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New year's resolution: Listen to drivers

Jan. 17, 2023
Truck drivers all have concerns, but it may seem that making certain changes might be out of management's hands. But by listening—and with a little ingenuity—fleets can figure out ways to address drivers' top issues.

When I was with the California Highway Patrol, we would meet regularly with local trucking companies. One company fleet manager always had the biggest smile on his face.

“You seem chipper,” I said to him once. “Something good happen?”

“I listened to my drivers,” he replied, still smiling.

“And they are happy?”

“No, not entirely. In fact, they had a whole list of things on their minds.”

I was confused. The fleet manager saw my uncertainty and continued,

“Look, our company has salespeople, but we could just rely on brokers. We’ve got mechanics, but we could outsource maintenance. Drivers, though? That’s what trucking is. A big part of my job is making sure they can do theirs. I can’t fix problems I don’t know about. When I listen to drivers, I learn what needs to be fixed. Makes me smile, all the things I might have a hand in improving.”

When we listen to drivers throughout the industry, we learn about many opportunities for improvement. Listening is exactly what the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) does every year in its Top Industry Issues survey. In 2022, over 4,200 industry stakeholders across North America responded to the ATRI survey. The largest percentage of respondents, 42.7%, were professional truck drivers.

What items did drivers in the ATRI survey say need improving?

No. 1 Truck driver issue: Truck parking

Congress made truck parking eligible for infrastructure funding, and the U.S. Department of Transportation has a handbook showing how to access that money. But states and cities must first see truck parking as their priority—and that’s where you and your colleagues must tell the trucking story. Within your own fleet, show your drivers you are actively working with property owners and customers to find them safe, convenient, and legal parking along their routes.

No. 2 Truck driver issue: Fuel prices

World affairs, federal policies, market forces—what can a fleet manager do? For your owner-operators and independent contractors, fuel pricing remains their top issue. Find then purchase discount programs for fuel vendors along your routes.

No. 3 and No. 4 Truck driver issues: Driver compensation and detention/delay at customer facilities

The two issues are related. Detention and delays cut back on compensable hours and miles. And detention/delay may tempt some drivers to speed to recover lost time. Speeding can lose drivers their jobs entirely. Look into consumer rating apps to allow drivers to rate the treatment they receive at customer facilities. Then, use those results to work with customers on improved driver treatment.

See also: Bipartisan bill would give truckers access to restroom facilities

No. 5 Truck driver issue: Speed limiters

Your fleet may already use speed governors, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will propose mandatory speed limiters in the second half of 2023. When the FMCSA proposal comes out, discuss the issue with your drivers and let them know their input will be important to the fleet’s response.

Having a hand in improvements kind of makes you smile, doesn’t it?

Steve Vaughn is vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

About the Author

Steve Vaughn | Senior Vice President of Field Operations

Steve Vaughn is senior vice president of field operations at PrePass Safety Alliance, the provider of PrePass weigh station bypass and electronic toll-payment and management services. Vaughn served nearly three decades with the California Highway Patrol and is a past president of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

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