Having been through some of the life cycles of trucking, starting as a rookie company driver with a trainer nearly 17 years ago all the way to building a small growing fleet of my own, I have picked up on what makes drivers happy and what leads to their unhappiness as well. With retention always being talked about in trucking and the majority of fleets having a hard time keeping drivers for any period longer than a year, I often reflect on what helps me keep my drivers happy enough that they want to keep working for me month after month, year after year. I narrow a large part of it down to an acronym I have coined over the years from my own experience that is simply to A.C.T., which stands for appreciation, communication, and transparency.
Appreciation is one of the keys to unlock the door to low turnover. If a driver does not feel their hard work is appreciated, they will not have a good outlook on coming into work everyday and busting their butt. Being appreciative doesn’t necessarily mean gifts all the time or bonuses, though those don’t hurt either. Doing things like asking their opinion on uniform choices, or even just sending out a message at the end of each week thanking them for their hard work can do wonders for their morale and make them feel their hard work is not going unnoticed. The number one thing I wanted when driving for someone else was to be appreciated and to feel included, then I had no problem coming in and working hard every day for whomever I was working for!
Communication is a cornerstone element to keeping drivers happy. Without it all operations would screech to a halt! What I exercise goes far beyond calling and saying good morning before I send off the daily dispatch though. I make it a point to hone in on social cues that might alert me to a problem in advance and offer an open place to talk about anything going on in a driver’s life. Whether personal or professional, I make sure to lend an ear where an ear is needed to be lent. I also make sure any disagreements are settled and not left open to fester and am open to discussion of any constructive criticism I receive from any of the many hats I wear, whether it be as their boss, fellow driver, or even their payroll department!
Transparency is the final action that earns me respect and shows I am on the driver’s side as the company owner and their manager. There is nothing that can seed itself deeper in a drivers mind than that feeling the company they are hauling for is “hiding something” or doing something that would not be in the driver’s best interest. This is one reason I have always agreed to pay anyone working for me a percentage of the gross revenue that is fair and adequate for both parties. On top of that I provide complete transparency, showing the drivers for their dispatch the actual load sheets on what I am being paid on the loads, so they know I am not hiding anything in their percentage of the revenue. Not only does it help the driver’s know what their take will be of the earnings at the end of each week, but it also builds a level of trust that can carry over into different avenues of the business that you wouldn’t expect it would.
By “A.C.T.ing” appropriately with anyone hauling for me, I have been able to secure and retain those who I think are some of the “best of the best” driving talent out there! All the bonuses and pay raises in the world don’t really stack up in my eyes to the true importance of these simple things I have outlined, that all too often go overlooked in the struggle for retention. Though I can imagine it hard to remain personable when you reach a certain fleet size, the notion of these three key practices are those that every driver would agree are fairly important in their happiness when driving for anyone. Time should be spent on bringing back true job satisfaction in addition to fair pay and bonuses, not as a swap of one for the other! Retention is not something you can just throw money at, so be sure to A.C.T. with your driver’s best interest in mind!