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trucking dispatcher relationship
The trucking dispatcher and driver relationship is one of the most important relationships to keep a fleet running smoothly. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for dispatcher-driver relationships to become strained. Tension can arise from small problems that escalate as a result of poor communication or different priorities. Some challenges in the trucking industry require large investments of time and money. Fortunately, this isn’t one of them. There are several ways for a trucking dispatcher to improve their relationships with drivers without spending a single dollar.

1. Promote Clear Communication

Communication and miscommunication are at the heart of strained trucking dispatcher and driver relationships. Dispatchers and drivers are doing two entirely different jobs and may not see eye to eye. As a result, clear communication is absolutely essential to bridge that gap. Set clear expectations for drivers and their roles. Dispatchers typically have a higher level vantage point, so they may need to clarify some of their decisions to drivers. 

One of the best things a dispatcher can do is prioritize transparency.

Drivers don’t need a detailed analysis to explain every decision, but they should have a general understanding of why dispatchers are making decisions in a specific way. Transparency at all levels is a great way to build trust. There will inevitably be times that dispatchers must ask drivers to do things they don’t want to. If a driver understands the constraints that dispatchers work with and has a history of respect with the dispatcher, they are much more likely to willingly take on less pleasant loads when necessary.

2. Walk A Mile In Their Shoes

otr truckOne of the best ways to improve dispatcher-driver relationships is by creating more common ground. Most dispatchers have never been CDL drivers, and most drivers have never been dispatchers. Both sides need to have a basic understanding of what the other is doing in their day-to-day life and to get to know each other. If you are a dispatcher and haven’t been a driver in the past, ask to go on a ridealong for a day. You don’t have to get a CDL to get a glimpse of your drivers’ typical workload. Take a few days to see the day-to-day responsibilities of your drivers. 

Beyond understanding their job, get to know your drivers personally. It builds better company culture and makes daily communication much more pleasant. Demonstrate to your drivers that they are more than just a worker. A friendly relationship also goes a long way when challenging situations arise. It also allows communication to go in both directions. If there are things you wish your drivers knew, tell them! A mutual understanding of each other’s work and respect goes a long way toward facilitating open communication and improving the trucking dispatcher relationships with drivers.

3. Don’t Create Impossible Situations

dispatch memeMutual respect and understanding can only go so far. Even in the best relationships, drivers won’t be happy if they are regularly put in impossible situations. An impossible load is one that looks good on paper but has very little room for error or unexpected incidents. Think twice before accepting this kind of load.

The profit is often tantalizing, but if you’re compromising drivers, the cost is too high. Drivers who regularly face impossible loads will quickly become frustrated, and you may start losing drivers

Instead, try to give drivers (and yourself!) a small compliance cushion. That way, when things do go wrong or there are unexpected delays, everyone has a little breathing room. This eases the tension for everyone. Drivers will appreciate not being penalized for things out of their control, and as a dispatcher, you’ll have more happy customers receiving on-time loads.

4. Give and Take Feedback

employee feedbackLike any hard-working employee, truck drivers want to feel respected and appreciated. To help develop a climate of respect, make the trucking dispatcher and driver relationship a partnership. Ask drivers for feedback throughout the year and make sure to implement their suggestions when possible! Drivers will feel good knowing that their input matters, and it’s an important way to build social credit. Then, once you’ve developed a rapport, you can give drivers constructive feedback as well. Mutual respect is the foundation for good feedback and communication.

ultimate guide to retaining truck drivers

Ultimate Guide to Retaining Truck Drivers

You work so hard to recruit the best truck drivers for your fleet. The trick is retaining them. This guide is packed with tips for retaining your fleet.

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truck accident procedure

No one wants to manage cargo claims or contract disputes, and a nuclear verdict in a catastrophic accident is a trucking nightmare. Unfortunately, if you’re in the industry long enough, there’s a good chance you will find yourself handling accident claims. To protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation, make sure you have a strong truck accident procedure in place well before it’s needed.

1. Establish A Clear Internal Procedure

Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law

Eric Zalud, Benesch Law

Once an accident occurs, you’re working against the clock. It’s critically important to have laid the groundwork beforehand. We spoke with Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law. He emphasized the importance of the “Golden Hour” and arguably a golden first few days.

These hours immediately after the incident are critically important for collecting evidence, alerting key members of your response team, and handling medical emergencies. If a lawsuit occurs, it may not happen immediately, so it’s important to preserve any information that may support your case as close to the time of the incident as possible.

One of the best ways to ensure that accidents are handled smoothly and efficiently is to establish a clear communication tree. Zalud notes that this often starts with the driver contacting the safety manager who then takes the lead in the rapid response efforts. In some companies, the in-house counsel or even the company CEO may lead the accident response efforts. You should also be prepared with a team of responders who help form the line of defense.

When asked who companies should keep in their rapid response Rolodex, Zalud recommended:

  • Approved legal counsel
  • Insurance carrier
  • Engineer
  • Hazmat unit
  • Truck manufacturer
  • Toxicologist
  • Company media spokesperson

Not all fleets need to have all of the listed resources in-house. For smaller fleets, maintaining an updated preferred provider list is a good accident response option. Any necessary responders should be contacted as quickly as possible after the crash to resolve the accident scene and preserve evidence for a later date.

2. Facilitate Driver Practice

Accidents are highly stressful situations, and even the best truck accident procedure in the world can’t perfectly predict human behavior. Drivers need to practice their role in the event of an accident so that they don’t freeze and forget important details. One method for training drivers is to use dashcam footage from previous accidents to proactively review safety procedures. This can be done either in group training or for the individual driver. Zalud notes that “drivers often are receptive to [the footage]. They get interested in what the camera is showing. That type of training also helps prevent accidents and also helps minimize liability.”

Safety incentive programs are another good way to encourage drivers to practice safe driving behavior. In addition to safe driver training, have drivers practice taking photos as documentation in the event of an accident. Drivers should use their phones for documentation only after the accident has occurred and they have secured the situation. As a baseline, drivers should photograph all vehicles involved, license plates and VIN numbers, regular and close-up shots of the damages, and pictures of the surrounding area and road conditions. Additional photos may be needed depending on the type of accident.

Drivers may be concerned about the repercussions of an accident on their job. Communicate that the best thing they can do is report the incident quickly and thoroughly without being overly defensive. Drivers should also receive clear instructions on what information to communicate to the safety manager and to any external responders.

3. Meticulously Document Accidents

A strong truck accident procedure includes detailed documentation from before and after the accident. It is the responsibility of the safety manager and/or your in-house counsel to keep current in HOS and FMCSA regulations as well as local, state, and municipal regulations and ordinances. Zalud adds that equipment information, maintenance records, and inspection data should all be part of systematically developed backdrop information that can help contextualize the accident. Safety managers should also have accurate records on all driver activity related to safety, including driver training, maintenance records logged and documentation of all pre-trip and post-trip inspections. 

In addition to traditional safety training and documentation, telematics and big data are becoming increasingly critical in accident proceedings. Outward-facing dash cams are standard equipment now, and they often help clarify the events of a truck accident. When asked about the role of dashcam footage in accidents, Zalud shared:

“Number one, they’re exonerative… That can kill many lawsuits in their embryonic phases. [On the other hand, if you are at fault,] knowing that can affect your dealings with the claimant or his or her counsel. You can cut a deal earlier. You can save litigation costs that way.”

A dashboard that enables crash analysis across your fleet over time is a valuable tool. The dashboard should include data that spans across your fleet and tracks statistics over time. At a minimum, document reasons, date, equipment failures, cost of repairs, preventability rating, drivers with multiple crashes, and similar information.

4. Keep Comprehensive Records

Tracking key data is only half of the equation. Securely retaining that data is just as vital, especially in the event of a catastrophic accident. The FMCSA has a three year requirement for accident record keeping, so that is the minimum length of time records should be on file. Failing to retain evidence can result in what’s known as a Spoliation Claim which can result in punitive damages. To avoid this, make sure to collect evidence early and preserve it securely to reduce your liability.

Ultimately, having a strong truck accident procedure is critical, but it’s only as good as your diligence in following it. Ensure that everyone in your fleet is confident in their role. A comprehensive truck accident procedure paired with well-documented driver training and meticulous record-keeping will help protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation. You may not be able to prevent a lawsuit, but you can reduce the liability and save valuable time and resources.

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pet friendly trucking companyBeing a pet friendly trucking company is more than just a perk for some drivers. Offering a pet rider program strengthens company culture, retention, and recruiting. Ultimately, pet programs are about driver satisfaction and happiness and should be considered part of an overarching retention strategy. With strong marketing that displays a positive company culture, pet programs can also bolster driver recruitment efforts. 

Driver Happiness Improves Driver Retention

Fundamentally, pet and rider programs are about driver happiness which directly influences driver retention. According to our Drive My Way Driver Happiness and Retention Survey, drivers who are unhappy at their jobs are more than 60% more likely to have job searched in the past 3 months. Unhappy drivers also report being unwilling to recommend their company to other drivers and do not want to work at their company for a long time. In contrast, the majority of drivers who are happy rarely think about looking for a new job and would recommend their company to other drivers.

Company drivers indicate that company culture is the second most important factor that drivers are attracted to their company. Being a pet friendly trucking company is only one small piece of company culture, but for some drivers, it makes a big difference. Offering a pet program is a great way to boost driver happiness, continue building a positive company culture, and increase driver retention.

Pets Improve Driver Happiness

As any pet owner knows, pets make our lives better in countless ways. Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower blood pressure in stressful situations, and lower cholesterol. For truck drivers, the benefits of a pet while on the road are even greater. Some truck drivers struggle to maintain their health. Having a pet that needs regular exercise encourages drivers to regularly get out of their truck, stretch, and walk around. In addition, pets can reduce depression among drivers who spend long periods of time away from home. They fill our need for human touch and give companionship during long stretches away from loved ones.

We spoke with Sydney Abernathy, Director of Recruiting at Super T Transport. She shared her perspective on the benefits of being a pet friendly trucking company.

“We have a pet policy to attract and retain drivers and the benefit is increased wellness in our drivers. A pet can promote wellness for a driver with increased activity, reduced stress and anxiety, and by filling a need for companionship  Driver wellness is one of the biggest challenges a driver faces on the road. If you consider a pet policy part of your driver wellness program it is easy to see the return of the policy on your bottom line.”

Establishing A Successful Pet Program

woman and dogOffering a pet program is a great way to boost driver happiness and retention, and there are several best practices that will make your program successful. First, consider the guidelines you will share with drivers. It’s reasonable and recommended to include some restrictions on the type of pet or size of the animal to reduce the likelihood of equipment damage. Weights limits that allow pets up to either 30lbs or 60lbs are common among top carriers. Similarly, some fleets encourage drivers to stick to either cats and dogs and allow petitions for other pet requests.

Top carriers including JB Hunt, Knight, and Crete are known for allowing pets on the road and are a great model for implementing a successful pet program.

Communicating With Drivers

Whether you are starting a new pet program from scratch or revising an existing program, communication is key to success. Give clear expectations about cab cleanliness and communicate these from the start. Additionally, set concrete repercussions for not meeting those standards. For additional protection, some companies ask for a deposit to cover any potential damages. If you implement a deposit requirement, make sure the cost of the deposit is not prohibitive. An exorbitant deposit amount breeds resentment because you are then only offering a pet program in name.

Once you have established the basic guidelines for a pet program, help drivers take care of their pets on the road. Ultimately, a healthy, happy pet is a better companion and is less likely to damage equipment. 

Here are a few simple tips:

  • Encourage drivers to take their pet for a vet check before going OTR. 
  • Let pets get familiar with the space before drivers are far from home.
  • Drivers should be aware of any dangerous chemicals or work sites and keep pets out of harm’s way.
  • Remind drivers to prepare food, water, a waste plan, and an exercise plan before they hit the road.
  • Offer resources for drivers to be successful and safe with a pet on the road.

Marketing Yourself as a Pet Friendly Trucking Company

bulldog in semi truck

Good marketing transforms pet programs into a recruitment tool in addition to a retention asset. Consider advertising yourself as a pet friendly trucking company in everything from general ads to specific job descriptions. Position your pet program as part of driver care and a positive company culture. Having a pet program is unlikely to attract drivers if the rest of the job is not competitive. That said, if you have a compelling job offer, being a pet friendly trucking company may give you the edge over your competitors.

Communication is crucial in recruitment conversations, so be open upfront about the structure of your program and any restrictions. Drivers will appreciate the clarity and the drivers who are a good fit for the position will stay engaged.

Being a pet friendly trucking company benefits company culture, retention, and recruiting. Pets increase driver happiness, and that decreases turnover. Pet programs are a great way to attract quality drivers while supporting the physical and mental well-being of your fleet.

driver happiness and retention survey

FREE SURVEY REPORT

Driver Lifestyle & Job Happiness Survey

We surveyed over 400 CDL truck drivers nationwide to discover what makes them happy in their career and life. Access the survey report to see the results.

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calculate cost per mile

Cost per mile (CPM) is a clear, concise way to save time and evaluate financial success so you can easily decide how to run your fleet efficiently. Cost per mile compares the operating costs of your fleet against the number of miles that your trucks drive. An optimized fleet maximizes their CPM and reevaluates this number regularly to continuously improve the output. Start by itemizing your operating costs and evaluating your current truck mileage. Then, review ways to reduce costs or increase mileage-based profit and decide what is best for your fleet.

Operating Cost

Operating cost includes any cost associated with running your company. Typically, that includes fixed costs, variable costs, and salaries. It’s not enough to have a general sense of your costs. To run a finance-savvy company, define operating costs clearly. Detail costs to the point that they capture each transaction. Precision is extremely important when calculating operating costs because ignoring small costs or generalizing with rounding can quickly snowball into a completely inaccurate picture of your finances. Once you have a clear picture of your operating cost, use this to calculate your cost per mile.

Using Cost Per Mile

Understanding your Cost Per Mile allows you to save time while making financially sound decisions. A baseline cost per mile is a reflection of the cost of each mile your trucks drive. Fleets can calculate CPM by comparing your operating costs to the miles your trucks drive. This rate should inform the rate that you charge shippers and will also highlight any financial red flags. Profitable businesses have load rates that are (on average) higher than the company cost per mile. Being confident in the cost per mile rate allows owners to better identify costs and optimize spending.

Profitable businesses have load rates that are higher than the company cost per mile.

There are three main types of costs to account for when calculating your cost per mile rate. Because some of these costs will change frequently, your cost per mile will be a fluctuating rate. As a result, reassessing regularly is key. Monthly or quarterly is a good place to start.

truck lotFixed Costs

As the name suggests, fixed costs are the expenses that stay the same month after month. You will incur these costs regardless of whether your trucks are running miles or sitting on a quiet lot. Permits, insurance, and property lease payments are a few examples of common fixed costs. Typically, fixed costs are very consistent.

semi truck in the desertVariable Costs

Variable costs are the counterpart to fixed costs. These expenses will fluctuate over time, sometimes minimally, other times dramatically. Unlike fixed costs, variable costs are closely tied to how much you run your trucks. Diesel fuel, maintenance, food, and lodging are all variable costs. The more you run your trucks, the higher these costs will be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

happy truck driverSalaries

In many ways, salaries are a variable cost, but they deserve a third category because salaries have such a big impact on CPM. Typically, salaries are one of the biggest recurring costs. Like other variable costs, the more miles that trucks run, the more the variable cost increases.

Becoming More Profitable

While there are typically several large, upfront costs associated with launching a new company, truck cabs and trailers actually are not the biggest cost long term. According to the Truckers Report, fuel is by far the greatest operating expense.  Based on their estimations, diesel fuel can account for a whopping 39% of operating costs. Driver salaries come in as the second-highest expense at 26% of total fleet operating costs. Assuming your goal is to create a more profitable yet sustainable business, you have two options.

Reduce Operating Costs

Cost per mile is a rate. Therefore, you can change either factor (operating costs or miles) to shift the balance in your favor. One way to do this is by cutting operating costs. In some cases, calculating your CPM may have highlighted several areas of extraneous spending. Others might already be running a lean mean operation. Think carefully before you decide whether and where to cut your budget. Some decisions, such as decreasing driver salaries, may seem appealing because they can dramatically reduce costs. However, the long-term effects might not pay off if that leads to higher turnover and increased recruitment costs. Consider the short and long-term effects.

Increase Gross Income

The other way to grow your company’s profitability is to increase income. Raising load rates is one way to do this. Quite simply, a higher load rate will mean better returns on your loads. Another option is to run more miles. In this case, fixed costs stay the same, and variable costs are proportionally reduced. As a result, the CPM rate drops.

Understanding how to calculate your cost per mile rate will help save you time when you need to make critical financial decisions. A keen understanding of the balance between decreasing operating costs or increasing gross income is fundamental to growing profitability. To be a top trucking company, analyze your CPM rate regularly to effectively respond to industry or fleet-based changes. 

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook

safety incentive program for truck drivers

All trucking fleets have safety standards, so why is a safety incentive program so important? A safety incentive program can help motivate drivers to high standards AND help document strong safety behaviors. Incentive programs keep the focus positive. As an employer, you encourage the right behavior while also boosting company morale. This type of program infrastructure can be a great way to build driver loyalty and accomplish several safety priorities simultaneously.

Do I Really Need Safety Incentives?

The short answer is yes. Here’s why.

Most trucking companies have safety procedures and expectations, and some may also have specific metrics for their drivers. Fleet safety should be a high priority, and incentive programs are an excellent way to communicate that to drivers and encourage behavior changes

While it may not be glamorous, fleet safety and tracking are key to regulatory compliance. In the event of a safety incident, you may need to be able to demonstrate safety protocol among your team.

regulatory compliance checklist

An incentive program can encourage drivers to record their safe driving and creates a positive feedback loop. An incentive program that rewards strong performance is also good for company culture and team morale. Everyone wants to be recognized for a job well done, even if it is a job expectation. There’s also an undeniable benefit to your bottom line. A strong company culture is likely to reduce driver turnover, and that’s a tremendous economic advantage.

The benefits of a well-run safety incentive program also extend to recruiting and marketing. In addition to building internal morale, companies can build off a strong reputation and safety-centric messaging in marketing and recruitment efforts. Use driver recognition and feedback to help create positive brand recognition as a recruitment tool. 

What Should Be Part of a Safety Incentive Program?

A thoughtful safety incentive program has several distinct characteristics. First, if you are offering monetary incentives, offer enough to be meaningful to drivers. The exact amount will vary based on your location, the type of driver, and your standard compensation package. If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other ways to reward drivers. Internal or external recognition, visible insignia for drivers to show off, and flexible home time are just a few non-monetary possibilities that will still motivate drivers. Not all employees are motivated by the same thing, so you may also consider implementing a multi-pronged incentive program. Ultimately, decide what you are best able to offer, and create a strong program based on your resources. 

If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other awards that benefit drivers. There are many ways to motivate and reward hard work.

As you design or reshape your safety incentive program, keep sustainability and structure top of mind. Ensure that the program you develop is sustainable for your current and future staff. Even though safety incentive programs are often supplementary to other safety efforts, they take time to maintain. Design something within your capacity. In addition, make sure the safety program is incentivizing the right behavior. For example, a program based solely around mileage may be unintentionally encouraging drivers to drive beyond their safe limits. Thoughtfully determine success metrics when you launch the program. Then, adjust the metrics as needed when you determine points of improvement.

When to Offer Safety Incentives (And When They Won’t Work)

A successful implementation strategy for incentive programs effectively identifies “When.” Common choices for the program cycle are quarterly or annual rewards. To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Will your incentive program be effective for both local and regional drivers? If you prioritize safe driving miles, do drivers have similar routes? Or do some drivers have primarily rural routes while others are largely urban? How will this impact drivers’ ability to perform well in your program?

To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Then, decide what driver metric you will measure and how drivers will accumulate rewards.

Another timing question to consider is about rewards accrual. Will incentives accumulate for drivers or will they start clean for each new time increment? Similarly, decide whether to offer tiers of incentives or whether you will regularly feature a set of drivers like an employee of the month. Regardless of how you structure the program, start incorporating training and clear safety policies from the beginning as part of driver orientation. 

How to Communicate Safety Incentives to Drivers

happy truck driverEarly and often is the best rule of thumb for sharing a safety incentive program with drivers. Set clear expectations at the start so that drivers know how to succeed. Based on your metrics for driver incentives, tell drivers exactly what they need to do. The results should be measurable, so drivers feel it’s a fair and attainable goal. Then, share the program in clear, simple language so there’s no confusion or feeling of mystery! 

When you talk about the safety incentive program with drivers, make sure to convey the program as a reward! Internally define the program objective, then highlight the benefits and positive rewards to drivers. Avoid a system that is punitive and focuses on how drivers lose points. If designed and communicated well, your safety incentive program will stand out as a positive differentiator from other companies.

driver happiness and retention survey

FREE SURVEY REPORT

Driver Lifestyle & Job Happiness Survey

We surveyed over 400 CDL truck drivers nationwide to discover what makes them happy in their career and life. Access the survey report to see the results.

Get the Results

slip seating

Traditionally, the philosophy in the trucking industry for regional and OTR was “one driver, one truck.” As with many things in the industry, recent regulatory and economic changes have made that norm less practical for many companies. Equipment efficiencies and financial incentives are pushing some companies to implement slip seating. There is, understandably, some driver resistance, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons. Then, thoughtfully evaluate whether slip seating is right for your company at this time. 

What Is Slip Seating?

In short, slip seating means that multiple drivers share a truck. Drivers don’t have a single cab that they are solely responsible for or that is reserved for their use.

Why Does It Matter?

In the trucking industry, slip seating has not historically been the norm, especially for regional and OTR drivers. There are good financial reasons for employers to use it. That said, slip seating often comes at the expense of employee satisfaction. 

Pros

empty semi trucks in yardBetter Equipment Utilization

As an employer, you are responsible for the overall financial health of your company. From that perspective, slip seating often makes good economic sense. First and foremost, it allows for greater equipment utilization because you can drastically reduce the amount of time that a truck will sit empty in the yard while its designated driver is not on shift. Slip seating allows a company to make more runs in the same amount of time without buying more equipment. 

Tax Incentives

In addition to time efficiencies, there are tax incentives for slip seating. You can take advantage of these incentives if you account for the depreciation of trucks as an asset. According to Duff Swain, president of the consulting firm Trincon Group LLC in a FleetOwner article, trucks can be depreciated over a 3 year period. The best way to maximize profits while minimizing expenses and taxes is to drive at least 700,000 miles per truck in three years. Realistically, 700,000 miles over three years is not feasible for a single driver. So, to reach optimal mileage, multiple drivers are a must.

Cons

Driver Dissatisfaction

Perhaps the biggest downside to slip seating is that many drivers don’t like it. This is particularly true for Regional and OTR drivers. It might be easy to dismiss driver concerns under the pretense that they will soon adapt to new policies. However, think twice before making your decision.

Driver complaints are legitimate and could affect not only company morale but also the company’s bottom line. Driver happiness is a huge driver of retention.

Drivers cite messy cabs, the inefficient use of time required to remove belongings from the cab, and less well-maintained equipment as top concerns about slip seating. In some cases, no driver views the truck as their own. Then, they may also be less likely to treat it with care and cleanliness. 

semi truck repair garageMaintenance & Health

In addition to driver concerns, employers should consider that slip seating increases the number of miles driven on each tractor. As a result, routine maintenance or repairs may come up more frequently. Health concerns should also be a top consideration, especially this year. Multiple drivers using the same enclosed space in rapid succession means that disinfecting and other health safety protocols should be a high priority before each driver change. 

It’s a Fleet-Based Decision

There are clear benefits and drawbacks to implementing slip seating in your fleet. Ultimately it’s a company decision. Some companies may also find that it makes sense to use slip seating for some trucks, but not for the entire fleet. Is the cost of driver dissatisfaction worth the potential financial upside for your fleet at this time?

To bolster driver retention and recruitment, consider whether there are other things you can do to improve driver satisfaction.

Implementing slip seating may increase driver turnover, especially in the short term if drivers do not agree with the decision. Fleets should be prepared to allocate recruiting and retention resources in their budget while they make the transition. To bolster driver retention and recruitment, consider whether there are other things you can do to improve driver satisfaction. Ultimately, most people are willing to put up with working arrangements that aren’t ideal if they like their job and the people they work for. For example, employee recognition, incentive programs, or career-building opportunities can all go a long way toward improving driver satisfaction and improving your bottom line by reducing turnover.

ultimate guide to retaining truck drivers

Ultimate Guide to Retaining Truck Drivers

You work so hard to recruit the best truck drivers for your fleet. The trick is retaining them. This guide is packed with tips for retaining your fleet.

Get the Ebook

hazmat driverRecruiting drivers to fill your fleet is often a never-ending task. Recruiting a Hazmat driver can help focus your efforts, but it also narrows the candidate pool. Before you launch your next recruitment campaign, make sure you know exactly which drivers you’re trying to reach. Then, implement some fresh recruiting tactics along with your tried and true strategies to attract drivers and retain them as valuable additions to your fleet.

1. Know What Makes Hazmat Drivers Different

When recruiting a Hazmat driver, it’s important to identify characteristics that differentiate these drivers from other drivers. This is part of building a driver persona. One obvious distinction of Hazmat drivers? These drivers were willing to put in the extra effort for their endorsement. There are many reasons why a driver might have decided that the endorsement was worth the time and money, and not all drivers will have the same reason. However, as an employer, you can confidently say that these drivers were willing to work hard for a goal and that they accomplished that goal. When you have a clear understanding of the driver personas you are recruiting, use your value proposition to tailor a recruitment message to their priorities. 

When you have a clear understanding of the driver personas you are recruiting, use your value proposition to write an appealing job description.

In addition to their endorsement, Hazmat drivers typically have several years of prior driving experience. This can be a tremendous asset when you hire because you can be more confident in their skills. It also means you can rely on behavioral interviewing and past experiences to select the best driver. That said, for many drivers, with more experience comes the expectation of higher pay. Drivers who have some experience typically expect respect and a quality position from their employer. To get quality drivers, jobs should be advertised at or above industry average pay for that type of position. Experienced drivers are also looking for comprehensive benefits and career growth opportunities. At the end of the day, a good job offer helps attract top drivers. 

2. Refresh Your Recruiting Techniques

Identifying your Hazmat driver personas is an important first step, but getting those drivers in the door is often much more challenging. Driver referrals are a good place to start. Hazmat drivers on your team are likely to know other candidates who are qualified and would be a good fit for your job. By relying on the networks that drivers naturally develop, employers can incentivize referrals for candidates who come with a good peer recommendation. 

truck driver

To help encourage drivers who are undecided about a job change, make sure your job is compelling. Good benefits, regular home time, newer equipment, and competitive pay are essential.

Recruit from a wide demographic base in your recruitment efforts. This allows you to tap into untapped markets and strengthen your fleet. Especially for endorsement-based positions like Hazmat, quality is more important than quantity. Work to establish a sustainable long term strategy for keeping turnover low and driver satisfaction high.

3. Implement a Retention as Recruitment Strategy

Once drivers are successfully onboarding, retention is one of the most time-saving and cost-efficient ways to keep your fleet full. While retention is not the same as recruitment, these aspects work in parallel to keep your trucks full. Financially, most drivers reported in the Drive My Way Driver Happiness Survey that they would rather earn incrementally higher pay and a smaller sign-on bonus than have a larger sign-on bonus but lower pay. Incentives like a performance bonus or small pay increase may feel costly, but over time, they may be comparable or less expensive than regularly recruiting and training new drivers.

Retention is not the same as recruitment, but they work in parallel to keep your trucks full and your drivers happy.

Ultimately, driver satisfaction is key to a successful “retention as recruitment” strategy. Driver satisfaction starts with a clear, appealing job and position description. That includes competitive pay, reliable home time, full benefits, and clear route expectations at a minimum. Once these essentials are met, focus on building a strong company culture. Each of these aspects of hiring plays a key role in successfully recruiting your next Hazmat driver. 

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook

stop sexual harassment in trucking

Sexual harassment in the trucking industry is a documented problem. The good news is, many people want to promote safer work environments and stop harassment. Frequently, conversations center on women who experience sexual harassment. This is not a problem exclusively experienced by women, but in a heavily male-dominated field, it is often women who report incidents. As a result of the trucking shortage, more and more female drivers are entering the workforce, and safety on the job needs to be a priority.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the subject, it makes good business sense to take clear steps to stop sexual harassment in trucking. Small companies and large fleets alike can rely on a combination of policy and company culture. What’s a good way to check if you’re doing well? Look around you. Are women drivers and employees who you recruit staying with your company? If there is a disproportionately high level of churn among female employees, uncover the reasons for that turnover.

What is Considered Sexual Harassment?

  • Quid Pro Quo: This is one of the easiest forms of harassment to identify, though it may not be easy to report or document. Quid Pro Quo is an explicit request or demand from someone in a position of direct or perceived power of “I do this for you, then you do this for me.”
  • Hostile Work Environment: This harassment is often much harder to spot. At its core, a hostile work environment is any unwanted speech or conduct that makes someone else uncomfortable and inhibits someone from doing their job. It could include anything from crude jokes or suggestive comments to inappropriate photos or shirts to nonconsensual touching or other forms of unwanted attention. Hostile work environment complaints are evaluated based on how the comment or action was perceived, not how it was intended. So, make sure employees are clear on your company policies and expectations.

How Can You Promote A Safe Workplace?

1. Policies

Many companies share sexual harassment policies during driver orientation. Unfortunately, while that may be sufficient if legal action is taken, it may not be very effective in preventing incidents. During onboarding, drivers receive a lot of new information, and the complexity of legal policies makes them difficult to understand at the best of times. 

Policies should be clear to everyone on your staff. Provide a straight forward reporting structure for documenting an incident before a situation arises.

Instead, remind employees frequently of your policies by incorporating it into your company culture. At their core, policies should be comprehensive but clear to your staff. Communicate a zero-tolerance policy of sexual harassment in your workplace. In addition, provide an uncomplicated, consistent reporting structure for documentation of incidents before there is an incident to report. Encourage employees to use this structure if they do need to report a situation.

2. Training

In addition to training all drivers, recruiters, and other employees on your policies, consider offering safety training. Offer this training to women or anyone else who wants to join the conversation about safety on the road and in the workplace. The underlying question is, “What can you do to set drivers up for safety?” 

As an employer, help prepare female and other drivers for these situations. Communicate that it is not their fault. It’s important not to place blame or hold the injured person responsible for the situation. Then, share best practices for preventing and confronting uncomfortable situations. Encourage drivers to be aware of their surroundings. Share resources such as the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673) if drivers want to reach out for confidential help.

3. Reporting

female truck driversUnfortunately, many drivers will experience sexual harassment on the job. Decide how you will handle sexual harassment situations before they arise. Have an open-door reporting policy on reporting. Make it as easy as possible for drivers to bring an incident to your attention. Prior to an incident, clearly share how drivers can expect reports to be handled. If there are specific forms of documentation you require, make sure your employees know what that is. Take care not to set barriers that unintentionally repress reporting. 

Having a designated check-in person is another great way to encourage a culture of safety. Employees should know that they can approach that person with sexual harassment reports. If drivers aren’t coming to you, it may mean that they are too nervous or uncomfortable to broach the subject. Designate someone on staff to periodically reach out to drivers proactively about their experience on the job. 

4. Accountability

Accountability includes two sides when it comes to stopping sexual harassment in the trucking industry. The first is accountability within your company. When someone makes a sexual harassment report, it’s important that staff are trained to take the complaint seriously. In addition to prioritizing strong company values, there could be legal consequences for ignoring or glossing over a sexual harassment report. 

Hold your company and your employees responsible for their actions. A safe workplace benefits all employees.

The second aspect of accountability is to hold any employees involved responsible for their actions. Clarify how your company will follow up on the report and what the consequences will be. Clearly state (in writing when possible) what will happen if there is a repeat incident. Ultimately, a safer workplace is a positive asset for all employees.

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4 Reasons Verifiable Fleet Safety Needs to be a Top Priority

Fleet safety is one of the most important things for a trucking company to prioritize. One bad safety incident can cost thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. It can cause a ripple of damaging effects for years: in bad publicity, drivers turning down jobs, and overall a long recovery from the incident. Though not every accident is avoidable, most have causes that prove to be preventable. So here are 4 reasons verifiable fleet safety needs to be a top priority.

1. Mitigate Your Risk: Drivers

Your drivers are your most valuable assets. You put a lot of time and effort into hiring them, so be sure to put that same effort and time into keeping them. Driver health is one of the best ways to mitigate risk over the road. Healthy minds and bodies make for safer drivers. If you have drivers that are overly tired or stressed, they’re more likely to make mental errors that can cause safety issues. And drivers who are not trained well certainly won’t be set up to be safe and successful drivers. Think about what you can do to help support your drivers’ health and well-being. Put plans in place to start making driver health a priority. And share those plans to everyone in the company.

2. Mitigate Your Risk: Equipment

Put risk mitigation steps in place with your equipment as well to help with your overall fleet safety. Staying current with all the required service and safety checks required for your company’s equipment is especially important.

Keeping your fleet in good repair can keep your employees more engaged. The state of your equipment can have a big impact on your drivers and how attractive your company might be to new employees. Have a clear fleet maintenance policy in place.

3. Create a Culture of Fleet Safety

Who is responsible for fleet safety? Is it left up to the drivers behind the wheel? Does concern for safety come from the top of the organization down? Is everyone aware of your safety policies? If you’re not sure of these answers, one of the best things you can do at this time is get your safety policies written down. And then share them with everyone. This is the best way to get a culture of safety started. Bake safety into the foundation of the company and communicate it both internally and externally. If not, it will always fall to someone else to be responsible for fleet safety.

4. Document Emergency Procedures

As mentioned, not every incident is 100% avoidable, and it’s true that accidents will happen. Even when you take precautions, you and your drivers need to be ready to react in case of an emergency. Having solid, documented processes in place is very important when talking about overall fleet safety. Ensuring your drivers know what do to and who to contact when a problem arises can help lessen the impact of the damage and the time getting the situation resolved.

Document your processes and procedures for any type of emergency that might arise. Ensure that your drivers have quick access to clear emergency contact information and steps to take in case of an emergency.

Taking these steps to ensure you’ve got a good start to verifiable fleet safety is an important way to create a culture of safety in your company. Working to always communicate and share updates to any of these policies is something that should be built-in to decision making and change management throughout the organization. Making that everyone in the organization is responsible for safety can make your company an attractive option when hiring new drivers.

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truck driver mental health

Promoting healthy habits among your fleet is about more than physical health. More and more trucking companies are prioritizing mental health and considering its impact on overall employee well-being. Especially with increased tension due to COVID 19, creating strong connections and policies that support the mental health of truck drivers is critical. Here are a few ways to incorporate healthy structured and unstructured practices in your company.

1. Allow Person and Pet Ride-along Programs

Long hours of solitude on the road can take a toll on drivers. Even for drivers who love the open road, solo driving can make it hard to build and maintain close relationships.

Recruiter Bryce Kjellander at Stevens Trucking shared this about why they offer a pet and rider policy:

“Our pet and rider policies have definitely assisted with driver retention.  In the recruiting office, we hear how certain drivers wouldn’t even entertain driving for a company who didn’t offer both. A majority of our drivers love having the option to have a loved one or pet in the truck with them. In stressful times, both help improve a driver’s mental health, and we are pleased to offer both.”

Offering a partner or pet ride-along program is a great way to support driver mental health. Having a co-pilot can help prevent loneliness, alleviate driver stress, and boost spirits on the road. 

2. Support Regular Food and Exercise Routines

Trucking has been called one of America’s most unhealthy professions. Unfortunately, it’s for good reasons. In a study from the CDC conducted with more than 1,600 long haul truck drivers, 88% of drivers reported having at least one risk factor for chronic disease. Poor physical health can also take a toll on mental health. 

healthy truckerTo support strong mental health in your fleet, support good dietary and exercise habits. Regular, moderately intense exercise can reduce stress and anxiety while also improving sleep. Similarly, a healthy, well-balanced diet and proper hydration are great ways to improve overall driver health. As a company, consider how you can support healthy habits in your fleet. Health coaching, dietary resources, and regular health screenings are all ways to create a culture of physical and mental health in your fleet.

3. Encourage Good Sleep Habits

Whether your fleet is OTR, regional, or local, sleep is a critical part of road safety. Whenever possible, keep driver schedules as consistent as possible. In addition, fleets should consider offering sleep apnea testing as part of health care benefits. According to an FMCSA study, an astounding 28% of commercial drivers suffer from sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can make it difficult for drivers to focus and react quickly on the road.

To put the impact of sleep in perspective, Smart Trucking notes that the impact of driving with less than 8 hours of sleep each night is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content level of 0.10. 

For OTR drivers, good sleep can be particularly hard to come by. Help your drivers improve their sleep by encouraging them to use blackout curtains in the truck and bring some of the comforts of home in the cab. Some photos or small decorations can go a long way to keeping drivers in a positive mindset.

4. Promote Strong Relationships

Having strong, healthy relationships is closely linked with positive mental health. That extends far beyond the walls of the home. Build a company culture of connection, especially during this time when health concerns are keeping many people apart. Internally, encourage meaningful relationships in structured ways, such as mentor programs. Encourage drivers to be particularly proactive in taking time to connect with loved ones while on the road. Employers can help facilitate strong home relationships by clearly communicating home time to drivers.

Technology can also help play a role in strong relationship building. As a company, take advantage of software that optimizes drivers’ time on the road. Work with your sights set on improving quality of life rather than exclusively raising your bottom line. Drivers will reward you with loyalty and retention.

5. Have Available Resources

One of the best ways to support the mental health of your truck drivers is to be prepared with resources before they are urgently needed. Make sure that counseling and other mental health supports are included in the health insurance plan you offer. Similarly, share information such as national hotlines as part of your driver orientation. Doing so sets a tone that mental health is a priority and helps destigmatize conversations when drivers need them most.

Warning Signs of a Mental Health Crisis

If you start noticing strong behavioral changes in your drivers, it may be a sign of deeper problems. Watch for these common red flags among your drivers:

  1. Quick and strong emotional reactions
  2. Extra tired
  3. Trouble focusing  
  4. Inability to handle daily problems and stress 
  5. Withdrawal from social circles personally and professionally

Especially in times of uncertainty, it’s important to connect with drivers proactively. Even if drivers are initially uncertain or skeptical about taking mental health seriously, provide them with support resources, and encourage drivers to peruse at their own pace. 

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