An ACT News Executive Interview with Bill Bliem, Senior Vice President Fleet Services for NFI Industries, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Bill Bliem fell in love with diesel engines while working at his first job in high school on commercial fishing boats based out of Point Pleasant, New Jersey. Read on to learn about one harrowing experience far out to sea that cinched Bill’s desire to become a diesel technician.
Today, Bill oversees the end-to-end management and maintenance of NFI Industries’ truck fleet and material handling equipment. NFI is a leading 3PL, strategically optimizing their customer’s supply chain, operating more than 4,000 tractors and 8,900 trailers. Additionally, Bliem and his team manage NFI’s purchasing, licensing and tolls, and fuel departments. Bliem joined NFI in 2009 as Vice President of Maintenance, bringing more than 30 years of fleet services and maintenance experience to NFI.
The team also leads the company’s sustainability initiatives by identifying and implementing new technology to improve aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, and emissions. Across its dedicated and drayage fleets, NFI leverages sustainable technology including natural gas, clean energy, electric tractors, low-rolling-resistance wide-based tires, and shore power. With social responsibility being a core company principle, NFI continuously explores new methods to improve fuel and asset utilization and reduce waste. These ongoing tests focus on key performance indicators like MPG and the eight SmartWay emissions metrics. NFI has also been recognized as a three-time award-winning EPA SmartWay partner and SmartWay High Performer.
ACT News caught up with Bill to learn more about his accomplishments and milestones in fleet services, and his vision for the future.
ACT News: What do you like most about NFI?
Bill Bliem: I enjoy working for a company that truly cares about people and the environment. As a family-owned company, NFI is very people-focused – in regards to employees, customers, and communities. Because NFI is privately-held, ownership is accessible and decisions can be made quickly and efficiently. Additionally, NFI has many philanthropic partnerships, like the MS Society, in which NFI sponsors and provides logistics for the annual Bike MS: City to Shore ride, as well as volunteerism, fundraising, and more.
NFI is also committed to sustainability and is continuously exploring and implementing new technology and alternative fuels to improve aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, and our overall environmental impact. I appreciate NFI’s willingness to explore and test new technology, therefore enhancing my team’s efforts.
Many of NFI’s employees are long tenured and the passion and commitment they show for the company and its customers is inspiring. I’ve built long-lasting relationships here at NFI and there is a true sense of comradery across the entire company.
NFI is also committed to sustainability and is continuously exploring and implementing new technology and alternative fuels to improve aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, and our overall environmental impact.
ACT News: What has been your favorite project at NFI?
Bill Bliem: It’s hard to pick a favorite as my team consistently breaks down our processes looking for new, more efficient ways to do things whether that be in fuel, maintenance, assets or purchasing. We continually strive to get away from the “that’s the way we have always done it” mentality and get to “what is the best way to do it”. We are in a constant change cycle, but if f I had to pick a favorite project at NFI, it would be the current emission reduction project, specifically electrification. It is exciting being on the ground floor and pioneering what we believe to be the future of trucking. We are learning every day about the intricacies of electric vehicle infrastructure, power, battery life, as well as all the complications. We are excited to be running the first class 8 electric trucks in our NFI fleet at the end of the year.
ACT News: What advice would you offer to young professionals interested in pursuing a similar career path?
Bill Bliem: My advice to young professionals interested in pursuing a similar career path in fleet services would be to have your goals set from the beginning of your career. Know what you want to be doing in one year, five years, 10 years and 20 years from now and how they all relate. Adjust them as your career progresses. Work hard towards your one-year goal with your five-year goal in mind. Realize that long term goals are long term and take pride in achieving them as the time comes. Most importantly, enjoy what you are doing.
When I was a diesel technician thirty-five years ago, I knew that in one year I wanted to be a better diesel technician, in five years I wanted to be managing shops, in 10 years I wanted to be in some sort of district management capacity and in 20 years, at VP level. By constantly working towards those goals one at a time, with occasional adjustments, they all fell in to place.
ACT News: How have you seen the industry change since you took over as Senior Vice President, Fleet Services, for NFI?
Bill Bliem: I have seen more changes in technology over the last nine years then I have seen in my entire career: data analytics, artificial intelligence, mobile communications, levels of autonomy, advanced fuels, electrification, robotics, safety systems, disc brakes. The list can go on but one thing’s for certain, these technologies are all changing the way we do business and the way we think about the future.
ACT News: What other leadership roles do you hold in the community and/or volunteer efforts do you support?
Bill Bliem: The best leadership role outside of NFI is being a good husband to my wife and father to my children. I coach boys’ lacrosse in Mullica Hill and am co-captain of the NFI Bike MS City to Shore ride each year.
I have seen more changes in technology over the last nine years then I have seen in my entire career: data analytics, artificial intelligence, mobile communications, advanced fuels, electrification.
ACT News: What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
Bill Bliem: I had a couple of jobs as a child (newspaper route, beach boy) but my first job in high school was working on the commercial fishing boats and docks in Point Pleasant, NJ. This is when I found out a job is really work if you want to be good at it. I also learned it’s good to be inquisitive, not to be afraid to ask questions, break things down to simple processes, and learn.
We were 200 miles offshore with a crew of four people and the boat broke down. This was my first experience trying to figure out a diesel engine problem with the other crew members. We figured out it wasn’t getting fuel or air, removed the air filter and made it home safely. This is when I realized I wanted to be a diesel technician.
ACT News: What do you work toward in your free time?
Bill Bliem: Besides time with my family, my free time is absorbed by two activities on the opposite end of the spectrum. Growing up on the Jersey Shore, I have been around boats and fishing my entire life. We spend countless hours on our boat, relaxing, fishing, doing nothing. On the other end, biking, running and swimming. I became active in triathlons a few years ago and participate in several per year. I’m competitive, I’m always trying to beat my personal best in every workout.
ACT News: If you could do another job for just one day, what would it be?
Bill Bliem: I would love to be a charter boat captain for a day, with a family that has never fished together as my clients, just to see if I could put them on fish and make their day; then I would know I have a second career choice.