In 1967 Otis Redding wrote a song popularized by Aretha Franklin. The takeaway line from the song which is titled “Respect” is where Ms. Franklin spells out the word respect. “What you want, baby, is what I got. R.E.S.P.E.C.T.”
The biggest issue for truck drivers today is the fact that they are an invisible workforce. When dispatchers never see the person they are dispatching, it is easy to ignore their requests. When the company owner has never met the drivers, they are just a number on a paycheck.
The common mantra of recruiters for the past 20 years has been “Our employees are our most important asset.” Ask any driver if they feel this is the attitude shown them by management.
The investment made in training a driver can run as high as $20,000. Replacing a driver can cost $12,000 to $15,000. Yet the trucking industry faces turnover rates as high as 150 percent. Do the math. If you have one hundred drivers and you have just twenty percent turnover, the replacement cost for those twenty drivers is about $250,000. That’s cool quarter of a million dollars. Wouldn’t that look good on the bottom line?
Trucking companies need to start treating their drivers with respect. How many dispatchers or owners spend weeks or months away from home and then have to fight with dispatch to get back home? Today’s youth can’t visualize being on the road for months at a time. Living in a room the size of a double bed is a challenge for the best of us.
The trucking industry is already getting desperate for drivers. What can trucking companies do to provide decent trucking jobs for truck drivers?
- Respect the drivers with a decent wage and decent home time. With the widening use of electronic logging, productivity will decrease because the creative logging used with paper logs will come to a screeching halt. If the driver sees a decrease in income, look for an exodus of drivers who are barely making it now.
Decent home time is not 3 days after a month or more on the road. Remember that factory workers get 8 days home per month. And the factory worker showers and eats at home every night and can be at the kids’ games and parent teacher conferences.
- Encourage drivers to participate in decision making processes. If a fuel mileage incentive program is being put in place, make sure that the drivers don’t just get hit with another pay cut. Provide a positive incentive to cut fuel consumption. Owners need to hold up their end of the bargain with first class maintenance of the equipment and investment in the proven fuel mileage improvement technologies.
- Support the drivers’ needs for physical activity. Sitting behind the windshield for 11 hours per day is not healthy. Then add in the food most commonly sold at truck stops and you have a perfect health storm forming. Trucking company owners need to demand that truck stops provide exercise rooms for the drivers along with better food choices.
- Remember that it is cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. The same applies to drivers. Finding drivers to fill open trucking jobs is getting more expensive every day. The least expensive driver you can get is usually the one you have.