Getting the Most Out of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week

The biggest goals of National Truck Driver Appreciation Week are to make drivers feel more a part of the team, that they matter as human beings to people that own and run the company they work for, and to encourage them to keep participating in that workplace to the best of their ability.

The Barriers:

Often, we see teams do things that from their own perspective would indicate inclusion and lead to increased connection to the company. However, these activities or initiatives are not always what drivers themselves need to experience in order for them to feel that way. When we survey drivers, we’ve learned the biggest barriers to making them feeling included as a part of the team are almost always:

  • The incredible lack of transparency surrounding how decisions get made in the company
  • What (if anything) the company does to keep track of how the drivers as a group think about aspects of procedure and the workplace in general.
  • Whether or not this gets shared extensively with the drivers to create a group-wide perspective on how many people experience an issue, how important it is to the long-term health of the fleet, and whether or not it merits significant resource investment. If not shared, drivers are left to make their best guesses and assumptions about these things, which are rarely accurate and frequently lead to damaged driver-company relationships.

Those are the things that help the drivers learn about why things are done the way they are at their employing company, and helps them feel like the opinions and experiences of the drivers are important enough to the ownership and management team to be actively monitored.

They also happen to be things that extremely few carriers do consistently, and to the extent required, in order to achieve the end results for which they hope. These issues are often compounded by the fact that drivers often get multiple answers from different staff and departments about how/why certain policies and decisions are made, indicating that these things are rarely communicated effectively even to internal staff. Then, because there is so little clear and accessible information on how many drivers have concerns or questions about which items, the team as a whole has limited and/or inconsistent perspective on how important it may be to clarify which issues first, when to push back on squeaky wheels or take concerns seriously, and which issues should be prioritized as turnover loss indicators.

The Consequences:

In the end, this leads to a team and workplace filled with people eager to do a great job, but confused and hesitant to make declarative statements in defense of company policies. The entire management chain may have a completely inaccurate and anecdotal perception of how many drivers are actually affected by, or confused about, certain issues.

This, in turn, leads to drivers experiencing this during interactions with your team. It leads them to the perception that policy decisions are not necessarily made in ways that consider their well-being, and that the team is constantly out of touch with what they want and need from them as an employer organization. This is rarely true, but the drivers we speak with do not come to this conclusion for no reason.

The Solution:

How can you have a better Driver Appreciation Week than ever before? That’s what we obsess about at CDL Helpers, and it’s what we do for our customers every day. So, I wanted to share some DIY tips, and help carriers get results next month, even if we aren’t working with them yet.

In the end you will need to set an agenda and items you want to engage with your drivers about, establish a uniform message about those issues that your entire organization will be responsible for knowing and relaying to the drivers, collect data to use to create visualizations and charts, and share that data with your drivers to show them what you’re learning from them and how you might respond as a team to what you’ve learned.

That’s a pretty tall order, and a complex path to boot. So, here’s a road map with some starter examples:

Step 1: Agenda & Action Items

You will need to pick 2 or 3 primary topics that you know create conflicts with the drivers sometimes, and use them as the focal point for your push to get your team to address these with your drivers in a way that will actually engage them, clear up any issues, and allow your team to collect data on how the fleet experiences them. A couple easy and common items we encounter at just about every customer we’ve worked with, are things like:

  • Speed Limiters - Why are they set at the speed they’re at? There’s plenty of great reasons for it, but we have yet to encounter a company where every single dispatcher, safety leader, manager, and staff person actually provides a consistent response to the drivers on this. Set the message your entire team should be pushing out about how this decision was made, and welcome feedback about it. Keep track of that feedback, and use it to answer questions like, “How many drivers are upset or not about the limit we’ve chosen?”, “What are the common objections to this among our drivers, and how can we use that info to prepare our team, new team members in the future, and new drivers during orientation to understand our decision making process about this?”, and “How many drivers would be willing to achieve higher mpg or x years of safe service in order to earn an increase in speed?”
  • Detention Pay – Many carriers we’ve worked with have unclear (at least to the drivers) processes or procedures for how detention pay is determined to be awarded or not, and the challenges the internal team faces when attempting to determine this on their behalf. Some we’ve worked with had literally no set process at all, leaving staff and drivers to cross their fingers and wait days on a case by case basis. Set a uniform process and message your team should be sharing with your drivers about this issue, and empower them to seek driver feedback about this issue. You might be surprised how many drivers suffer delays due to team behaviors that are far outside their control, and yet, they get nothing. In two separate studies, we found roughly 25-35% of the fleets we were surveying experienced uncompensated delays in any given month due to team performance. 30-40% of drivers at many fleets we’ve surveyed cannot describe the process by which detention is determined at either an individual level, or company policy level. Almost every fleet we’ve surveyed has indicated that detention and problems surrounding it are far more frustrating, generate more ongoing relationship damage, and are more directly tied to turnover losses than total pay amounts. Have your team seek feedback from your drivers about this issue, and make sure the data helps you answer questions like, “How many drivers feel our detention pay process and amount is adequate?”, “How many indicate they do not understand the process and the deliberative process behind the policy?”, “How many drivers experience delays that do not qualify, and how much might it cost to cover those to reduce conflicts between staff and drivers?”, and “How many drivers have had to take additional action in order to ensure detention pay was received?”. These will help your team, both staff and drivers, gain a mutual perspective based on fact-driven data regarding one of the more commonly contentious issues.
  • Layover Pay – Same concept, different policy. How many of your drivers have been within an hour or two, or sometimes even minutes of qualifying for a layover with pay, only to be disqualified and remain uncompensated for sometimes 6 or even 12+ hours of inactivity, even though they were ready to work? Based on our surveying, it is likely way more than you might think. How damaging do you think that is to their relationship with the company and their direct supervisor? Based on our data, you may as well flip a coin (About 50% of drivers that report this issue end up leaving on average) to see if they stay for more than 90-120 days following such an incident. What about the number of times that happens during a month? A week? If you knew those numbers, you’d be able to connect that issue to what it’s costing you in turnover, and compare that to what it would cost you to pay for that time. What about the amount? What percentage of your fleet feels the layover amount is adequate/inadequate? Even if you can’t change it in the near future, you will know how important it might be for you to explain the current amount to the drivers, the barriers to increasing it, and set clear company goals to get it increased by a certain date provided certain targets are met.

These are just three super obvious items, but hopefully they set the stage to help you start your driver engagement process there, or develop your own ideas for what may need your attention when it comes to your own fleet. But, this is all very complex stuff to study. There could be a lot of variety in feedback. You will need to make sure that the method by which you collect the data, and store the data will actually lead to results that are meaningful and share-able.

Step 2: Study Design & Data Collection

When we help people design studies we tell them there are a few key things to remember in order to end up with data worth using and sharing:

  • Try starting with either a discovery study (i.e. - what are the most common suggestions about an issue? Use this to generate data to show which ideas or problems are the most popular), or a binary condition study (i.e. – has a person experienced something or not? Use this provide clear and quantitative answers to a single question). This will create simple data that is easy to calculate, store, reference, and share.
  • You will need 2 questions for every 1 thing you want to know about. One question will be the one that the charted data should be able to answer without as few words to explain the chart as possible. The other question is the one that will be asked in order to gather the data about what condition is met or not met. This will help you make sure that you do not collect data that cannot be used to answer a specific question, and simultaneously generate the guideline script for your team while defining the purpose of the study to everyone involved.
  • ONLY ever collect data that you will be sharing with your drivers. Positive or negative results should not change whether it’s shared with your team. Hiding results will not change reality, it will only make it seem like you don’t care about what they have to say, and prevent you from taking control of the conversation. Besides, if the results are negative, that conversation is already happening without you. So, take it by the horns, and make the conversation one that makes it clear you’re aware, you’re invested, and shares any plan you may have for addressing it long-term.

An example would look like this:

  •  2-Question Setup:
    • The question mgmt. will be able to answer: How many of our drivers experience X in Y time period?
    • The question staff will ask the drivers: Have you experienced X in the last Y days?

Then, you need to collect that data, preferably in a way that will let you follow back up with individuals based on their answers later. We built software that makes this super easy, but the DIY’ers out there can use Excel. Here’s the easiest way to get basic info collected without using our software:

  1. Create a sheet for each action item or issue to be addressed.
  2. Copy/Paste your full driver list of names into each sheet in the first two columns
  3. If you want to be able to separate the feedback by division, training location, dispatcher, etc. You will need to add columns for that after the names.
  4. After the driver info columns, add your questions that the staff will be asking in the header of the columns to the right of the driver info columns.
  5. For simplicity, you can use 1 for Yes/True, and 0 for No/False in the answer spaces in rows. Each row will contain a different driver’s answers. For questions that do not have a binary answer, make brief notes that can be boiled down to “buckets” or categories by the coordinating manager based on what the notes contain.
  6. If you have multiple people gathering data, give them separate copies of the workbook that either contain all drivers, so they may enter data for drivers only they speak with, or limit the drivers contained in their version of the workbook to only those drivers they will be responsible for engaging with.
  7. Set a deadline for data collection, and a minimum amount of acceptable participation (i.e. – minimum amount of drivers covered per person, etc.).
  8. Have all sheets turned into the person in charge of the “master” workbook, and copy/paste to combine the data.

Once you have collected the data successfully, you need to convert it into shareable content, and you need to push that back to the drivers and staff alike to foster ongoing conversation.

Step 3: Sharing Findings & Getting Results

Most teams know how to create charts, and visualize basic data as we’ve described, so we won’t cover that here. However, feel free to reach out to us for advice if your team needs help!

Once you’re able to show people what you’ve learned, capitalize on that to the max! You can use certain information as a recruiting tool to show your fleet satisfaction rate with certain things. You can use the charts as training and education tools in meetings with department staff. You can share them during driver town-hall meetings to take control over the conversation and prove that not everyone has the problem a certain trouble maker is trying to make noise about. You can use them in orientation to teach incoming drivers about issues they may be likely to experience, show you are aware of them, and start off discussions about what to do when they encounter those issues.

Sharing data and information is empowering to your team. Every single member of your team would benefit from being more informed about real fleet perspective and stats. It makes them more confident in their leadership and that leadership’s awareness of problems, and it gives your company’s leadership figures more control over how your entire team discusses and responds to those problems from that moment on.

What we’ve just covered is true path to driver engagement. They may appreciate a barbeque, and some hand-shakes and good conversation with an authority figure every once and a while, but those are band-aids on a problem that requires way more investment of time and effort.

Drivers don’t just want to be “heard” by one person, and then have that one person in a sea of people at the company be more aware of their singular opinion.

They want to see the entire team, and especially ownership/executive figures get involved in demonstrating how the company makes decisions that affect them, that the company cares enough about them to invest real time and resources into documenting their experience in the workplace those decisions create for them, and they want supervisors that are informed enough about these issues to engage in meaningful debate and reflection on that experience.

What do you stand to gain? Well, I’ll reference just one case study of ~600 New Hires over 5 months. Even if we limited it down to one issue discussed with drivers using this method of direct and data driven engagement… The drivers that discussed that issue with us, turned over at 25% over 6months. The drivers that didn’t, turned over at 41%. Just that one issue alone being addressed differently, and not even companywide, led to 22 drivers staying in their seats. Real engagement leads to real turnover reduction, and that leads to real money in the bank.

Tell us what you study! Tell us what you achieve this September! Ask us for help, and we’ll be happy to do whatever we can to help you get the most out of National Driver Appreciation Week.