Wow, time really does fly. It's hard to believe that over two years have passed since I began writing this column. Most of the time, I've stuck to the safety theme: everything from drug testing, to driver fatigue, to the importance of hiring drivers who graduate from PTDI-certified schools. Now I'm going to detour slightly to make sure readers understand how driver-appreciation efforts can impact the success of their fleets. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week (NTDAW) is quickly approaching (Sept. 11-17), and even if you have activities planned, you may not realize how critical it is to publicize those activities outside of your company.
Since 1998, NTDAW has provided us with the opportunity to honor 3 million plus professional truck drivers for their hard work and commitment to a very demanding and important job. Without them, North America would come to a standstill, and we wouldn't be in business. Hopefully, over the years, most carriers have begun to regularly acknowledge drivers with thank-you social events, offering prizes, freebies or discounts during NTDAW.
But did you ever think about the importance of driver-appreciation efforts in shaping how our industry is perceived? Or its influence on men and women who might someday consider driving as a career? It's sort of a domino effect. For example, let's say your company hosts an appreciation event during a Truck Jamboree. One of your drivers posts a photo on Facebook of himself having a blast with his family. He mentions your company's name and says how thrilled he was that management spent lots of time and money to put together such a fine event just for him and his fellow drivers. His friend Lou reads the post and happens to mention it to a guy he knows. It turns out that the guy is looking for work and had never considered truck driving before. “Hmmm,” he thinks to himself, “maybe I need to think about trucking and that company in particular!”
Not only is driver appreciation a wonderful way to give back, it is also an outstanding tool for recruiting and spreading positive words about trucking. In a world dominated by social media, it is easy for you to spread your message. The key is to make sure that everyone knows about your NTDAW events and activities. You've got to reach more people than just those reading your internal company newsletter.
I strongly encourage you to print ads in your local newspapers, hang a banner where it can be seen from a busy highway, or ask your city council to officially recognize NTDAW. You can also post activities to www.DriverAppreciation.com, a clearinghouse that allows anyone to locate upcoming NTDAW activities. It's free and takes very little time to add your activities. The website is operated by the Truckload Carriers Assn. and is a way to help you promote your event — not just to your drivers but to potential drivers and trainees, reporters, local politicians, customers, and to the web-surfing public.
If you want to maintain a strong driving force, you need good people behind the wheel. So take full advantage of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, as it brings many opportunities for positive exposure.
Remember the domino effect — you never know where it might lead!
David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn. He is responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to [email protected].