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When Life Is A Highway

What drivers want and how companies are complying
Driver Hwy_MS

“Putting ELDs and cameras in trucks is part of the push against smaller operators,” Christenson says. “If you get tied up in traffic, you can’t get any work done, and you force yourself to drive all night to make up for the lost time, which is a major safety issue.

“And the ELD costs $5,000 plus a monthly service fee, as opposed to a log book which I can buy for $3,” he remarks. Christenson also mentions speed limit governors, intended to protect big fleets from liability, as a step in the wrong direction—noting they often restrict trucks from driving at the same speed as cars—a situation that can turn deadly if a smaller vehicle with a distracted driver tries to get around a slower-moving big rig.

Changing For The Better:
A Success Story

Last year, Capitol City Produce Company, LLC, a family-owned shipper in Baton Rouge, LA launched a major expansion, nearly doubling the size of its facility and increasing its truck fleet. When COO Darin Arceneaux spoke with his drivers, he was surprised to learn they had concerns—unrelated to pay. The resulting conversation led to changes that benefited Capitol City’s truck drivers and management alike.

How did this process come into being?
Our drivers wanted a forum for being listened to, not just safety meetings where they are spoken to. At the first meeting, most of the conversation was about how they could learn from each other to be better drivers—not about pay, as you might have expected! Our drivers want to be respected for their role in providing for their families, for their personal dignity, and for their talent. Changes were made to the transportation department to ensure respectful leadership and attention to accountability.

Have you successfully built a rapport with your drivers?
It’s important that leaders ride with drivers on occasion to experience their work day and show a sincerity about wanting to understand their full role, their challenges, and their ideas for making progress. Riding with a driver in the French Quarter of New Orleans was eye opening! The tight spaces, the aggressive ticketing for parking, and the [secret] passageways for finding the back door to restaurants made a deep impression.

Measuring how it has worked out is not always obvious, but I’ve made a few observations. We routinely receive compliments about our drivers—as an example, a customer recently called us about a driver who had phoned to alert him that foggy conditions would delay arrival. That’s a driver who understands customer service; he’s also a long-term driver, thereby demonstrating the value of retaining those who enjoy serving others.

Have you kept up this approach since your initial meetings?
Quarterly driver forums continue and are completely voluntary. Attendance is very good and communications are excellent. We also hold annual ‘town hall’ meetings to keep all employees on the same page about progress in the company, what we’re focused on, and most importantly, why we’re leading the company in the direction communicated.

What Do Shippers Want?
Despite the often-contentious relationship between drivers and their employers, they both want the same thing: professional, safe, and on-time delivery of perishable produce. And although both sides are on the same page more often than not, it’s in every company’s interest to hire and retain the best haulers they can find.