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Holding on to all-important drivers

CLARESHOLM, Alta. - Keeping drivers from leaving for greener pastures, may be easier than you think.Treating employees well can work in any business, including trucking.At a small truck shop in Clares...


BIG TIME: A Watt & Stewart Pete glides along with yet another load of large Michelin tires.(Photo by Peterbilt)
BIG TIME: A Watt & Stewart Pete glides along with yet another load of large Michelin tires.(Photo by Peterbilt)

CLARESHOLM, Alta. – Keeping drivers from leaving for greener pastures, may be easier than you think.

Treating employees well can work in any business, including trucking.

At a small truck shop in Claresholm, Alta., the partners of Watt & Stewart Commodities strive to keep their drivers happy every day. It is all about being a team with a turnover rate of less than 25 per cent – their methods seem to be working.

You can’t hire blindly, mind you. You’ve got to listen to the answers given to a key question during initial interviews: “Why did you leave your last job?”

The most frequent answer is the drivers were away too long, says John Stewart, who together with Neil Watt, has co-owned the company for 14 years. That has meant running two fleets with close to 50 drivers.

An specialized operation, their drivers haul pipe, lumber and distribute Michelin tires in both Western Canada and the U. S.

Stewart says he and his partner realize the importance of getting their drivers home to spend time with loved ones. He adds the pay is not necessarily the top priority, “Once you satisfy that, it is more of the lifestyle and the home time which really makes a bigger difference.”

Special dates are always observed by dispatch, for example.

“We work around birthdays, anniversaries and holidays, all the good stuff,” says Stewart.

He explains a lot of people coming from other companies are out on the road four to six weeks at a time, and that is just too long. Watt and Stewart turn their trucks around in 10 days.

Company driver, Gary Bishop who has been with Watt & Stewart for two years says he is home generally every weekend and that’s very important. Bishop has been in the trucking industry for 30 years and appreciates the home time.

The perception Stewart is getting from drivers, is they want to feel respected and part of a team. Drivers want to be treated as a name not a number, Stewart contends.

And Bishop certainly agrees.

“I’m treated as part of a family. They (Watt and Stewart) are very understanding and easy to talk to.”

Another key is that there can be no barriers, either.

“I have drivers coming through my office all day long. Sometimes, just to talk,” says Stewart. “They know they can come in. There are no walls, no doors or little windows.”

Stewart says being a smaller company offers many benefits because they can treat their drivers for what they are, individuals. “Some of these big companies say they care about their drivers … It’s really difficult to care about 2,000 drivers.”

When the drivers at Watt & Stewart take their holidays, it’s rare for anyone else to use their rig.

“They have one truck, one trailer. We don’t like to mix them up. It costs some money to do that but it keeps them happy,” says Stewart. Annually, their drivers cover 7.5 million km, so the upkeep of their 36 Peterbilts is also a factor to hold on to drivers.

For Bishop, it is an added bonus.

“The truck is always reliable. Some breakdowns are unforeseen, but anything that is noticed is fixed right away,” he says.

Truckers and vehicles are both held dear. “I’ve got two trucks sitting right now but I won’t hire the first person who comes to the door. We haven’t had a major accident in over four years and we want to keep it that way,” says Stewart. n


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1 Comment » for Holding on to all-important drivers
  1. Ken knudson says:

    Good job to both of you. If you had been around claresholm when i was 20 i would have driven for you. Many enjoyable years ahead.

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