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Don’t underestimate the importance of the driver

Drivers are ultimately responsible for safety, productivity, and profitability


Perhaps we have everything backwards. For years, we have been taking responsibility away from commercial drivers and putting our eggs in the technology basket.

Everything from trailer tails to electronic logging devices (ELDs) have been attached to the truck in the pursuit of productivity gains, cost savings, and road safety.

All of this technology flows from and is controlled (mostly) by the front office. But what drivers know and what they are proud to take ownership of, is that improved productivity, reduced costs, and road safety reside in the driver’s seat.

Let’s look at ELDs and how they are used by the driver. I’ve made it no secret that I’ve been using this technology for years and that I prefer it over paper logs.

The only reason I feel that way is because the carrier I work for has installed it as a tool I can take advantage of, and not a means of monitoring my performance and controlling what I do.

In the truck, I’m the decision maker. The carrier I work for trusts me. It’s that simple. I would bet that other drivers who endorse the use of ELDs work for carriers with a similar ethos. Drivers who don’t see any value in ELDs are having it imposed upon them in a manner that strips them of their dignity and effectively disempowers and demoralizes them.

The general impression I get as a full-time driver is that the industry is pouring a disproportionate amount of time and money into training employees who don’t have any practical experience at the point of contact where it really matters, the cab of every truck.

Drivers are the single human resource that has the greatest impact on productivity, safety, and profitability. Technological tools are just that, tools. Drivers should be able to employ them – not be controlled by them.

Why do so many carriers not recognize the simple fact that empowering their drivers is the key, not controlling their actions? The treatment of drivers is at the core of the driver shortage problem. You only need to talk to a large cross-section of drivers to understand this.

What about attracting millennials to the industry to solve the driver shortage problem? First, we need to solve the problem I outlined above, because millennials are savvier than the trucking industry gives them credit for.

We won’t attract them with shiny technological baubles. Millennials are the most highly educated generation we’ve ever produced. They care deeply about social issues, they want to impact the world in which they live in a positive way, and they want to be empowered to use their skills and education and adopt new technology to make those changes. The transportation industry needs to do an about face in how it is treating its drivers if it wants to attract millennials. It’s time for a culture change.

Millennials care about issues such as job creation and climate change. These are the areas the trucking industry should be looking at if it wants to attract millennials into the fold, because they are also areas that benefit the trucking industry.

As far as job creation goes, we have openings in abundance in our industry. But they are not enticing at this point. Empowering drivers is the path to getting more millennials in the driver’s seat. We need to be seen as an exciting opportunity to create change and make a difference in our world.

Climate change is something we don’t pay enough attention to. The transportation industry is one of the largest emitters of pollution. This is an area that we should be focusing on as a means of attracting millennials. Their education, skills, and enthusiasm can have a huge impact here. We can all win on this file.

The transportation sector is always putting forward the idea of recognizing drivers as skilled professionals, not general laborers. That means treating drivers as such and putting the responsibility for productivity, profitability, and safety where it belongs – in the driver’s seat.

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Al Goodhall has been a professional longhaul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his blog at www.truckingacross
canada.blogspot.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.


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1 Comment » for Don’t underestimate the importance of the driver
  1. Danno Cardinal says:

    I don’t work for a trucking outfit. As a matter of fact, I work as an employee that works as a long haul trucker for a manufacturing firm.

    What I like is I can tell them my opinion and my feedback, within respectable reason. We have challenges and we work them out like civilized adults, where my boss is my boss and I am the professional driver. Not many of us can say we work out of the office and make a living. The small group we have of drivers, are looked upon as people and not another “disposable commodity hauler”. Yes, we have rules, regulations and expectations. We have eLogs. However, we’re treated as professionals and staff and not idiots.

    Like I told my company’s CEO: respect and sense of appreciation is what keeps me with the company. I wish many trucking companies would do the same and that “big company recruiting revolving door” wouldn’t be needed. But then again, we can’t please every Tom, Rick and Jane’s….

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