How to Baby your Drivers
Is it wrong of me to say that I don’t think there is any other industry where the employees are watched as much as drivers are in the trucking industry? That’s an accepted fact, correct? I mean, they’re watched and monitored like delinquent children—the lot of them.
“Who has to report in every hour of the day?” asked a dispatcher during Saskatchewan’s Annual General Meeting last year. Good question.
Typically, as a child becomes older and gains more experience, you give them more freedom, more responsibility; you trust them more and don't have to check in on them every hour. It's a natural evolution into adulthood. It's a natural evolution that happens in most jobs, too.
But not in this industry. Government regulations coupled with new technology designed for safety and monitoring take responsibility away from drivers. Hours-of-service is the obvious "this is your bedtime", increasing health requirements equal mom telling you to eat your brussel sprouts, cameras in trucks are akin to baby monitors, while other technologies, like active braking systems, take legitimate responsibilities away from the driver.
All of that technology is great for safety and efficiency, and arguably so are the regulations, but that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about are the subtle psychological effects of taking responsibility away from grown adults. Plus, it's an environment where you are watched constantly, where various people you meet throughout the day are suspicious of you (crossing the border is just horrible; I always feel like I have 80 pounds of heroin on me when I’ve never even seen heroin.)
It’s a fine line, to be sure. Clearly there's a need to monitor employees in an industry that is mobile. And there's not much we can do about regulations. Balance is needed, however. If drivers are going to be treated like children, then I think there is a need to implement more positive “child-like” programs.
Certain accounting firms have a concierge service for employees working long hours. Basically, if you need tickets to a Mets game for that trip to NYC you’re taking in two weeks, you can call up the concierge, give them the details, and they’ll do the legwork. They’ll even set up the vacation for you, do all the research, and get the best deals.
This would work great for long-haul drivers. If they’re working on Valentine’s Day or get held up and can’t make it home, they can call the concierge and have them send flowers and chocolates to the wife. Daughter’s birthday coming up and the tickets for that concert go on sale at 10am? Get the concierge on it. You’re taking responsibility away from the driver, but it's more thoughtful than anything, a way of saying "hey, you work long hours, you're away from home, let us help."
Another idea: A room with a big television, a Playstation 3, and some Blu-Rays would help during those times the driver has to wait around the yard for whatever reason. Toss in a few couches, some Doritos and orange pop, and you’ve got yourself a playroom. Some weights and a medicine ball wouldn't hurt, either.
If the nature of the trucking industry requires monitoring and checking up on employees like they are children who can’t make a pot of Kraft Dinner, then do other, more positive things for them—just as you would with your own children.
These are easy, relatively inexpensive solutions for keeping employees happy. And there are a ton of programs like this out there, all you have to do is look around. Programs like these show that you're taking care of your employees, not just monitoring them to ensure they stay in line. It also shows that you're a grown-up company that uses the latest and greatest HR practices.
If you take care of them, they'll take care of you.
I bet it’ll help with your recruiting and retention, too.