Trucking companies have taken great pains to help new drivers get used to their jobs. They have upped bonuses, splurged on extra training, maybe even developed their own apprenticeship programs as companies like Prime Inc. have. These are all great ideas. But these can exist without a true driver-centric culture. For these and other ideas to work and make life easier for the driver, you need a real, rock-solid support system. For that to exist at your company, you need drivers and other personnel to help each other out. The easiest way to create a support system like this is to train your drivers to help their fellow drivers, especially new ones, from the very beginning.
For as long as companies and organizations have existed, there have been ideas about how groups of workers need to operate like a family to have the most success. It’s more complicated than the usual system of manager to dispatch to a driver. While you do need a chain of command, you also need a web of contacts where a driver or anyone else in your company can go to for help.
"A driver-centric culture is exactly what it says; the driver is at the heart of your company."
Without people to deliver your loads, no one gets paid and clients get mad. Drivers need help to do their jobs well; they can’t do it alone. Dispatch needs to direct them and help out when there are issues. Management needs to have their back when customers give them a hard time or make mistakes. This is simple enough to understand. But there are times when that structure isn’t sufficient to solve a problem. Sometimes a driver has a problem out on the road and dispatch or management can’t help, for one reason or another. That’s when a driver needs another driver.
"When you bring in new drivers for training, you need to pair them up with an experienced driver."
Most companies have a mentoring type of system, but many times this is just a temporary arrangement. Once the driver knows what they are doing on the road, they are left on their own. Instead, the mentoring system should be permanent. A driver has a mentor or close contact at all times.
During training, include a presentation of team problem-solving. Introduce scenarios that will happen out on the road and have drivers walk through how they should proceed. The point is to encourage communication between drivers. If they know that other drivers have their back too, not just the boss, that means a lot. If they know a support system exists and they understand how it works, drivers will use it to solve problems they cannot solve alone. After a week of training with one mentor, pass them on to a second one and so on until you have a structure where a driver knows a few different drivers to go to for support.
There are a ton of benefits to this arrangement. New drivers will get more comfortable quicker. Drivers will be friendlier and more supportive of each other, developing a community rapport with each other.
"Best of all, problems that a driver might be afraid to present to the manager or dispatch - a problem you may never otherwise know about - will get fixed by the drivers themselves."
No, not every driver is going to like every other driver. But if you encourage a culture of support and respect among everyone, that community is going to be much closer to the ideal you’re striving for than if you did nothing.
This is not to say you’re creating a babysitting service. We’ve discussed the advantages of an Expectations Agreement between you and your driver. Include a section on your expectations of how they will be part of that support system.
Train your drivers to help each other and you will help build a strong driver-centric culture at your company that drivers will want to be part of.
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