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Don Dains

Vice President of Innovation

Joined in January 1993


Favorite Thing About WI:

The people, but to be honest that is what I love about every place I go.

Favorite Food:

A well-prepared medium rare steak

Favorite Driving Song:

Watching the Wheels by John Lennon

Q: Are you a lifetime Midwesterner?

A: I was born and grew up in Kaukauna, WI and I’ve never left, permanently anyway. I joined the army to pay for my college tuition in the early 90’s during Desert Storm, but I came home to Wisconsin after my military career naturally ended. I worked in telecommunications in the military (and was awarded a Bronze Star for my service) which eventually led me to do what I do now! The military is where I got my start with computers and technology, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Q: What brought you to Midwest?

A: After the military, the road back to college wasn’t direct but I also knew I didn’t want to leave Wisconsin again. I was home and I wanted to stay there. My brother was a driver for Midwest Carriers at the time and I decided to join him on the open road, keeping my home base in Kaukauna. We started teaming together. Eventually, I drove OTR alone for a couple of years but ultimately decided I wanted to be closer to home and family and took a position at Midwest as a dispatcher … and the rest is history.

Q: What is your role on the team?

A: I’ve worked at Midwest for just under 30 years now, and during that time, I’ve worn a lot of hats. Currently, I am Vice President of Innovation. Ultimately, I see myself as the driving force behind Midwest’s exploration and implementation of tech-savvy solutions across the business. From implementing TruckMate® back in the early 1990’s to developing our driver app DocHauler, I work to implement solutions that mitigate errors, streamline tasks, and optimize performance across metrics. I’m proud to say Midwest is a future-focused company driven by continuous improvement, and I’m hopeful that the work I do every day supports our mission to be the best trucking company in the Midwest.

Q: What problems are you excited to tackle next?

A: I believe in two key principles:

  1. Data is my friend.
  2. It’s through data and technology that we’re going to make it as a business.

Ask any freight company executive what their primary challenge is and they’ll answer recruitment. It’s no different at Midwest – and we’re only as good as the drivers we employ. The good news is, we’ve got a squad of solid, experienced drivers and we know what to do to find more. We’re learning all the time how to use technology on two fronts: to optimize the driver experience, increasing retention through job satisfaction and lead generation to fill empty drivers’ seats. I’m excited to see how we can continue to grow as a company as we are able to capture actionable data and take informed strategic action.

Q: What are you most proud of since you’ve been working with Midwest?

A: I think if I could point to a single thing I’m the most proud of it would be our continued work to increase efficiencies. Here’s a good example. Right now, fuel efficiency is top of mind for everyone and Midwest started its incentive program back in 2007! It feels good to be ahead of the curve and making a substantial difference because of the strategy we put into action. Because of our drivers’ engagement, we’re saving five tankers full of fuel every month. That’s not nothing!

Q: What’s your management philosophy?

A: My management philosophy hinges on my understanding of human psychology and three things we are motivated by at work. These three are:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

At Midwest with my employees, I am constantly looking to create autonomy within their jobs – everyone wants the latitude to do their job their way, within reason. Once that’s established, the person can pursue mastery of that role, motivated to create their own version of success and finally, people are driven by the purpose they feel by doing their job well. Our work creating a fuel efficiency program at Midwest is a great example of this. Drivers develop their own method for maximizing those mpgs, they iterate on it and master the art, and ultimately, we compensate them for their well done hard work.

Q: Can you share a little bit about the way you feel about the Midwest brand after all these years with the company?

: A: The Midwest brand has grown tremendously since I started in 1993. The Van Handel family has treated me like an extension of theirs. Here at Midwest, I’ve grown as a professional and in my knowledge of the industry and the opportunities to innovate and iterate. I am energized to be with a company so driven to improve and succeed, and to be at the forefront of industry standards. How do I feel about the Midwest brand? I feel like we’re the best. Our drivers, our support team, our leadership and founding family – it’s all turned into a legacy of excellence and I’m glad to be a part of it.

Q: What are you excited about at Midwest?

A: This is an easy one – driver engagement. The way we win is by getting and keeping the best drivers. How do we do that? By creating a work environment that’s inclusive, collaborative and rewarding, we empower our drivers to maximize their potential and motivate them to do their best. Driver engagement is central to everything we do, from the latest app update to our food truck pop-ups to Driver Appreciation week. We know it can get lonely out there and you can feel a bit isolated out on the road. But at Midwest, you’ve got a team that’s got your back 100% of the time and leaders that are committed to the drivers keeping those wheels turning.