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Making driver appreciation a year-round event


National Trucking Week will be celebrated across Canada Sept. 1-7, but winning fleets – and even manufacturers – have come to the realization driver appreciation should be celebrated year-round.

Don’t get me wrong, I applaud all fleets and suppliers that take time during National Trucking Week to acknowledge the important role professional truckers play in moving our economy. However, I also believe there are ways to give back to drivers that can be enjoyed all year.

Successful fleets are doing just this, through the facilities they build, and truck OEMs have been inspired to follow suit, producing a new generation of trucks that are easy to operate and comfortable to live in while on the road.

To give an example, I recently visited Giant Tiger’s sprawling new distribution center and trucking headquarters in Johnstown, Ont.

The 680,000 sq.-ft. facility was constructed with drivers in mind. There, drivers enjoy a games room, subsidized and healthy food options, a ‘quiet’ room for reading or resting, and even laundry services.

Drivers are treated like the company ambassadors they are, all year long. And the drivers I chatted with were loyal and grateful. Giant Tiger doesn’t have a driver retention issue.

Now, I realize private fleets often have corporate resources behind them that for-hire carriers do not. But there are many other fleets that have put a driver-first attitude into construction of new facilities.

And that, in turn, has inspired others. Last month I traveled to Seattle, Wash., where I attended a Peterbilt customer event and sat down with on-highway marketing manager Wes Slavin. The company was showcasing its massive new UltraLoft sleeper.

Slavin told me the sleeper was inspired by the efforts fleet customers were going to in order to provide a comfortable home terminal for their drivers. Things like driver lounges and concierge services were making home life more enjoyable for drivers, and Peterbilt realized life on the road should be equally comfortable.

Thus, the large, well-designed and comfortably-appointed UltraLoft sleeper was born, and it’s been an absolute hit with fleets.

Peterbilt isn’t the only truck manufacturer to have figured this out. Look at the new generation of highway trucks – they all provide unprecedented driver comfort. The degree to which these amenities – extra storage, premium mattresses, heck, even satellite TV – are spec’d out are still dependent on the fleet, but options are now available that make life on the road as comfortable as it can be, given the space constraints of a highway truck’s dimensions.

One of my favorite recent innovations is Volvo’s reclining bed; no longer do you have to watch TV propped up on one elbow, you can raise the bed and sit in total comfort. Things like swiveling passenger seats and dinette sets that fold out of the way when not in use also make the truck more livable than it’s ever been.

Driver amenities at home terminals and ultra-luxurious sleeper cabins may not solve the trucking industry’s driver issues, but they sure make the demanding job much more comfortable, day in and day out, all year-round.


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.
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