Truck driving can be a thankless job. Product getting from supplier to vendor is often not a concern of any of us when we are out buying product off the shelves at our local stores. In times of crisis like the current COVID-19 pandemic, or even winter snowstorms, tornadoes and larger national storms like Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, trucking delays become the headline. Now, more than ever, we realize the importance of what a 2017 USA Today Survey listed as one of the top 20 worst jobs in America, and although becoming a shipper of choice means much more than just being driver-friendly, now would be a good time to remind everyone exactly why we should start there.
There are plenty of articles out there with ideas on how to be “driver-friendly” from a shipping perspective. I remember reading an article about the importance of this when I first began my career in the transportation part of logistics. One thing they all have in common, it starts with us. Truck drivers are human beings with lives. Driving product from shipping facilities to customers is a job, not their lives. Outside of their job, there are the same factors that we all face every day: job security worries, family matters, health concerns. Along with those factors are things that come with the job: traffic issues, road rage from other drivers, weather conditions, a list of regulations and restrictions, and delays beyond their control. All of these are in the mind of a driver upon arrival, so remember sometimes it pays huge dividends to simply be nice! Greet them with a smile, say hello, ask how you can help, and remember that no matter the situation a kind word or helping hand can go a long way.
The first step in being driver friendly begins with treating the drivers with respect and kindness. Drivers should not have to be bounced around by phone to get answers or contact the facilities. Upon arrival, effective communication as to the status of their loads or delays is important. Offer them necessities whenever possible. This includes a place to wait, bottle of water, coffee, and a restroom. Having a small but efficient area to wait can make the wait a little less intrusive while allowing them an opportunity to stretch their legs or spend a little less time in their own equipment. Remember that once on the road; drivers want to drive so getting a small break with a snack or drink can result in more time behind the wheel and faster delivery times for all.
Another way to be more driver friendly is to minimize the loading/unloading times. This task is perhaps one of the most difficult to do, but has probably the biggest impact for both carriers and shippers. Delays in loading/unloading are historically in the top five of all complaints from drivers. From a shipper’s perspective, detention costs money. Usually free time for loading or unloading is 1.5 to 2 hours, but typical wait times are much longer, especially during tough times such as these. Detention pay is also relatively small when compared to the lost revenue that carriers and subsequently drivers suffer from due to delays. Every minute the truck is not on the road is lost revenue. More importantly, delays at origin result in delays at the receiver unless the drivers can “make up” lost time. This can lead to dangerous conditions or violation in federal regulations. When a driver is late, often times receivers push back unloading which can ultimately result in the next load being lost and again lost pay for a driver. Our priority is to get our product to the customer on time, so setting up a driver for success by getting the load out in a timely manner is crucial.
Certainly, other small steps can be taken to ensure we become driver-friendly – understand things from their point of view, get paperwork together in a timely manner, and give simple respect for the job being done by the driver are some.
The key is to remember that when product leaves the facility and arrives at the receiver, the first face the customer will see is that of the driver. The driver is an extension of our company. A driver treated fairly and respectfully will carry that forward. If a driver has been treated poorly, it can reflect at the delivery with an attitude, or delay or even damage, all of which can hurt our reputation. When these small but meaningful gestures become the norm, drivers will want to come to our company and deliver for us, which, in turn, will make us more appealing to the companies for whom they’re employed by. This can lead to better pricing, increased capacity and low overall cost to everyone, but most importantly, it will lead to a satisfied customer. After all, isn’t that why we are all here in the first place?
Written by Stuart Alheim, Logistics Manager