Truck drivers are often away from a motor carrier’s physical buildings — where everyone else is located — so they don’t always develop as strong an attachment to the company as other employees do. So if a company doesn’t regularly reach out to drivers and involve them in its culture, that company runs the risk that drivers may look elsewhere for work, to a carrier that they perceive as better.
For the past 10 years, our company has run in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association a program called The Best Fleets to Drive For. Every year, we see new patterns and methods these carriers use to provide what we call a “driver-centric” culture. This year, we have identified three key trends shared among these fleets: crowdsourcing, benchmarking and what we like to call “getting uncomfortable.”
Crowdsourcing: When we asked Best Fleets how they work with drivers, we found they use crowdsourcing to create a more driver-centric culture. Most conduct regular driver surveys, but beyond that, many also do the following:
Executive/management check-ins: Many of the Best Fleets have executives or upper management regularly call drivers — recent hires and veterans alike — to chat and gain feedback.
Town hall meetings and roundtables: Executives answer questions in person, which reinforces to drivers that they are being heard at the highest levels of an organization. If drivers don’t get to a terminal very often, the meetings can be recorded and posted on YouTube, or streamed using Facebook Live or another streaming service.
Ride-alongs: This is a great way to have in-depth conversations with drivers, in their own environments.
Driver representation in committees and advisory boards: It is important to include as many voices as possible in committees to ensure you hear a variety of points of view. If you have female drivers in your fleet, it’s important to include their perspectives.
Social media: We found that 78% of drivers who participated in the Best Fleets survey are on social media, so this is a great way to reach them. The Top 20 fleets use Facebook not just for recruiting but also for connecting drivers with office staff. Private Facebook groups are used to gather opinions, host discussions and provide extra support to spouses and families.
Appropriate responses to driver feedback: Drivers need to know that management will listen, value their input and take appropriate action.
Benchmarking: The ability to compare one driver’s performance against the fleet is important in making improvements and giving drivers a sense of where they stand. Some Best Fleets are turning benchmarking into a competition by using leaderboards. This can be as simple as posting in the driver room an anonymous listing (no names) of everyone’s fuel economy numbers.
Others conduct skills challenge routes, where a driver must follow a route and beat a fuel economy target. We also have seen inspection challenges where drivers must identify a safety issue on a truck through a walk-around inspection.
Letting drivers compare themselves to their peers in this way provides an inclusive environment where everyone is encouraged and assisted. It makes the work environment more inclusive too.
Get Uncomfortable: Trucking is going through continual change, and this can cause anxiety, anger, burnout, low morale and uncertainty. Change is uncomfortable. So, how do Best Fleets deal with this? They don’t ignore change, they embrace it…and in a positive way to remedy anxiety.
Incorporate driver input: Best Fleets incorporate driver input into future plans.
Seek out input from nontraditional sources: Search for ideas that may differ from what trucking traditionally relies upon. Reach all types of people — not just the “usual suspects.”
Adapt good ideas: The Best Fleets try to get good ideas from everywhere. They adopt programs that were implemented by other companies and adapt them for their own company culture.
Start small: Don’t roll out too much at once. Pilot programs or introducing change bit-by-bit help make a new program successful.
Address the risk of change: Remember that no one likes to fail. When you have been in a job — and have done that job the same way for 25 years — it’s uncomfortable to have to change. Ask people how they feel about the change and address the issues.
Evaluate and adjust: Test out new ideas, get rid of the parts that don’t work and expand those that do.
Participate in the Best Fleets program: Ask drivers to nominate your company after Labor Day and then complete the corporate survey that will come your way. The questions will give you a good idea of where your company is strong and where there are gaps. It’s a great start in developing your own driver-centric culture.
CarriersEdge provides online safety and compliance training tools for the North American transportation industry and is co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For. Through Best Fleets, Jazrawy works to promote positive and diverse workplaces in the trucking industry.