Behind the wheel

Leading private fleet managers make driver appreciation a way of life year-round not just during Driver Appreciation Week. They consistently work to keep drivers informed, motivated, and productive. The key is showing drivers, and customers, how committed the company is to walking the talk of drivers as a corporate value. In-house driver newsletters say a lot about how well the walk-talk message gets

Leading private fleet managers make driver appreciation a way of life year-round — not just during Driver Appreciation Week. They consistently work to keep drivers informed, motivated, and productive. The key is showing drivers, and customers, how committed the company is to “walking the talk” of drivers as a corporate value. In-house driver newsletters say a lot about how well the walk-talk message gets through.

The Boise Trucking Operations (BTO) newsletter speaks in a language drivers understand: respect for them as people and professionals. A recent lead article, “A Chance to Say ‘Thank You’ to Drivers,” by General Manager Roger Olds, begins with the following: “This is a good time to say thank you to our front line people (our drivers) and to give everyone in our organization and our customers an update on the state of the trucking division.”

Olds continues, “We don't say it often enough, but we … realize that without good, front-line drivers, we cannot succeed. I always stress … drivers with good attitudes are gold, and the “attitude” our customers see … is the one our drivers present on our customers' docks.”

The newsletter announces “thank you's” for drivers, such as “steak feeds,” which are held at various terminals, and gift certificates redeemable at truck stops.

It can also be used as a vehicle for communicating business information. An essay by the General Manager, for example, includes the following: net profit is over $1 million; adding 12 new tractors will cost over $1 million; drivers and dispatchers are running 98.1% on time; the number of preventable accidents is 1.73 per one-million driver miles; the administrative support team has an error rate on invoices of only 1.123%; and mechanics have reduced maintenance costs well below what they spent in 2001, further enhancing both the bottom line and the value of used trucks at trade-in time. Teamwork is mentioned as the prime reason for this high level of success. According to Olds, “Team means everyone, including administrative support people and mechanics.”

Drivers also learn about new equipment via the newsletter. Two-pedal automatic transmission tractors, a driver-friendly feature, will be added on a test basis; super single tires will be tested, as well as 20 new dry vans with air through the axles, keeping equal air pressure in all tires at all times; and new load-building software for greater efficiency. The company also announced the purchase of three reconditioned sets of B-trains (105k loads) legal for use in Canada. Continuous improvement in equipment helps attract and keep good drivers and leads to more cost-efficient operations.

The BTO newsletter features a “don't let this happen to you” article about a Canadian driver indicted for false logbooks and lying; a special column describing all the new drivers who have joined the ranks; a driver safety tip story about checking mirrors; a profile of a dispatcher who doubles as a baseball official; a note to drivers on common log errors; an article describing the lingering effects of off-duty alcohol consumption on duty-time driving, and a kudos page listing star performers.

The overriding message in this 12-page newsletter is the following: Recognize how important you are, what a great company we have, what high standards we uphold, what exceptional people we have, what excellent equipment we have, and what core values we cherish. Realize how highly we value and appreciate our drivers and mechanics, as well as the administrative personnel behind them.

A final message from the General Manager says it all: “Keep it up. I am proud of all of you. — Roger.”




Gary Petty is President and CEO of NPTC. His column appears monthly in FLEET OWNER.

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