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June 14, 2018 5:30 PM, EDT

Editorial: Working Conditions

We all want to like our workplaces. For fleet drivers, that workplace extends from the truck cab all the way to the headquarters of the carriers for whom they drive. And it's important to keep drivers happy regardless of which place they happen to be on a given day.

One method fleets have been using to keep drivers happy is pay raises; the (online and printed) pages of Transport Topics have for months been populated with stories about increases in per-mile rates, fuel-mileage and sign-on bonuses, and more. And it’s no wonder. The freight market is red-hot, and good drivers are only getting more difficult to find.

Look to our recent story on driver turnover for the proof; first-quarter turnover rates increased both for large and smaller carriers, as drivers shop around for the best deal they can make — emboldened by the seller’s market they’re living in. As long as capacity is tight and demand is high — conditions that are expected to remain for a while — drivers are holding all the cards.

Beyond simple supply and demand, drivers are working in an age when they are empowered to speak up if they think their workplace is not living up to professional or legal standards for safety.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hosted a forum June 12 to discuss the protections afforded to those who speak up about unsafe practices. A representative from American Trucking Associations noted that it is necessary to create an environment where individuals are encouraged to report unlawful behavior. And an attorney at the event added that creating that environment can benefit the public at large — not just the person blowing a whistle. The attorney also noted that so-called “whistleblower” laws are written so that those who speak up are protected from retaliation.

And that’s a very good thing. Because taking care of employees — in any industry, not just trucking — is about a lot more than pay raises. It’s about keeping them safe at work and satisfied with the workplace. And yes, well-paid.

For trucking, however, doing these things keeps the country moving forward. And that, too, is a very good thing.