Are you fulfilling drivers’ wants and needs?

Recently, I heard someone refer to his wife’s shopping habits, describing her as a “want person and not a need person.”

Some time ago I had actually done some quick research on the internet about compulsive shoppers and found there is a small number of endorphins and dopamine released into the system when something is obtained or purchased, giving us a feeling of accomplishment. Unfortunately, some of us enjoy this feeling so much, and it’s so short-lived, that they get hooked and it becomes a destructive habit.

After hearing that phrase, I had a flashback to when I was at a truck dealership some time ago talking to a new driver. This fellow, new to the industry as a licensed A/Z driver, was determined to become an owner-operator ASAP.

As we chatted, I noticed he was eyeballing a couple-year-old conventional that was tricked out the wazoo. Next to the beautiful beast was a more conservative, aerodyne truck that was obviously going to be a far cheaper truck to operate.

Having been through the bling phase in my life when it came to large cars some years ago, I was trying to impart my years of wisdom and inform the newbie in no uncertain terms what the best decision would be for him at his point in his career. I went so far as to suggest that the net profit of the more aerodyne vehicle with less chrome would pocket the same net dollars in four years as the bling-mobile would earn him in five.

I’m no salesperson. I came at him with arguments like: 20% better mpg; ease of maintenance with less bling and unnecessary chicken lights; less capital expenditure; better cash flow; a lighter vehicle that will allow more payload.

He looked at me and said, “Yeah, but I have a young son, and I’d like to enter into some of the show-and-shine events with him this summer.”

What could I say? I wished him great success as an owner-operator and went on my way. This person knew what they wanted. The fact that it was way more than they needed meant nothing to them.

So, are you a need or want person? Suppose you strip it down and look at the famed psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In that case, you start with food and shelter, then move up the pyramid to things related to safety and security, then onto belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization.

(Photo: iStock)

As I overlay this line of thinking onto the current situation with driver turnover, it seems that many companies with high turnover struggle to supply what today’s driver needs, let alone the wants that are at the basis of driver retention.

According to Maslow, the base of this hierarchy pyramid is the need for food and shelter. To me, that means steady income. With that steady income, a driver buys food and shelter for his family. But if a company doesn’t give the driver work or miles, they won’t stay as their basic needs aren’t being satisfied.

The next level is safety. Can you provide a safe vehicle for them to drive and a safe work environment for them to work in? Because if drivers don’t feel safe and secure, they’re out of here.

If you’re a company that does not have the first two driver needs nailed down, you likely have a very high turnover rate. I would guess that you’re likely well over 100%. By overpromising and under-delivering, not paying at minimum market rate, having a questionable safety record – these all need to be corrected.

It’s the next few steps that I believe elude the majority of trucking companies. The third step is belonging. Does your company make folks feel like they belong to a community? How do you create that sense of community? Do you communicate through newsletters, social media, etc., and what do you communicate? Do you try and involve the drivers’ families? Do you have functions and opportunities for them to participate? If you do, I’m going to guess that you feel your turnover is manageable.

You feel like this because your turnover rate is at or around published industry averages.

If your company has mastered the first three steps and is also valuing its people and recognizing them regularly, I’m betting that you are on the low side of the turnover equation. If you’re past this point and assisting your folks to be everything they can be in their careers, then you’re likely best-in-class.

Your employees and your entire management team have built a company whose strategic advantage in the marketplace is its people. Congratulations to you. I’m sure you are dealing with best-in-class turnover numbers as well; 20% or lower would be my guess.

The need in driver retention is income and safety, which can be difficult. Transitioning from here to fulfilling the wants – belonging, esteem, and self-actualization – is where best-in-class companies win the game.


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Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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