This week on Solving The Driver Problem, Scott talks with Chris Harris, a.k.a. The Safety Dawg, who works with trucking companies on recruiting, training, and compliance. His experience covers just about every aspect of the trucking industry, as he started out as professional driver. Since then, he has worked for over three decades in insurance risk management, trucking management (recruiting/compliance).
He also created The Dawg Speaks, a series of short safety videos for drivers, and hosts The Dawg-On It Trucking PawedCast. Last but not least, he authored the book 7 Steps To Hiring Great Drivers, a valuable resource for trucking companies looking to improve their recruiting and retention.
Scott starts by asking the nature of Chris' work as a consultant. Chris explains that spends most of his time working with clients implementing good recruiting tactics, but especially retention tactics, arguing that it's much easier and less expensive to keep good drivers around than to find new drivers. He also notes that more senior drivers have fewer collisions, resulting in saved costs and headaches in the safety realm.
Rea then asked Harris what, if any, trends he sees within his field of work (driver recruiting, training, and retention). He answered that he believes the trucking industry is facing a recession currently, and notes that in his region of southern Ontario this downturn has resulted in the availability of a higher-than-normal number of drivers. Because of this, he implored companies to "keep their good drivers."
The Best Retention Strategy: The Telephone
So how do companies keep their best drivers? Harris' answer is simple: "pick up the phone." "I really believe we can improve driver retention if we just pick up the phone and say 'hey, [Driver] how are ya?" This sort of interaction can elicit feedback from the driver, and when acted upon, makes the driver more likely to feel included and stick around with your company. Rea added that being proactive with drivers versus reactive can prevent problems from festering.
What Makes a Good Safety Program?
When asked what practices lead to a good safety culture, Harris names monitoring and coaching the drivers as the two most important steps a safety manager can make. He then says the most important metric in his experience in the safety field is fuel efficiency, explaining that when a driver is driving in a way that is the most fuel efficient, it means they aren't speeding, maintaining a safe following distance, and driving in a relaxed and aware manner.
He also adds that as a driver, his ability to be relaxed and enjoy his work brought about by an attitude change: "I finally realized that the only reason that I hated truck driving was me. And when I changed my attitude towards driving, I basically said I'm not going to go to work every day and hate my job." This ultimately led him to increased job satisfaction and the start of his rise in the industry.
Ongoing training is another important key to safety as well as retention, as it signals to the driver the company cares for and invests in its fleet.
Saving On Insurance With Training
The discussion then shifts to talking about insurance - namely, aligning a company's safety habits with their insurance premiums and experience. Rea asks Harris what tricks has he learned for working with insurance? Harris recommends first and foremost being prepared for the meeting, and prepared to sell your safety practices, answer questions, and back up your training/programs with documentation. It's an opportunity to directly affect your company's bottom line, so it's an important part of the safety equation.
Rea adds that it's important to build up the wall of paperwork to defend company's safety culture, values, and process in the case of an accident. You need to prove that it's an isolated incident, and make sure that all documentation is readily available for such an event.
What Types Of Training Should Companies Use?
Rea circles back to training, asking Harris what tools he recommends carriers use for training. His answer is simple: all of them! Meetings in small groups (2-5); a large yearly meeting where all drivers meet in one place, online training courses, and phone/video chat sessions all play important roles in keeping drivers' skills up. He also implores companies to make sure online training provides documentation.
Harris also talks about the best way to go about implementing a CDL finishing program. He notes that the requirements to obtain a CDL are relatively light, and that it is imperative to make sure new hires are trained to drive professionally, not simply check all the boxes.
He suggests first talking to your insurance company to make sure they're on board with you providing CDL finishing training. Most will say yes. Second, invest some time and investigate the school. PTDI schools have been audited by industry professionals to make sure they have a solid curriculum and a certified instructor that gives green drivers weeks of real training, along with documentation.