a new boost to the initiative.
- We would not have imagined that a bike can fit into a truck - the tractor unit being the only part that can be used for "private" purposes.
- Long ago drivers used to carry everything with them, including drinking water, so that they wouldn't have to buy it abroad. Habits have changed since then; we have many foreign branches and routes are planned in such a way that our colleagues can deposit their personal belongings there. Moreover, our drivers come home more often - in the past they used to be on the road for months - so now they don't have to take so many things with them.
- Does this mean that your drivers always know beforehand when and where they are going?
- When drivers start on a three-week work cycle, they usually know where they will take their rest period, so they can also plan biking in advance. They can use the "deposited" bikes or leave their own bike there, should that be the case. Even a complete training program can be created this way.
- Nowadays - if I'm well informed- there is a shortage of truck drivers. This can even be a motivating factor - someone might join you for this very reason...
- Yes, unfortunately fewer and fewer people choose this profession; many people care only about the money, but luckily there are more and more people who can be motivated this way. Wages cannot be increased forever, as transportation is a business branch which is on the edge. This is why we are considering a non-financial motivation. We are trying to improve our employee's lifestyle, respectively their quality of life.
- The goal is for drivers to spend their spare time in an active way, by practicing sports?
- By all means, we would like our workers to try biking. This is something which is beneficial not only to them, but also to us. Many of the drivers are overweight and prone to depression. We would like to work with employees who are fitter, more relaxed and more motivated. People at other companies, who aspire to this but cannot find it where they are, are welcome to join us!
- Hopefully there is no "pressure" on the employees to practice cycling by all means!
-Certainly not! This is an opportunity. If a colleague comes up with another good idea, I will gladly support it, as I don't believe that only the things that please me are good. If it is not too expensive and it is compatible with the job, i.e. if it can be integrated into the working arrangement somehow, then it is right by me! If someone wants to run, then we will provide them - without hesitation - the running gear and the opportunity.
- As far as I know, drivers have compulsory rest periods...
-That's right. The daily driving time shall not exceed 9 hours. If someone is on a long journey, they must spend the rest period by themselves. Some watch TV or surf the internet, but these are not really relaxing or stress-relieving activities. Those who get on a bike, pedal, then sleep, can start work again with fresh energy. What matters even more is that due to practicing sports, they learn about good nutrition, about the importance of vitamin and mineral intake, which is extremely useful when driving at night. For example, food supplements are better than RedBull and coffee!
- Did the drivers welcome this opportunity?
- You cannot please everyone all the time. The opportunity is also a selection: it is good for us if the employees see the possibility and it is mainly with these colleagues that we would like to work with. Those who only care about the money are rarely satisfied. Perhaps they will go in other directions, where they can earn more money, where no one is concerned about their free time and how they spend it. There are those who don't like it if anyone "interferes" with their free time.
- Does it mean that this opportunity is not beneficial only for the employee but also for the employer?
-Definitely! He will become fitter; he will be able to endure monotony and learn to handle his energies. When he has to drive 9 hours during the night, he can manage his strength much better because he had learnt it at the marathon. Sport brings system into one's life. Being a driver does not only mean driving to the end of the world, continuously stepping on the gas pedal until hitting the guardrail.
- I think the team strengthens the community within the company.
- There has to be a team they can identify with and cheer for. Usually we start with 6-10 members on a race and many more come for support. This is great team-building. Also, what matters most is that hierarchy stops here; it doesn't matter who the office clerk, the transport manager or the manager is. One of our main partners - Lufthansa - supports our initiative because they see the fantasy in it. The cooperation also ensures a more direct compact with the client.
- Have you ever taken part in a team competition?
- We were supposed to go to Velence Lake 24 hours Marathon this year, but unfortunately it was cancelled. However, for next year we are planning the 24-hour competition at Zanka, with as many team members in shift, as possible.
- Do you also have other race targets?
- We would like to participate, with as many people as possible, at the Top Marathon series, on short distances at first, so as to familiarize with the racing experience. We'll get into our recreational truck and throw a great party for the team. However, in the second round I would like the travelling drivers - from Ireland to Spain - to get to know each other and enter together for local competitions. There are dozens of competitions in the West during weekends; it is not hard to find one nearby!
- Do you have any colleagues who started biking seriously as a result of this initiative?
-Absolutely! One of the Roadster team members was training in Frankfurt and was joined by another driver who hadn't even biked before and they made a 60 km circuit. All of this can be followed by anyone on Strava and Facebook. I wrote to the guy and suggested that he joined us, since he was doing such a great job, even if he's not so young any more. Many people think that practicing sports is only for the young.
- The activity is at the same time an example.
-Anyone can get "addicted" at any time; many people can't even imagine the world that unfolds in front of them. Let's face it; bikes are not what they once used to be. I used to bike long ago as well, but I really took to biking thanks to the modern equipment. They instantly make you want to bike! This is something our colleagues have often felt on modern equipments...
- Are these customized bikes or is there a fleet of bikes that everyone can choose from?
- Both. Bikes available for any driver parked permanently at our premises in Frankfurt and Paris are handed over by the "fleet inspectors". These bikes can be requested or booked; anything is available from size M to XL, women's or men's bike, trekking or mountain bike. Besides these, there are serious race bikes for the colleagues aiming competition. Presently we are thinking about a model for colleagues who don't have racing ambitions but would like to be at least supporters of the team.
- If I understand it correctly, employees don't have to buy the bikes....
- That is correct, bikes are covered by the company. All they have to do is use them.
- If I know it well, you are looking for a trainer who can work with the employees who would like to take biking seriously.
- I would most gladly do the job myself, but unfortunately I don't have the time for it. The trainer’s task, besides preparing employees for competitions, would be to offer advice in lifestyle and nutrition issues and build motivation. We are looking forward to the application of such trainers, even if it is teleworking!
- Why did you choose the Specialized brand?
- We would like the quality of our bikes to be on the same level as our company. The quality of our clothing and footwear reflects the same idea; after all we represent our company and sponsors through them. Naturally, the bikes have passed the test. It would be difficult to say anything negative about them. :)
We hope this initiative will motivate other companies to follow our example and offer more to their employees through biking.