Truck News


What’s got me down? It’s a matter of time

Last month I closed off my column saying that carriers need to find new and creative ways of attracting and holding on to drivers. Shortly after submitting that column I was asked if I had an interest in participating in a panel discussion...

Last month I closed off my column saying that carriers need to find new and creative ways of attracting and holding on to drivers. Shortly after submitting that column I was asked if I had an interest in participating in a panel discussion regarding driver incentive programs.

So I thought I would wade into that topic here while it was still fresh in my mind. It also comes at a time when the Truckload Carriers Association will be recognizing the top fleets to drive for, as nominated by company drivers and owner/operators.
Several Canadian companies are in the top 20 group and you can read about them here in Truck News on page 40.

I work for a company that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best in the Canadian trucking industry in the way they care for their drivers and the core values that embody their operations.

In fact, a new incentive program was put in place Jan. 1 of this year for our drivers.

Despite that, I have still been experiencing feelings of discontent and anxiety over the past several months.

Colleagues have commented on the degradation of my outlook of late. A comment from a regular reader stated that although they had enjoyed a recent column they felt it was in a negative tone compared to my usual style. Another comment came from within my dispatch office regarding my negative reaction to a situation that had arisen and the feeling that it was out of character for me to react as I did.

Can I identify a single factor within my trucking lifestyle that leads to the daily stress I have been experiencing? Could a driver incentive program reduce my daily stress at the same time as providing me with a financial reward and reduce costs and improve profits for my employer?

Identifying the stressor in my daily life on the road is not difficult. It is time. Time is something I always take for granted but it comes up for me over and over again as the leading cause of tension in my life. The birth of my grandson last year led to a feeling of deep desire to spend more time with my family.

The recognition of my need to obtain regular exercise and rest requires a time commitment each and every day. My time is my most valuable commodity. When my time is being wasted or taken for granted, my immediate emotional response is usually one of anger and frustration leading to the feelings of stress and anxiety.

Then the endless hours of driving play their part as my mind locks on to those feelings and replays them over and over, building on them and strengthening them. The result is an internal conflict over the time I have available to accommodate my personal life and personal aspirations versus the huge block of time required to fulfill my professional obligations as a driver.
I often feel a lack of control over my time because so much of my day is dependent on the actions of others, specifically operations and dispatch along with the shippers and receivers I deal with.

So I was excited to see that profit-sharing programs are on the leading edge of new incentive programs being developed by carriers. Why? Because they have the potential to drive a greater level of cooperation and communication within trucking companies.

Too often productivity increases have been equated with a driver doing more within a given time or becoming more efficient with the use of their time.

Little attention seems to be paid to the fact that drivers already invest well over 3,000 hours a year in their jobs compared to the 2,000 hours most full-time workers put in.

That’s before you even consider that a driver also lives in his or her workplace. An incentive program needs to reward every employee within a trucking organization for removing inefficiencies that eat up a driver’s time.

Working longer and harder is not the answer. Incentive programs should lead to a driver having to spend less time accomplishing more through time-saving initiatives that are made in areas beyond the driver’s control or sphere of influence. Specifically, load planning and dock retention times.

This then allows me as a driver to focus on the issues of safety and fuel management (driving!) as well as free up time for my personal use.

Recognizing that the responsibility for productivity, safety, and profitability spreads far beyond the reach of the driver is the mark of a good incentive program. Simply plopping a program into place will not resolve all, if any, of the issues at hand. Hard work and a diligent effort is required by all of us. This is a good discussion to have at an opportune time. I hope the panel discussion I mentioned at the opening takes place. I’m already looking forward to it.

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