Excessive driver turnover has nagged the trucking industry for decades. There are several reasons retention proves challenging, but some of these are quite fixable. For example, during exit interviews we hear a lot of drivers quoting Robert Plant by telling us about a “communication breakdown”.
Communication is a common problem tormenting people in all kinds of jobs and industries. It’s certainly not unique to truck drivers. In fact, poor communication is consistently cited as the number one complaint in employee satisfaction surveys.
Ironically, this always seems to come as a surprise to supervisors, managers and executives. They refuse to believe the data, even when it’s gathered through anonymous satisfaction surveys. In fact, most managers complain that they are weary of over-communicating.
Well, snap out of it. Perceptions are reality. If your drivers say you don’t communicate, well then you don’t communicate. You have a choice. You can a.) dig in your heels like most managers do and argue that you’re doing enough, or b.) you can do something new and different. It really is that simple. If you continue to do the same things, you will get the same results.
Your drivers may not think you communicate well enough. Therefore, your task is to change the perceptions of your drivers. Before we lay out any action items for you, give some thought to a day-in-the-life of one of your drivers. How often do you really talk to your drivers and connect with them on a personal level? Your experiences may vary, but chances are that it doesn’t happen often. The very nature of the job makes it difficult. Drivers are gone for six days at a time. When they come in, they might only be around for 20 minutes to park, turn in paperwork and scoot home for a quick two days with the fam.
If you want to improve communication with your drivers, you have to make a real effort. You need to be creative and flexible.. For example, schedule yourself to be in the drivers’ room when drivers will be there. Pick up your phone and call your drivers for no other reason than to chat. Just like you call your out-of-state brother once in awhile to find out how he’s doing.
When practiced habitually, these little things become rituals, like standing for the national anthem or putting your seatbelt on before you pull out. Rituals can and should be intentional. If you want to improve communication, you need to establish good communication rituals. Here are just a few:
- Create and promote a true open-door policy.
- Hold monthly meetings with all of your drivers. Make them into an open forum and use them to keep everyone up-to-date with the business.
- Form a drivers steering committee to meet monthly and discuss anything on their minds.
- Call three or four drivers every day. It takes ten minutes. Rotate through your driver list and resist the temptation to avoid the whiners. Start each conversation with a few open ended questions, but let them do most of the talking. Offer updates on the business, your customers, equipment or changes in policies. Most important, be sure to thank them.
- Sit in dispatch for one hour every day. Listen to your fleet managers and how they’re speaking with your drivers. Are they respectful? Patient? Congenial? Do they ask the four vital questions:
- Are you happy? How can we make your job better and easier?
- What should I stop doing?
- What should I start doing?
- What should I keep doing?
Coach them if they need it. If you need help getting started, visit us at www.avatarfleet.com.
Of course communication, or a lack thereof, is just one reason drivers quit. We discussed The Top Ten Reasons Drivers Quit here, which you should definitely check out if retention has proven challenging for you.