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Keeping drivers informed is another way to keep them happy

Oct. 25, 2023
Helping drivers understand that in-cab technology is an aid, not a replacement of their skill, and supporting HOS improvements are small steps that can make a big difference to fleet drivers.

If there is any certainty in trucking, it's the uncertainty. But fleet managers who work with drivers to help alleviate their uncertainty can fuel confidence that helps those drivers succeed and deter them from seeking driving jobs elsewhere.  

This is the second part of a two-part feature on how fleet leaders can mitigate drivers' top concerns. Read part one here. Clark Reed, an over-the-road driver for Nussbaum Transportation, and Maurice Bey, a truck driver who also runs a trucking-inspired YouTube channel, shared their insight on ways fleet managers can combat drivers' concerns.

Educate drivers on in-cab technology

Reed and Bey previously shared with FleetOwner their top concerns in the industry, which were truck parking and the need for improvement in communication with brokers and shippers.

Next on Reed’s list of concerns as a company driver is technology integrated into new trucks, such as lane-keeping assistance, collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, and others. The technology itself isn’t Reed’s concern; it’s the amount of education surrounding this technology that Reed said fleet managers lack.

See also: Research paves the way for ADAS in trucking

“They’re spending all this money on this safety equipment; they’re not teaching drivers how to use it properly,” Reed said. “So they’ll throw them in a truck and say, ‘Here you go, this is what this truck can do for you.’”

Rather than making drivers safer through assistance, Reed said, this approach makes them feel like technology will steal their jobs.

“I think there needs to be a mindset change there that this isn’t what the truck can do for you, it’s what it’s going to assist you in doing,” Reed said. “Spend money on the safety equipment and spend some money on the training, too, so your drivers can get the most out of it, and you can get the most out of it.”

Improve hours of service operations

Another concern listed in both Reed and Bey’s top three driver concerns was hours of service regulations. Reed said hours of service is always a concern because drivers “feel like they’re being micromanaged by the government.” And Bey said it’s a regulation that’s “overregulated.”

“Hours of service is one of those regulations that could easily be changed,” Bey told FleetOwner, “and the proof of that is in hours of service get changed whenever the regulators decide to change it. When freight is needed, it’s like ‘OK, you guys can go ahead and run,’ and safety is not an issue then. But when the driver wants to run over hours of service, ‘well, you can’t do that because it’s a safety issue.’”

See also: Heller: Is there a better way to govern HOS?

Although Bey admits he is not an advocate of protesting and picketing on the steps of the Capitol, he argues that truckers, carriers, and fleet owners must find a way to be heard by lawmakers, even if it is as simple as writing a letter. “Somehow, someway, communicate to the regulating authorities that have the power to change that; that this regulation for reasons A, B, and C maybe needs to be relooked at.”

Reed related hours of service to pay and safety. He told FleetOwner that one way to improve hours of service right now is to offer drivers leeway when using personal conveyance and working with shippers and receivers to decrease detention time, and then paying drivers for that time. He said some places fight paying their drivers’ detention time, which poses a safety risk because once a driver gets back on the road, “he’s got to make up time because he’s got to get paid. So, he might be taking some actions that aren’t exactly safe on the road. They’re being a little bit more aggressive, and they’re speeding through construction zones—all because that clock is timed.”

See also: How to build a detention management process

WorkHound, an employee feedback platform, offers perspective from a broader pool of drivers. WorkHound allows truck drivers and other frontline workers to share anonymous feedback with their employers. To improve employee retention, WorkHound takes these comments and shares insights and solutions with employers. There were two WorkHound trucking-related reports released this year: the 2022 WorkHound Annual Trends Report and a 2023 Driver Perspectives Amid a Freight Slowdown survey.

To Reed’s point, WorkHound’s survey found that driver pay received the lowest satisfaction score among all carrier segments.

This brings the problem back to logistics, and Max Farrell, WorkHound co-founder and CEO, suggested communicating with shippers and receivers to help mitigate the problem. Reed said fleet companies must realize that the time wasted waiting for loads to be loaded and unloaded is hurting drivers’ safety. If fleet owners could somehow “assert some pressure and say, ‘Look, we can’t keep having our drivers sit here for five or six hours waiting for freight you said would be ready at noon,’” Reed suggested. “I’m not a fleet owner … I don’t understand those pressures completely. But there’s got to be a fine line you can walk somewhere and come to a happy medium.”

Not only will communications with shippers and receivers alleviate some of the problems, but Farrell said communicating with drivers on issues of pay will also help.

“When times are tougher, that’s where companies really need to open up the lines of communication even further. Just to say, ‘Here’s how we’re thinking about the business. Here’s how we’re trying to take care of you,” Farrell told FleetOwner. “That goes a really long way.”

Gather feedback, then act

Farrell said drivers share their concerns and feedback, whether a fleet owner is aware of them or not, and having a driver feedback process helps the fleet address problems head-on. Fleet leaders who don’t take feedback seriously to mitigate driver concerns might also find it difficult to retain experienced drivers. Farrell said that drivers are revenue generators, and fleet owners should support them in great times and bad times. However, keeping drivers isn’t the only benefit of engaging in driver feedback.

See also: New year's resolution: Listen to drivers

“Driver feedback is operational intelligence,” and hearing from a driver gives fleet owners perspective to build a better business and increase efficiency, Farrell said.

WorkHound’s 2022 report revealed that fleet companies that communicate with their drivers are more likely to have higher employee satisfaction rates. Therefore, fleets interested in cultivating a higher satisfaction rate and increasing operational efficiencies can start by simply chatting with a driver.

About the Author

Jade Brasher

Senior Editor Jade Brasher has covered vocational trucking and fleets since 2018. A graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in journalism, Jade enjoys telling stories about the people behind the wheel and the intricate processes of the ever-evolving trucking industry.    

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