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driver treatment

Improving Driver Treatment

By Brandon Baxter - Staff Writer
Posted Mar 4th 2024 8:00AM

In today’s employment economy, it’s not completely unfounded that we all have experienced similar plights and pitfalls to what our nation’s drivers are frequently facing day-in and day-out. Driver treatment is something that we should all be more aware of, especially when you consider there are increasingly less drivers to pluck from the trucking pool.

Driver Recruitment

When launching into initial discussions with drivers or individual owner operators, it should never be lost on the recruiter that whomever they are speaking with must be tended to such as a gardener oversees the watering of their plants. Drivers are a scarce commodity to come by these days, and many of these folks have been alluding to the notion that they are disinterested in driving, or any contracting opportunities, due to previous experiences with prior employers. Take note.

A recruiter not only has the task of attempting to entice a driver to join the ranks of road warriors, but to also listen to their new recruit as they try to unpack their most recent trials and tribulations. This happens more often than not.

It’s difficult in some ways because most applicants are individual owner operators looking for a place to sign their truck on, or they’re independent contracting drivers who don’t own their own truck and are therefore interested in driving for a fleet owner or carrier.

In any case, these folks are people who are coming from a previous situation where maybe they were not properly compensated for their work. Or perhaps they were treated poorly by their fleet owner, their dispatcher, or even the company they were representing.

It’s not uncommon for today’s driver to site a lack of respect, poor compensation, or negative treatment as reasons why they’re uninterested in joining forces with a trucking company. In many instances, these folks who are the backbone to America’s transportation infrastructure, drivers end up walking away from a profession that they love; convinced that their efforts aren’t being appreciated.

Driver Retention

Ask any driver why they’re leaving their previous company and they’re surely going to inform you that they’ve had more than a few negative experiences.

Many drivers and owner operators have stated that they are flat-out leaving the industry due to low wages and a lack of benefits, even things like not being paid for downtime or extra miles. Most will site the lack of respect being shown them by the companies they drive for as a major factor in leaving one for another. Or just leaving the profession, period. 

The ongoing shortage of truck drivers across the nation has most recently prompted many companies to raise their rate of pay, or to offer larger wages and sign-on bonuses in an effort to attract more drivers.

The problem with most wage hikes and proposed bonuses is that drivers are typically expected to reach some heightened level of criteria, like an unrealistic miles quota, in order to unlock their additional income. In most cases these additional bonuses are paid out incrementally, in which the driver must remain with the company for a year or longer just to obtain these lofty goals. Suffice to say, most drivers don’t see these ends.

Here’s a simpler idea, though. Let’s try treating our drivers with equal levels of both appreciation and respect. The additional pay and bonus structures are indeed a good start, and a handy tool to have in any retention arsenal. But letting drivers know just how much they mean to an organization is every bit as equally important, if not more so.

Most companies, specifically the larger entities, have a driver retention or diver relations department that will handle driver issues or complaints on a daily basis. Those people should have the ability, within reason, to authorize additional bonus funding to drivers and owner operators when performance merits such a measure.

How many times are we going to allow such valuable assets to simply walk out the door because they were treated wrong or denied the opportunity to grow and progress within an organization? Perhaps a solid starting point would be to encourage companies to develop their driver retention roles and processes, as opposed to just watching what swings through the ever-revolving door.