Perspective: Adopting a Driver-First Mindset
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The past few years have taught us that truck drivers don’t just deliver essential goods, they are essential workers themselves. It’s time to recognize that, and adopt a driver-first mindset.
For a trucking business to provide industry-leading service to its customers, its operational structure must be designed to empower drivers to do great work and be well-compensated for it.
To do that we need to shift our thinking. Making sure the approach to decision-making at all levels of the organization follows this ethos requires management and those in the C-suite to essentially put themselves “in the seats” of their drivers to understand how they will be impacted by company decisions.
The simple truth is that driving a truck for a living is a hard profession. I know this because at one point in my career, I drove a truck. While I now sit in the president’s seat at Roadrunner, that experience is one that shaped me, and I am committed to making a career in driving a rewarding one for those who choose to pursue that profession as part of our company.
Whether drivers are company drivers, have been in the industry for many years, own their own equipment or are newcomers looking to acquire equipment to drive, it all starts with respect and transparency.
As business owners and partners, we must support and encourage our drivers’ entrepreneurship, and, when it applies, look for ways to help them run successful businesses of their own as part of our business.
As an example of these principles, we recently started inviting all new drivers when they sign on with us to visit our headquarters for a comprehensive orientation.
We set aside time for these in-person orientations each week, to welcome new drivers as a celebrated and critical part of our business. These sessions are broadcast live to our other locations, serving as a constant reminder that our drivers are at the very center of our culture.
My personal goal at every orientation is to get to know each driver. I hand every attendee my business card, which has my personal cellphone number listed. I get calls from drivers on a regular basis to discuss ideas they have for making the company better, to address issues they’ve encountered on a job, and sometimes just to talk about life on the road. I’m always happy to take those calls and I learn something from each and every one of them.
Above all else, ours is a business predicated on the contributions of people. As such, it is highly dependent upon the quality of the culture we create and foster as operators in an industry that helps to facilitate commerce all across this great country. As new and ever-younger drivers join the industry, it becomes increasingly incumbent upon us to pair them with driver mentors. Doing so can help accelerate the careers of these enthusiastic newcomers by enabling them to learn firsthand from seasoned industry veterans.
As part of a driver-first mindset, we also believe that innovating and deploying industry best practices across all aspects of the organization is critical. As in every industry right now, there is a lot of emphasis on delivering technologies that enhance efficiency, promote data collection and sharing. A number of very robust technological tools are available to trucking companies and drivers, and we believe the focus should be on both developing and finding the most impactful ones for those who drive with us.
Whether a driver is a company driver, owner-operator or looking to purchase their own equipment, it is important to put them first each and every day in order to establish a mutually beneficial and respectful relationship that’s built for the long haul.
Frank Hurst brings more than 20 years of experience leading and motivating highly driven management teams to his role as president of Roadrunner.
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