By March 2020, it had become evident that COVID-19 had spread to the United States, but it was difficult to anticipate the nuances of the economic fallout to come. The trucking industry has been deemed essential, yet few people accurately predicted the vastly different outcomes that would divide the industry. The fate for many fleets hinges on the presence or absence of a single word. “Essential.” That designation has created a feast and famine situation that has left some companies scrambling to hire drivers while others face heart-breaking truck driver layoffs.
If you are one of the companies that has been forced to consider layoffs and furloughs, you have our sympathy. These are difficult times that demand that you to make difficult decisions for yourself, your drivers, and your company. As you move forward, we encourage you to, above all, prioritize people.
Be a Hero to America’s Heroes
The way you treat drivers during hard times and bad situations will be the way they will always remember you. Choose respect, honor, and integrity. Even if you have to lay off drivers or place them on furlough, support them where you can. Here are a few ways you can help your drivers if a layoff is unavoidable.
1. Get Drivers Home Safely
Your truck drivers work hard for you. Make sure you don’t leave them with loose ends. If you have truck driver layoffs, treat your drivers how you would want to be treated.
Get drivers home safely and don’t turn off their fuel cards. Doing so demonstrates to your drivers that you care about them as people and not just for the work they do. The cost to your company is small compared to the respected reputation you earn.
2. Be Clear in Your Communication, Especially About Jobs
Each truck driver who is laid off is going to start looking for another job, but first, they will have an important question for you. Should they anticipate their job coming back? Unfortunately, most of us don’t have an easy answer to that question. As an HR professional or executive, the best approach is transparency. If there is a possibility you may hire again soon, let them know. Do you anticipate that it may be a long dry spell in hiring? Be honest about that as well, and connect your drivers to job finding resources like Drive My Way.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Valuable Resources
You may be facing quite a few truck driver layoffs within your company. Each person will react to the news differently, but many of them will have the same questions. Prepare for some of their most immediate concerns and questions your drivers might have. Drivers may ask how to file for unemployment, whether their health coverage will continue, and whether they will have disability insurance. Soon, they will become more work-focused as they begin looking for a new job and may wonder if they need to register for the FMCSA Clearinghouse.
Drive My Way’s displaced driver resources can help you navigate these questions and we’re here to help get your drivers back on the road as soon as they’re ready.
How to Have the Hard Conversation
No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, especially in such uncertain times. If you do have to make layoffs in your company, strive to be clear, concise, and compassionate. Your drivers are aware of the economic uncertainty right now, so don’t sugarcoat the truth. Acknowledge that no one is at fault for the global crisis, but it is creating very difficult circumstances for your company. Reassure drivers that your decision is not because of their performance and that they have been a valued part of your team.
Here’s our conscientious layoff template for getting started with hard conversations.
Due to the current economic state, it saddens me to share that we, unfortunately, need to downsize our fleet. This affects our entire company and is an extremely tough decision for us to make. Our drivers have gone above and beyond for our company, and we want to help you transition during these difficult times. We respect you, appreciate you, and want to assist you and your family. We hope to operate at full capacity again in the near future but, unfortunately, can’t anticipate a new start date due to the unstable state of the economy. In the meantime, we’re committed to providing you with resources as you make this transition and would like to stay in touch as our situation changes and we are able to hire again.
Consider the Health Impact on Managers
As you strive to be compassionate toward your employees, don’t forget to safeguard your own physical and mental health. Leaders who are consistently having to deliver layoff notifications to drivers and staff won’t get much sympathy from other employees but are likely coping with a tremendous amount of stress themselves. You might notice stress as the subtler signs of increased irritation or frequent headaches. For others, it might be obvious. Difficulty sleeping at night, emotional breakdowns, and the development of serious health concerns all point to stress. For the health of yourself, your colleagues, and your company, you can’t afford to ignore these signs.
To keep moving forward, give yourself time and space when you need it. Anxiety and stress over layoffs are normal. Be honest and compassionate with yourself, just as you are with your employees.
- Have I acted with integrity?
- Have I made well-educated decisions with the best interest of my company in mind?
- Am I systematically looking for solutions to sustain my company through this drought?
If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, be a little less hard on yourself. You are doing exactly what you should be. Manage stress by making time for exercise and healthy meals. Even on the busiest days, carve out a few hours of time each day to completely detach from work. You are the strongest asset to your company when you are able to work productively and maintain perspective on your job.
We’ll Get Through This Together
Times like these create uncertainty, but they also lead to opportunity. We’re here to help you and your team, whether you’re downsizing or growing.