Assess your wants and needs when choosing a carrier to drive for

Ray Haight
@RayHaight

What do you really need if you’re a driver looking for a job? At a cursory overview, it’s not that complicated. First, you need to be satisfied that you will be paid a reasonable rate, either hourly or by the mile, percentage of revenue – whatever the method.

A rate that will fulfill your cash flow needs and hopefully help you and your family to get ahead. It seems simple, right?

The unknown is where things get sloppy. For example, the revenue per mile is reasonable, but how many miles are available? The rate can be a buck a mile, but if you don’t get a fair number of miles, what good is it?

Here is some unsolicited advice, driver: understand what your needs are, and go armed with your own facts when looking for a job. Add up all your payments (ie. mortgage, car, cable, utilities, whatever you might have, fixed and variable) and then divide that number by the after-tax revenue per mile you’re being offered. Now you know the minimum number of miles you’ll need to do to break even and what you’ll need to drive to get ahead of the game.

Now that you are comfortable with the wage, you need to feel confident that your equipment is safe and that it won’t put you in harm’s way. When talking to other drivers at your employer’s business, what do they say about maintaining the equipment? Is there a good support system when out on the road?

It’s two am on a Tuesday night in the middle of Tennessee, and you have a flat tire or a hot truck. What is the procedure to get it fixed and back on the road? Does the company have your back, or are you on your own until someone from operations answers the phone?

Talk to some of the other company drivers about the company’s shop. Do they keep their appointments for scheduled maintenance, do the mechanics listen to the drivers when they try and explain the issue, or ignore years of driving experience because they have a newly minted mechanic’s licence?

Now for the wants 

Most of what we want, we don’t even notice until we have a few trips with our new company. Maybe after a paycheque or two, there may have been issues with accuracy. How has the company responded to them?

Do they encourage questions from drivers? Do they provide answers in an accurate, timely fashion, or do they procrastinate? Does the company bring the drivers into its communication loop? Or are they keeping the drivers in the dark?

Open, honest communication is key to creating a positive sense of community and to lowering driver turnover. I give you information because I trust you.

If I don’t offer information, it’s because I don’t care about your opinion. I hired you to pick it up at A and deliver it to B. What else do you need to know?

Does the company have an effective recognition program? Recognizing people for their accomplishments is the quickest way to show respect. When I see drivers being recognized for their efforts both on and off the road, it tells me this company cares about its people.

I’m not talking about recognition for the sake of recognition. I’m talking about actual accomplishments by real people. That can be for accident-free miles, acts of bravery on the road, acts of kindness, being involved in the community, charitable acts, etc.

When I talk to carriers about what they recognize, it is usually a little bit of a letdown for me. People do amazing things every day, all the time. You just have to start looking for it, then they become obvious. Share those things, and everyone will walk a little taller.

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Opportunities for advancement

Is there an opportunity at your company that you can’t get elsewhere? Could you take a job inside the business? Is there a program to facilitate that? Do they ask drivers for their input on specific truck spec’s? Do they show you what is happening inside and outside the business’s walls? How about what is going on with legislation or notices of proposed rulemakings? What does the future look like from the company’s perspective?

If you decide to drive for a company and find out soon after starting that the first two needs – compensation and safety – are not going the way you were told they would, you’re looking to get out and on to the next opportunity.

On the other hand, if the first two needs are positive and then you see the company supports its drivers with the additional wants, you’ll likely stick around for a while. Those extra ‘wants’ are going to make you feel comfortable there. You know what’s going on in the company, and they seem to value your input. It takes all of the above to begin to create a positive sense of community within your business because in the end, people stay in situations they like, and they leave the ones they don’t.

 

 

Ray Haight

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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