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When Life Is A Highway

What drivers want and how companies are complying
Driver Hwy_MS

Safety & training
Safety and training are also important to hiring and retaining good drivers; the Bureau of Labor Statistics claims a fatality rate of 22 per 100,000 drivers, the highest of any profession—and no amount of compensation or respect is worth a life.

Pingel cites a safety culture—where drivers are given all the tools needed to do the job comfortably—as his number-one way of attracting and retaining good drivers, while Tilden Curl, another owner-operator, believes proper job training is the primary difference between a good driver and a bad one.

“There’s general training and training specific to each type of hauling you do,” observes Curl. “It helps if new drivers can operate around seasoned drivers for a couple years before being put out on their own,” he notes. “Another challenge on the road is knowing all the rules,” he stresses. “Sometimes they change from place to place, and you need classes just to keep up.”

Work-life balance
Three crucial factors to building a skilled fleet of drivers—retention, satisfaction, and motivation—are affected by much more than what’s happening on the road. Drivers have families, private lives, and many other interests outside the job, and most are concerned with maintaining these interests under conditions where they’re traveling hundreds of miles away for extended periods of time.

“Some of the biggest challenges come in balancing work and home time, and you need to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor,” says Curl. “You have to assist drivers in being able to attend to their families’ needs and provide them with a clear pathway to having some privileges in life without cutting into pay too deeply.

“Drivers have very little flexibility in their operating hours,” Curl continues, “and an accident, bad weather, road construction, and even vehicle inspections can eat into the schedule,” he explains. All of these factors can be incredibly stressful, he adds, and supervisors need to be careful about adding more pressure than drivers “are prepared to handle.”

Costs Of Doing Business
For the fortunate and skillful, trucking is a profitable business, but it’s also an expensive one. With a few dips along the way, the adjusted price of fuel has risen steadily since 2000, while driver pay has decreased during the same period. But many costs, some drivers believe, are avoidable and come from the top at the operator’s expense.

Christenson singles out ELDs—electronic logging devices—as a major culprit; the devices, meant to monitor a driver’s progress on the road, make no distinction between unavoidable delays, can lead to unsafe conditions, and are financially painful for operators.