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October 11, 2018 6:00 PM, EDT

Editorial: Making Life Easier on the Road

It’s no secret that finding and retaining good truck drivers is a challenge for fleets, but recent reporting has taught us that there are simple options for improving drivers’ quality of life on the road.

For one thing, listen to them. In discussing the 96% turnover rate among for-hire drivers reported earlier this month by American Trucking Associations, experts said the key to retaining drivers is efforts designed to make them feel appreciated — not just sign-on bonuses to lure them through the door, but rather things that will compel them to stay once they’ve arrived. That includes generous benefits packages, easy and ready access to freight, and an open arena to always speak their minds, and be heard.

While they’re on the road, increased flexibility with hours-of-service regulations would also be welcomed, according to comments during a listening session to discuss possible changes to those regulations. The latest in a series of these events, hosted Oct. 10 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, revealed that drivers want the ability to determine when and for how long they take breaks, and also want regulators to understand that different sectors of the industry have different needs. A break for a driver hauling a load of livestock is very different from a break for someone hauling a load of dry goods. And short breaks offer precious little time to either check on animals or check the condition of a truck’s tires.

Let’s hope that the members of Congress already angling to be in charge of top transportation committees after the midterm elections are listening, and will emerge post-election ready to help the trucking industry. Not all of them will earn leadership posts, but all of them can play a role in helping to shape a future for the trucking industry that is built around creating an environment where drivers can succeed.

Let’s hope the same for the leaders of the companies that employ them. Truck drivers keep food on the table and clothes on our backs, and we as a country must show appreciation for them year-round. Day to day, it’s up to the carriers who employ them — and the government leaders who set the rules they follow — to listen to the guidance they’re offering. After all, they’re the ones living life on the road.