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Fontana: Communication between fleet management and drivers is vital

Dec. 5, 2023
Improving communication between fleet managers and drivers can strengthen relationships and help with driver retention.

How you respond to the following sentence will depend on if you are a glass half full or glass half empty person. A recent Drive My Way survey found that half the surveyed truck drivers (51%) were happy on the job. I think I will choose to be optimistic about this information but also see it as a chance to improve how we interact with our drivers.

Not surprisingly, one of the top things drivers said fleets could do to make them happier is to increase their pay. I think all of us, no matter what job we have, believe more money will make us happier, so I will not address the money issue except to point out that driver pay is up nearly 18% since 2019.

However, what caught my eye was the fact drivers also indicated that improved communication would make them happier. I think it is human nature to want to feel part of something, and one way that happens is when we are well-informed about what is going on within a company. Each of us wants to feel like our contribution plays a role in our company’s success.

Finding opportunities to communicate with drivers when they first sign on with your fleet is easy. The onboarding process is about immersing them in your company culture and making them aware of your policies and procedures. But it can get a little harder to help them feel connected after the first few months of employment.

Sure, dispatchers talk to drivers all the time, but I suspect the drivers in the survey were talking about communication from the management team. They likely want to know what’s happening in the company—the good and the not-so-good. The not-so-good can be harder to share, but I encourage you to keep them informed about the challenges you are dealing with before they learn via rumor and innuendo. Trucking is a fairly small industry, and drivers constantly talk to each other. Make sure you are telling your drivers your story so someone else doesn’t.

See also: Survey finds only half of truck drivers are happy

Company newsletters are a good way to communicate, and so are social media posts. But nothing beats a face-to-face conversation with a driver. Several management team members and I were recently visiting one of our locations. On the way out of the building, I noticed some drivers in the break room, so I took some time to check in with them.

Later, during that same visit, while exiting the location for the final time, I repeated this process. When I emerged from the break room, my team asked where I disappeared. I told them I wanted to spend face-to-face time with the drivers. They reminded me I had done that earlier in the day, but I told them there were different drivers in the break room the second time and that I liked seeing as many as possible while on site.

There’s no such thing as investing too much time into your staff.

Reminding drivers of their essential role in your organization should not happen just once a year during Driver Appreciation Week. Communication with drivers needs to be frequent and consistent.

Make sure you have a way for drivers to share their concerns with you and your management team, whether actively seeking their input or making it known that your door is always open.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that, on average, it costs between $12,000 and $20,000 to replace a truck driver. Investing a little time communicating with them regularly can save you real money in the long run.

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