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October 7, 2013 4:00 AM, EDT

Letters: Turnover, Too Many Movies

These Letters to the Editor appear in the Oct. 7 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today. 

Turnover

Over the past few decades, we’ve done ourselves a significant injustice in the trucking industry by not paying attention to the changes happening around us as they relate to recruiting drivers and owner-operators.

As our largely rural driver pool started drying up, we continued to treat new entrants to the industry as if they had the same work ethic and aptitude for equipment as recruits in prior decades. The results of our indifference have been turnover rates of more than 100% — a sad commentary on a great industry.

I believe the basis for all good human-relation efforts goes like this: People stay in situations they like and feel comfortable in, and they leave those where they don’t. You can build an entire retention strategy around that simple statement, and if you aren’t, you’ll see the consequences in your turnover numbers and bottom line.

Our shortsighted actions have cost us greatly both in bottom-line dollars and human suffering. How do you think the cost of five to six drivers in a truck over its life cycle compares with having one or two drivers? What is the effect on that asset’s value? Consider the maintenance costs when so many different folks are in and out of the vehicles — deficiency reporting that’s more a blame game than making sure equipment is ready to go.

What is the cost to a trucking company in efficiency when a dispatcher must retrain the entire workforce over a year rather than normal attrition of maybe 5% or less? What does it cost your operation for additional personnel when churn has you hiring constantly? Or continually plating and unplating owner-operators while your fleet stays the same size?

What is the cost to safety? It’s a known fact that a company with high turnover has more accidents and workers’ compensation claims. Orientation is continually educating people, and administration never settles down because everyone is new to the paperwork process.

What happens to your reputation for customer service? How can an entire workforce be trained over 12 months and still provide dependable service?

I don’t think it can be done, and companies that work this way attract customers with predatory rates, probably churning customers the way they do drivers.

Human suffering is a mind-boggling intangible: People don’t want to fail or be jumping jobs and having to go home and tell their significant others that the job didn’t work. That means serious stress.

Does anyone want to take a stab at how many people in North America have earned their commercial driver licenses but are no longer in the industry? My guess is that for every three licensed drivers, two are still driving for a living.

What’s next? Will we keep doing the same thing and end up where we’ve been for the past 30-plus years with our drivers?

Stop and think this one through: If you focus on quality and integrity and make them cornerstones of your operation, you will get quality and integrity. Don’t settle for less. You might not get to be the biggest company in the shortest amount of time, but was that ever a good goal?

Turnover can be managed and beaten — it isn’t an unavoidable evil of the trucking industry. We need to start treating trucking and the people who choose to spend their lives in it with a great deal more respect than during our most recent past. I believe the effect on margin dollars and turnover is astronomical, and the industry is losing huge numbers in cash and people because of it. If turnover’s cost could be recovered and split with drivers — half to them and half to the company’s bottom line — any rational person would make that deal without hesitation. And in reality, that deal is sitting squarely in front of many companies, and they just don’t see it.

An old saying goes, “Truth and time go hand in hand.” Companies that try to do it right and understand their people must be treated with respect and given the opportunity to grow and prosper will win the day.

Companies that keep their heads in the sand are the primary cause of trucking’s reputation today. Time will run out on them, and their truth will be revealed.

Ray Haight

CEO

Transrep Inc.

London, Ontario

Too Many Movies

It is apparent that plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Burns has watched too many trucker movies and does not fully understand the realities or complexities of safely operating a tractor-trailer on today’s highways. To imply that a truck driver could avoid a crash by simply “swerving out of the way” is absurd.

Today’s professional drivers must navigate ever-increasing risks and challenges from all directions to deliver their freight and return home safely. The idea that the driver or carrier should be penalized because of inaccuracy or false statements made on the police report is equally troubling.

The intent of CSA as I understand it is to identify unsafe operators; however, we must keep safe drivers on the road. Rather than accepting the premise that all accident reports are inaccurate, we need to develop a process of effectively evaluating the exceptions. If not, perhaps the government should refocus their labor and begin addressing accurate accident reporting.

Scott Hunt

Chief Operating Officer

United Petroleum Transports

Oklahoma City

Editor’s Note: The writer refers to a story headlined “Attorneys Clash Over Police Crash Reports and Their Role in CSA Carrier Profiles,” which states:

“. . . Burns said that a drunken driver who crosses the center line and hits a truck head-on would clearly be blamed for the crash. But, he asked, what if the truck driver was fatigued and could have avoided the crash by swerving out of the way? In that case, Burns said, the trucker could have prevented the crash.”