Whether you’re recruiting a new batch of drivers for your company or interacting with those who have been with you for years, communication with drivers is important. Successful communication with employees is crucial for any profession but comes with unique challenges in the trucking industry.
The nature of the work is that drivers will be on the road most of the time and communication rarely takes place in-person. To complicate matters, there is often a difference in culture between managers and drivers. Dispatchers need to communicate effectively with current drivers to make sure orders reach their destinations on time. Recruiters need to communicate well to make the best case for their company and sign new drivers. Keep these handy guidelines in mind for strong communication with drivers.
1. Be Curious and Understanding
The most important part of strong communication with drivers is good listening. This means you actually take time and effort to hear drivers’ concerns and then address them. Good listening isn’t just reactive. Don’t just wait for drivers to come to you with their concerns. Be curious enough to politely inquire about their needs and questions.
If you’re recruiting a new driver, you know which factors they are likely considering, so address them proactively.
If you’re getting feedback from veteran drivers, be curious about their preferences about type of haul, type of run, work schedule etc. Good listening doesn’t just end with curiosity. Once you’ve listened, try to understand things from their perspective.
You can’t walk a mile in their shoes, metaphorically speaking, but you can try to imagine the world from their eyes. Being understanding requires empathy for someone’s situation, which may not match your own. Drivers have stressful jobs and lives, and the more you can empathize with and understand their situation, they better you’ll listen and communicate with them.
2. Know when to call or video conference...
Sometimes, the medium is the message. Choosing the proper communication method can make the difference between having successful communication or being left frustrated. Some issues are too long or complicated to discuss over text or email. Calling drivers’ cell phones is the most popular way to communicate with drivers for a good reason.
Most drivers will carry their phones with them 24-7, so if you need to deliver some quick but important and time-sensitive information, this is the way to go.
You can be brief and to the point, while also delivering the personal touch. Same thing holds for job prospects you’re trying to recruit—you can quickly touch base about some details and leave a strong impression in their minds.
Speaking of the personal touch, consider requesting video conferences for added face-time. It’s tough to get an in-person meeting with drivers or job candidates if they are on the road. Using video-conferencing is the next best thing. It will also preserve important non-verbal cues like eye contact and body language. Video interviews are also becoming a popular alternative to phone interviews. Save this for important and longer conversations that could use the added human touch of face-to-face interaction.
3. ...And know when to text or email instead
Knowing is half the battle. Sometimes, text or email is a better platform for communication. You don’t want to send a lengthy message over text. It’s best for short and sweet messages which are time-sensitive. Messages over text won’t require much elaboration or the personal touch to smooth things over.
Texting is a great way to communicate with drivers about quick updates or changes to the plan.
It is usually best when it’s a follow up to an ongoing conversation rather than springing up something unexpected. Don’t text as the first method of contact to job candidates—it’s just too impersonal! Your job prospects will want to feel like you’re making the effort and that they are worth a phone call. On the other hand, you can text to set up a phone call or ask someone to call back to discuss further details. Texting also gets around network coverage issues or background noise, because the message will go through eventually.
Reserve email for the most important and lengthy messages. Usually, email is best for sharing critical documents like job applications, contracts, insurance policies etc. Sometimes email can also be better than a phone call if you want to keep record of what was agreed upon. Human memory is fragile, and two people may remember different things from the same phone call. Having the written documentation available makes things less ambiguous.
4. Treat drivers with respect and build trust
This one cannot be overstated. None of your communication strategies and methods are going to work if drivers don’t feel that you’re treating you with respect.
It sounds like a no-brainer, yet this is one of the biggest complaints which drivers have—management doesn’t treat them with respect.
If you’re a recruiter making a first impression, this is even more important. Be careful not to speak too hurriedly, or if you’ve been stressed or anxious just before the interaction. Friendly and respectful communication is more engaging and will make a better impression.
Even if you’re interacting with drivers who have been with your fleet for ages, you should always speak to them as if it’s that very first time.
Drivers want to work for companies where they feel valued, respected, and part of the team. You don’t want someone to feel slighted because you implicitly suggested that management is more important than the drivers. Not only is that very far from the truth, but it will have drastic consequences.
Building trust is a consequence of all of these strong communication strategies and methods. Trust requires time and consistency. A relationship with your drivers is just like a relationship with anyone else- you build more trust if you keep interactions positive over a long period of time. Always being respectful, curious, and understanding, will lead to both parties developing trust and loyalty to each other. Loyal workers are less likely to be subject to turnover and more likely to refer other strong candidates to your company.
Don’t lose your companies strongest marketing asset! Treat drivers with respect and build trust over the years through good communication with drivers, and the payoffs will be enormous.