Make the driver part of the solution, and not part of the problem. I ask drivers for their input on what the company can do better. When they have an idea, I run with it as long as it does not negatively affect a customer, company policy, cost control, safety etc. I always say, “I will let a driver win a battle as long as the company wins the war”. So even if I do not agree with the idea, I will implement it as long as it is not detrimental. If the idea works, I let everyone know which driver thought of it. You can never take credit for an idea that is not yours. If you do, drivers will never offer another idea.
I have regular pre-scheduled shift meetings with drivers. The format is that I talk about the metrics, company policies, company performance, changes, and miscellaneous items around what’s going on and safety. Then at the end of every meeting, I open it up for questions. I tell the drivers they can ask me anything. I tell them that I will answer as truthfully as is possible based on what I know at that time, and I remind them that they may not like the answer I give. I tell them I will always explain my answer so they understand why the answer is what it is. They want honesty and even if it is not what they want to hear, they respect the truth. If needed, I will meet with a driver personally after the meeting for a deeper discussion. This way I can keep the meeting on agenda.
I am transparent. I give the drivers the financial results (providing it does not violate company confidentiality). Drivers want to know. And then I tell them how they personally, and as a group, impact the result and what they can do to help improve the profitability.
I ride with drivers. I want the drivers to know that I care about their world and that I am willing to see the issues through their eyes. This removes barriers and puts the drivers and I on common footing. Plus it gives me a chance to see how the operation runs from a different perspective. I also get a chance to meet customers through the back door and not through the front door. I learn a great deal more about a customer when I walk through the back door.
Drivers want accessibility. I give every driver my cell phone number and business card. I tell the driver to call me anytime if they have an issue. I get calls on the weekends and during the night. I also have an open-door policy. If a driver comes to my office unannounced I will always try to meet with them. I may have to tell them to wait until a meeting ends, but I always give him or her an alternative time to meet if I am unavailable at that exact moment.
I praise drivers for good work. I will call a driver or make a point to see them in the driver’s room to tell them that I heard they did an excellent job. Drivers, like every employee, want recognition.
I buy drivers donuts or pizza on a regular basis. This is a good icebreaker.
I make sure the equipment is safe and in good working order. I will never tell a driver to take a piece of equipment on the road if they do not feel safe.
I make sure the dispatchers treat the drivers with respect. If I find out a dispatcher screamed at or otherwise disrespected a driver, I get involved quickly.
I make sure that I engage with a driver’s family. If you can befriend the family, they will help the driver appreciate the company more when the driver comes home unhappy with the company. Many times, a family member will talk a driver out of quitting because they felt appreciated by the company for the sacrifices they make while the driver is away.
Doug Sartain has over 30years of experience delivering consulting and senior leadership to logistics and transportation companies. Mr. Sartain’s ideas and improvement strategies have been published in several leading trade magazines. He has been interviewed as the leading expert in transportation profit improvement using Kaizen and Lean principles. As a logistics firm turn-around specialist, his leadership efforts have avoided carrier bankruptcies and closings. His ability to unite multiple departments within an organization have significantly improved the communication and removed internal silos. His primary focus is on leadership training, employee development, the improvement of net income, operating efficiencies, asset utilization, cost control and revenue generation.
About Patricia Linn
Patricia Rae Linn is a Senior Business Development and Marketing Strategist with over 27 years in growth strategy development and implementation. As an agency owner and consultant, Pat has fulfilled Federal, State, County and Municipal government contracts, and hundreds of diversified industry client contracts in the private and not-for-profit sectors. She is known for her vision, innovation, ability to influence perception, and ease of managing complex projects fluidly.
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