Improving the workplace for drivers doesn’t have to cost a lot

It’s been a tough year for trucking, which still finds itself within the grips of a freight recession that doesn’t want to loosen its stubborn grasp.

At the end of last year, we surveyed a handful of well-respected Canadian fleets to find out how they’re coping and what they foresee in the year ahead. Every single one of them emphasized a focus on cost containment, while many also stressed the need to do so while maintaining their talent – both in the office and behind the wheel — for when conditions improve.

driver in cab
(Photo: iStock)

But how do you ensure the quality of the workplace doesn’t suffer for drivers and other staff, while maintaining a laser focus on costs? Well, for insights, we turn to the annual Best Fleets to Drive For program, which just announced its Top 20 winners, as well as Hall of Famers and Fleets to Watch.

And we learn in doing so that fleets are still exhibiting resourcefulness and ingenuity to continuously improve their workplace, without necessarily adding top-line expense.

Here are some examples: there was an uptick in fleets offering formal management training to their managers. In the past, many driver managers were former drivers or others from the industry without previous experience in managing people.

Training managers

Training driver managers on how to effectively manage people improves the workplace for those drivers, develops a stronger management bench, and better positions the company for success when industry conditions improve. And…it doesn’t cost a lot of money.

Fleets also increasingly offered drivers with more formal mentorship programs, including periodic check-ins following orientation. Again, what’s it cost to regularly check in on a driver to see how they’re doing? Doing so can improve a driver’s chances of success and their comfort level within the organization.

The Best Fleets are also paying more attention to whom they’re pairing drivers, based on personalities or even primary language. Some are using personality profiles to match drivers with dispatchers or managers with complementary personalities.

And some are even looking for the first time at matching drivers with dispatchers or managers who share their same primary language, in a bid to improve communication and comfort levels.

Greater vacation flexibility

Pay increases may not be in the cards this year, but fleets are being more generous and flexible with the vacation time they offer. Yes, there’s a cost incurred in parking a truck or finding a replacement driver, but when a monetary increase isn’t possible, many drivers are equally happy to have some paid time off.

Leading fleets are also taking the opportunity to strengthen their roster of drivers, including reaching out to quality drivers who’ve left for greener pastures. Fleets that are no longer in a mad scramble to fill seats can now take the time to reconnect with past drivers who’ve moved on, and some are successfully luring them back. These fleets will be in a stronger position when freight picks back up.

Many fleets have automated these reach-outs; but judges say the most effective at getting back skilled drivers are making personal calls and restoring the personal touch.

Rerouting away from danger

An increasing number of fleets are also being more proactive about extreme weather and natural disasters, routing drivers out of harm’s way and helping them avoid danger areas. The cost of rerouting a driver is a small price to pay for the peace of mind the driver enjoys compared to being dispatched right into the heart of the storm, so to speak.

The Best Fleets to Drive For results are always interesting to slice and dice, and never fail to provide some interesting insights into how leading fleets are moving the needle in improving their workplace for professional drivers. This year, despite the financial constraints most fleets are operating within, proved to be no exception.

It also proved there’s still lots that can be done to improve the workplace for drivers, without spending a lot of money. You can read more about this year’s themes and trends here, or check out the inaugural Best Fleets to Drive For conference, where many more trends, tips and insights will be shared, here.

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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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