Driver-Shipper Relationships Rely on Respect, Communication

Attendees listen at the conference
Attendees listen at the conference. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Communication and respect can ease relationships between truck drivers and shippers, according to panelists gathered at the 2019 Retention and Recruitment Conference on Feb. 21.

Conversion Interactive Agency, an advertising firm that specializes in recruitment, hosted the conference in conjunction with Transport Topics and American Trucking Associations.

ALSO AT THE CONFERENCE: Recruiters Can Attract, Retain Drivers With Empathy, Experts Say

Brad Holthaus, executive vice president of sales for Conversion Interactive Agency, said the most common complaints drivers air involve compensation, home time and getting treated with respect. Drivers depend on good information from their dispatchers and their warehouse destinations so that they can plan their journeys well and maximize their time when they arrive.

“When the driver pulls in, he’s not an employee of the company. He’s just a guy behind the truck, picking up something or delivering it,” Holthaus said. “They’re not necessarily going to get treated with the kind of respect that they need to be, and that creates a lot of stress and anxiety.”

Pat Coonce, associate director of risk management transportation at Tyson Foods Inc., said communication is key to ensure that warehousing facilities and shippers are meeting the needs of the truckers who deliver loads to them. He said shippers should take on a “customer service mentality” toward drivers.



Amenities at warehousing facilities also are important. Warehouses typically don’t allow drivers on the dock floor for liability reasons, so they provide places for them to go while their shipments are being unloaded. A good warehousing facility will have restrooms with hot water and break rooms with snacks and microwaves. Coonce said that some facilities will have access to Wi-Fi.

Although Avery Vise, vice president of trucking research with Bloomington, Ind.-based transportation intelligence firm FTR, acknowledged that amenities are important, he said respect for time is vital. Detention time is a major issue for truckers because getting stuck at a warehouse for several hours can hamstring later dispatches that a driver was supposed to make. He said driver lounges stocked with the best food and the best coffee pale in comparison to the value of hours in a truck driver’s day.

“I would submit that respect for the driver’s time really trumps everything else,” Vise said.

The manner in which shippers respect (or disrespect) a driver’s time can determine whether that carrier chooses to work with them again, according to Robert Pierson, vice president of recruiting for Brown Trucking Co.

“We expect respect. We expect nice facilities. We expect parking,” Pierson said. “But that really comes down to [the fact that] we have a mutual interest in holding on to drivers.”

Durby Wilson, who founded C.B. Wilson Transport when he was 19, echoed the importance of time in another panel discussion Feb. 21. He said he responded to a shipper last week who instructed him to arrive between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. He arrived promptly at 6 a.m., yet didn’t leave the facility until noon. The delay caused him to run up against his time limit and spend the night in his truck before making his next delivery, which was four hours away.