Tackling Driver Turnover – Part 6: Professionals
As I’m sure everyone is aware that this process cannot be successful by jumping around the different parts or dteps. Each section is designed to build on the last. So, we have done the groundwork, the platform, the safety focus, the communication level, the recognition level and now we’re going to talk about self-actualization or, as I also call it, the professional level.
When I ask for a show of hands during my regular speaking engagements of those in the audience who would prefer to hire good solid professional drivers all hands shoot up in the air, as you can imagine. Then when I ask for a show of hands for those companies who foster that preference with support of any kind, I usually get blank stares.
I have two different paradigms to offer for this section; first, I profess that there are three different distinct types of drivers in our industry and they break out like this. There are the truck stop cowboys. If they are owner-operators they could have hundreds of chicken lights on their truck and chrome on anything that is possibly available to chrome. If they are drivers then they would only work for companies with this type of equipment. These folks are often more enamored with the aura of being a big rigger than they are with actually being a professional.
Then we have the lost and forlorn. These folks are in the industry as drivers for only as long as it takes them to recognize their true calling in life. They are just biding their time. Fact is they usually bide their time in the industry for their whole life; motivation is not their strong suit.
Finally, we have what we want and need – the real professional driver. These folks try and be the best they can be at all times. They take pride in their work ethic, the industry as a whole and they ride for the brand. These folks would be good at whatever they decided to focus on as a profession; it’s just how they are made. My intuition tells me that this group represents the largest pool of our drivers. They don’t all know that they are this type though and it’s up to us to help get them there.
So back to my question to my audience, what do you do to foster and help professional drivers reach their maximum potential? As companies, we support all kinds of professionals in our businesses. We have CPAs and help them by paying their affiliation fees and by paying for them to keep current on tax laws and accounting practices. We may have folks with NATMI designations for certified safety managers and shop managers and so on. These certifications need to be renewed each year; we have diesel technicians that need to be current on new equipment for the fleet. However, what do we do to help our drivers reach their maximum potential?
Some time ago our fleet had to bring all our company drivers in on the weekend and train them on proper progressive shifting techniques. We also decided we would put them through an advanced defensive driving session. I recall expecting to hear negative comments along the line of how dare you pretend to be able to tell us how to drive a truck. What we got instead was an appreciation for the training that was offered. At that point, a light came on. What were we thinking? These folks want to be as good as they can be at their chosen career and when you stand back and think about it, it makes perfect sense.
We immediately went about researching educational material that we could offer them; advanced defensive driving, customer service, conversational sales. We shared information from our industry associations on notices of proposed rulemaking, we shared our company’s involvement on associations and what our stance was on pressing issues of the day. We made the information and much of the training available in our classroom so that when they were waiting for dispatch or a truck repair, they could fill in the time taking training and within a short period we had a significant number of our drivers and owner-operators registered and participating in the program.
We also decided that we would offer any available jobs that might come open in our office to our driving force. Before we did this, we had to nail down the role descriptions and educational levels required for each position and the necessary training levels. If a driver wanted to interview for a job inside the walls they were encouraged to do so. If they lacked the minimum criteria, we urged them to take online training courses to qualify for the next position that opened up.
Some took advantage of the offering but many of our drivers were not interested in coming into our office, and that’s fine, but by our offering to help them if that was their aspiration, we were showing them respect. We were showing them that they had value to our company that we recognized.
Once you’re done with this level of the driver retention project plan, you should be well on your way to getting a handle on your numbers. If done correctly, your company’s turnover should shrink by 33-50%. What we’re going to talk about in the final section of this series is what I call the circle of success; how are you going to continue to make gains in your numbers and how will you maintain them?
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