The times, they are a changing…but are you? You may have a yard full of new equipment, the latest technology and a vocabulary full of buzzwords, but do you still think like you’re in the dark ages?
We’re leaking bodies from the industry and like any leak, it’ll only get worse. There’s already a driver shortage. Although this in itself may not be affecting you right now, but it will, even if you’re currently fully staffed. As the shortage worsens, companies will raise their game and drivers that you thought were around for life suddenly fall down with ‘The grass is greener on the other side’ syndrome and hand in their two weeks’ notice.
I have a solution to not only recruitment and staff retention, but also to increased productivity. It’s very simple; all you have to do is put a smile on people’s faces. Happy workers are good workers. I base this on my own experiences of being an employer and an employee. I have put it into practice, as an employee by quitting a job if I was unhappy and as an employer by trying to create a happy working environment.
Now I said my solution was simple, I never said it would be easy though! As the saying goes, you can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You may have a solution that you use, but has it moved with the times?
Every year or two at most companies, drivers get a cent-per-mile increase. A driver doesn’t have to do anything to earn this reward, apart from not quitting. In my mind this does nothing to increase productivity, it just encourages drivers to stay under the radar. If nothing else changes and they continue to do this for the next 20 years, they’ll be earning another 10 cents per mile and can afford to do 10,000 miles a month instead of 12,000.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favour of rewarding loyalty, but will an annual/bi-annual increase be enough to stop people leaping to the greener side of the fence? Is it not time to introduce some kind of win-win situation for carriers and drivers?
The present system of rewarding length of service can mean that a 20-year veteran doing 10,000 miles a month will cost a company the same as a driver with less service doing more revenue-earning miles. That’s hardly efficient, it’s nice, but it’s not efficient and efficiency will play a very important role in the success of any carrier as they struggle through a driver shortage.
In the 21st century, efficiency is the name of the game. Fuel prices are going up quicker than rates, so carriers are looking at ways to make more of their revenue into profit. Aerodynamic trucks, side skirts on trailers, idle-reduction equipment, autoshift transmissions, speed limiters, turnpike doubles, team driver operations, all of these are investments. They all cost money, yet they all bring a financial return and this is why companies make the investments in the first place. But why stop at equipment?
If a company maximizes the potential of its existing workforce, it also becomes more efficient, which translates to more money in the bank, as has been proven with more efficient trucks and operations. So why not share this increased profit a bit? The current length of service increases only encourage mediocrity. Make no waves and keep your head down and little by little your wages go up. But how about a productivity-based bonus structure? Then everybody is a winner; drivers get more money and carriers make more profit – it’s hardly rocket science.
There are various ways to incorporate productivity bonuses, methods such as introducing mileage thresholds – an extra cent a mile for all miles over 10,000 for example – or bonuses for fuel economy or keeping under a specific speed. Maybe even an extra $50 per day for running out over a weekend. Any or all of these would be a good place to start. To go even further, the top five drivers could be rewarded with things like satellite radio subscriptions, meal vouchers or a Timmies Card.
One other thing that many of you will be aware of is what the driver leaves behind when he heads out on the road. For the driver it’s a delicate balancing act trying to keep family and the boss happy. If you’re going to reward the driver for running out over a weekend or doing a turnaround they’re not the only one making a sacrifice, their families also suffer. Your HR department has a contact address and the name of next of kin, so you could send them a Timmies Card or something branded with the company logo that will get used regularly, along with a small note of thanks. If you send out something with the company logo it will also have the benefit of being seen by others and therefore has advertising potential too.
Now all this may seem a little far-fetched, but trust me, a company that offers these kinds of incentives will not have driverless trucks in the yard when the driver shortage comes around. Add productivity bonuses to the current length of service increases and happy drivers will be encouraged to do their best while they stick around for years and years and the company will benefit from the increased productivity, so everyone’s a winner.