Private Links: It’s not just about the money

by Bruce Richards

A recent article in this space concerning the shortage of qualified drivers drew a variety of responses, the most basic of which seemed to say ‘pay more and you’ll get more (and better) drivers.’ That’s not an uncommon opinion among some segments of the driver population, but it is an opinion that is not universally shared throughout the trucking sector.

I can well appreciate that some drivers say they want to earn more money. There aren’t too many people in this world that would say out loud that they are compensated adequately for their efforts.

Equally, I’m certain that there are employers in this industry that underpay or otherwise take advantage of their employees, including their drivers, but that would hardly make trucking unique in the business world. However, apparently not all drivers put more money at the top of their wish list.

In fact, surveys of drivers reveal that money is lower down on the list of things that attract them to certain employers – lower down than most people would think. Ranked above more money on the list of the things many drivers say they want are respect, decent hours, and fair pay for all work performed.

Conversely, when managers of drivers were surveyed about what they think their drivers want, many put more money near the top of the list. That disconnect in perceptions between managers and drivers may be contributing to the malaise that results in the ‘churn’ we are experiencing among drivers today. I’m referring to drivers who move from company to company in search of that seemingly elusive better job. Perhaps, if managers really understood what drivers want, and acted accordingly, the industry would see a significant reduction in this ‘churn.’

Cognizant of those earlier surveys of managers who think that drivers are primarily interested in more money, we consulted some PMTC member fleets for their thoughts.

Every one of the companies we consulted would be considered the type of employer a driver would like to work for, so perhaps what came out of our interviews wasn’t too surprising.

The most common responses from these employers included phrases such as: Respect; paying for all the work they do; make them part of the team; get them home at night wherever possible; show that you appreciate them; offer training; and listen to them.

It seems to me that these are all variations on the theme of respect. The responses indicate that these employers are very much aware of the importance of treating drivers with respect – the way most office employees have been treated for years. But there are still other employers that don’t get it.

Training is one good example of the disparity in the way employees are treated.

In the business world companies often provide, or pay for, skills upgrading for their office employees.

Often, a part of every employee’s annual development plan includes some ongoing educational component. Apparently companies clearly see the value of continuing education for office employees.

As a result, accounting clerks become versed in the intricacies of bookkeeping, senior managers get paid leave and tuition for MBA programs, transportation personnel become proficient in logistics, or perhaps become certified through the CITT – all subsidized by the employer. And of course there are countless other examples.

So why don’t these same companies consider the value of offering training and skills improvement to their drivers?

In many cases, drivers are simply expected to arrive on the job fully trained and competent, and to drive accident free throughout the term of their employment. Skills upgrading and career development for the drivers are not considered important to these companies.

In these unenlightened companies it is often left to the transportation manager to argue for money for training or upgrading the skills of the driver group because that type of expenditure is not on the radar of those in charge of the budget or indeed of the H.R. department.

Respect of course comes in many forms and in this article I’ve only touched on one. Respect also includes a decent work environment (looked at the condition of your driver room lately?), actively listening to and implementing the ideas and suggestions that drivers have to offer, knowing something about their family life and recognizing them as an important part of the team that makes the company successful. Not simply as easily replaceable parts.

Here at PMTC we’re proud to have so many members who recognize the importance of their drivers and who treat them accordingly. They learned a long time ago that it’s not only about the money.

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