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Extra communication efforts go miles to make drivers feel part of a team

It’s always a good time for carriers to implement positive changes to the driver experience. But as National Truck Driver Appreciation Week kicked off on Sunday, now is prime time to make those lasting improvements to show the trucking industry’s most crucial people — drivers — just how much they are valued.

One of the most basic but important ways that a carrier of any size can show how much they value their drivers is actually an effort that doesn’t cost anything: Make drivers feel like they are part of a team. 

In trucking, this can be easier said than done. While in traditional jobs you may spend all day around your co-workers, trucking is largely a solitary profession. Brian Runnels, VP of safety at Reliance Partners — a trucking insurance agency helping clients with risk mitigation through safety consulting — said it’s not unusual for long-haul drivers in remote areas to go almost an entire day without speaking to another person. Over-the-road drivers may also go a long time without returning to a terminal and seeing dispatchers and fellow drivers in person. 

While some drivers enjoy keeping to themselves at work, eventually feelings of detachment or isolation from the larger team may surface.

“I didn’t mind the solitude, but there were times I kinda wished I just had somebody to talk to,” Runnels said, referencing his time as a truck driver. “That’s where calling dispatch or just calling somebody at the company can come in.”

When drivers call dispatch or safety staff, or vice versa, sometimes it turns into a longer conversation in which drivers vent about frustration or stay on the line longer simply because they’re bored. While dispatch and safety team members have busy jobs as well, taking that extra time to listen to and speak with drivers can be powerful. This is especially important to consider as Runnels noted that a lack of communication is also often a common driver pain point.

“I understand that there are times the phone can’t be answered or there are other priorities pulling dispatchers away, but try to keep communication open,” Runnels said. 

When answering a driver’s call isn’t possible, staff should do their best to keep in touch with drivers through other forms of communication, such as text messages and email. This allows them to keep conversations going with multiple other drivers at once.

Communication efforts should also extend from upper management. Leadership should keep drivers informed about company news — even if that’s through mass messages or videos. If drivers never see or hear from higher-ups in the company, it can cause communication gaps that make drivers feel out of the loop compared to in-office team members.

“It is easier now to engage with drivers and give them updates about the company and the industry as a whole. I think that helps. If you can stay in communication with them, and they feel like they’re getting good information and they’re being supported, that goes a long way towards retention efforts,” Runnels said.

Recently, Runnels visited a facility of a large company that has a daily 10-minute driver meeting. Group meetings such as this can help build that sense of shared community.

Digital initiatives to keep drivers in communication with each other can include closed social media pages and discussion groups so drivers from the same company can keep in touch. This can be invaluable to drivers to share wins, find solutions to problems or just meet people from their company they may otherwise almost never cross paths with in person.

Leadership can also use social media — somewhere where drivers are already active — to share updates about company news.

Putting extra effort into communicating with drivers costs a company a minimal amount, but it goes a long way toward making drivers feel like they are part of a team. 

“It’s a lot more expensive to try to find new drivers than maybe put a little bit of time and effort into staying in front of them just with simple communication,” Runnels said.

Click here to learn more about Reliance Partners.

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