Pitfalls to Look Out For In A Hiring Companyby Audrey Beim - Published: 5/18/2017
Truck driving can be a rewarding career and that brings job security and financial stability to any individual. However, like every occupation, there are some unscrupulous individuals or companies who may take advantage of their employees, especially those who are new to the industry. It’s important to new drivers as well as drivers securing a new position within the industry to be on the lookout as well.
Among the particularly large issues for many drivers is compensation, time off, a healthy work/life balance, and safety. Making a living from a trucking job is a tough career. This is demonstrated in part by the turnover rate within the industry. Though the figures for turnover are more positive than years past, the industry as a whole still sees a larger turnover rate versus other industries.
Some experts within the trucking industry reference the turnover rate for truckers as a result of “Abused Driver Syndrome” (ADS). This term is used to describe a driver’s behavior after being systematically abused by their employers.
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Types of Mistreatment
There’s no good reason any driver should ever be “abused.” Truck driving is a skilled and honorable profession and the operators of these big rigs should be treated with respect. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Career Burn Out
Burning out isn’t specific just to one’s truck driver job, but the pressure of being on the road for days and sometimes weeks at a time can cause higher stress than most vocations. Daily situations like sitting stuck in traffic while trying to make a delivery deadline, long waits at customer facilities and the challenge to find safe parking all add up to increased stress for drivers.
There is also the basic aspects of work that matters a great deal. Restrooms (availability and cleanliness) are among the top complaints of drivers, which is understandable after they have been on the road for hours at a time.
Carriers that take a moment to recognize the need for simple conveniences, services and amenities will capture the loyalty and commitment from drivers.For example, some companies have made changes to upgrade their company’s rest areas with better-maintained bathrooms, rest areas with comfortable chairs and tables, water fountains and snack machines to the great enjoyment of their driving teams. Treating drivers as first-class employees will absolutely increase job satisfaction and the company’s reputation for employee care.
Some who study the industry believe that the driver shortage goes hand in hand with an unsustainable level of working hours. It is not unusual for drivers to report that they reach 70-80 hours of work each week. This leaves almost no time to get home, spend time with family or to cultivate personal relationships.
In a recent survey conducted by Hire Right, 41 percent of drivers said they are leaving a truck driving job to spend more time at home. They simply are not happy or fulfilled with so much time away from family.
Currently, only about a third of companies offer flexible work arrangements. Trucking businesses who have drivers concerned with the lifestyle associated with a position in trucking should do their best to minimize load times and the number of miles they ask drivers to run so they can spend more time in their hometown.
However, a great deal of personal disappointment with routes and home time lies within a driver’s inability to understand company policies or the hours that a route requires. Drivers should understand when a run will require them to devote a great deal of time to the road, and they should not expect their employer to conform to their wishes simply because they misunderstood a driving assignment. Many companies in Texas may send their drivers out on the road for days, if not weeks at a time, and in accepting such a position, it is not necessarily a truck company’s obligation to ensure these drivers receive adequate home time.
Driving is a physically demanding profession. Sleeping, eating correctly and maintaining an exercise routine is a challenge due to the nature of the job. In the Hire Right survey mentioned above, 21 percent of truckers said they will leave their driving position due to health issues. This strongly suggests that carriers and owners take a closer look at wellness programs to increase retention and driver satisfaction.
Those who spend time on the roads are concerned about everything from flu shots to exercise plans to health benefits. About 88 percent of long-haul drivers suffer from one or more health issues such as hypertension, sleep apnea and obesity. Lifestyle packages and wellness opportunities will certainly have a positive effect on keeping drivers healthy and loyal. Regretfully, 45 percent of operators do not offer this type of support today, making this a wake-up call for owners.
Drivers across the country also face different health concerns. A trucking company in Florida, for example, may find that a program that promotes health in warm and humid weather is better than one that shows disregard for drivers working in sometimes extreme tropical conditions.
Long hours increase the risk of fatigue and increase the concern of safety on the road. A proper night's sleep will effect the safety of all types of drivers, but it is especially an issue with commercial truck drivers. Whether or not a tractor-trailer is loaded, sleepy drivers behind the wheel of a massive vehicle are particularly vulnerable to causing property and human damage.
A recent study by the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that 27 percent of long-haul drivers were found to average six hours of sleep or less per 24-hour period. Although the hours-of-service (HOS) regulations in 2013 were implemented to decrease the problem of overworking, it also reduced driver productivity for trucking companies. As a result, carriers need to ensure that their drivers are equipped with the necessary know-how and training that promotes safety on the road. It is essential for drivers in a traffic-heavy area like California to drive with concern and diligence.
Additionally, companies need to ensure that drivers are not being run too infrequently that they face fatigue and become a problem on the road. A company that asks drivers to put a load before their own safety (and the safety of others on the road) is one that is thoroughly problematic.
According to numerous studies, pay for truckers has failed to keep up with inflation in some respects. Low wages can become an issue for both new drivers and experienced operators since it is not uncommon for drivers to be paid only by the mile. This means that the extensive time spent doing the tedious work of driving (fueling a truck, etc) is hardly ever met with driver compensation. Some companies may offer “pay for every situation” but this pay may be few and far between as well as incredibly specific in what situations it calls for. Specifically for new drivers, this may seem unfair and may lead to a feeling of “abuse.” Drivers in this situation may feel taken advantage of, regardless as to how common the practice may be in the industry.
Men are From Mars…
As bad as truck drivers have it sometimes, it can usually be more challenging for female truck drivers. Current estimates put women big rig drivers at a small six percent of all long-haul operators, although experts in the field predict their presence will grow.
Women often face discrimination in the workplace when driving a commercial truck as well as more serious safety and harassment issues.It is the responsibility of the carrier to provide a trusting and protective environment for all drivers and address the unique vulnerabilities that women may face on the road.
This issue is taken very seriously by national organizations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has an entire section devoted to driver harassment prevention and encourages drivers to file written complaints whenever necessary.
Women have the potential to help reduce the shortage of drivers in the industry, but only if companies can convince them that are welcome and provide a secure workplace. The Women In Trucking Association in Wisconsin has been an industry recognized name for ensuring women are treated fairly and respectfully across the commercial transportation industry.
The Company’s Perspective
Carriers are under pressure themselves trying balance financial factors, long-term company goals, and driver wellness. But the turnover rate should be wake up call to carriers and fleet managers. How they train new drivers and how they’re treating the rest of their driving fleet influences the trust and relationship between employer and employee.
It is essential for every company, regardless if they have a fleet of 100+ trucks or are a small organization, to realize that unhappy drivers are bad for business and bad for the industry.
It is stunning to learn that that 90 percent of drivers decide they will stay at an organization within the first six months on the job, yet. Unfortunately, 32 percent of companies surveyed are not utilizing retention tactics for new hires.
Onboarding New Hires
This process of “onboarding” new employees sets the tone for the future. Like anyone pursuing an occupation they are enthused about, a driver’s first impression matters. Helping a new hire adjust to the social and performance phases of their new role quickly and smoothly will benefit everyone. A new employee should feel like part of the group and managers would be wise to introduce and include their families into the culture.
An effective onboarding program can shorten a driver’s learning curve, increase productivity, facilitate compliance with company policies, and improve job satisfaction and retention.
After they begin driving for a company, managers should check in with the driver from time to time to make sure they are satisfied and not facing unexpected obstacles. This is especially important during the first few days and weeks when the excitement of starting something new might begin to wear off. A friendly and welcoming environment will make a new hire feel like part of the team and want to become a contributor to the success of the organization.
Eyes Wide Open
This information is not meant to scare anyone away from a job as a trucker. It’s meant to deliver honest information and knowledge for those entering the industry and pursuing a new truck driving career. Trucking is a noble profession, can build self-esteem and provide a long and happy career.
Nevertheless, drivers of any experience level should be wary of companies that present them with unprofessional roadblocks or that do not provide for what is a fulfilling and meaningful career.