Take a Road Trip
Whether you own or manage a small trucking company, or both, remember you need to not only maintain your CDL, but get out of the office once in a while.
Set yourself a goal of getting out from behind the desk and at least out in the yard a couple of times a week. Join one or two of your drivers as they do their initial PTI before they pull out some morning. Check to make sure they’re doing a thorough PTI by conducting one of your own. If they weren’t taught a careful, methodical procedure, whether at their driving school or from hands-on experience, now’s the time to catch it and give them a better way to do one. It’ll save you and your mechanic a lot of grief later, not to mention less headache complying with the CSA.
Every month or two take a load and run one of your trucker’s routes. Route yourself, if possible, to go to that particular shipper or receiver you overhear your drivers complaining about. Yeah, drivers always gripe – but by sitting in their left seat from time to time, you’ll get 1), a better perspective and 2), the chance to discover solutions that just don’t appear from behind the desk but are obvious from the backside of a windshield. Another plus is that you reconnect with distant customers that would be difficult to visit otherwise and it provides opportunities to find additional freight as you seek to solve problems and challenges your truckers face.
As an example, you’ll see whether that little mom-and-pop truckstop that always had great pie and a never-ending cup of coffee for all the truckers managed to hang on during the Great Recession. If it didn’t, and their place is closed, is there another good place to eat, or are your drivers having to eat at fast-food joints along the way? And while you’re at it, if you’ve got a driver that’s had a problem with alcohol in the past, be sure the easiest place to pull in and grab a bite isn’t a bar. No, I’m not saying you have to baby-sit your drivers. They’re grown men and women, and they know the law as well as you do. But it doesn’t hurt for you to be aware of a new danger out there, especially if it’s some sparkling new casino or popular watering hole with live entertainment.
If the places to eat alongside many of the lanes your trucks operate in are now looking like the greasy spoons in bad movies, consider installing refrigerators and a microwave in each of your company trucks or arrange for a bulk purchase at a discount for your owner/operators. Meals from home carried in a refrigerator and heated in a microwave are far healthier. Besides, you know that a restaurant with a bunch of trucks parked around it just means it’s a great place to park a truck – not necessarily a great place to eat. And not having to purchase all their meals on the road at restaurants will save your drivers a ton of money over the period of a year. Not to mention providing them the ability to make healthy eating choices will help them keep their weight down, by enabling them to bring along fresh fruit, low-cal snacks and healthy sandwiches. The better health a driver can maintain, the happier he or she is and the more money in everybody’s pocket. Can you offer a bonus for losing weight, or stopping smoking? It doesn’t have to be cash. Could be a contest like the ‘Biggest Loser,’ with the prize being a special outing with all the truckers who attained their goal and their families, such as a picnic in a local park or a trip to Six Flags® for a day.
Treating your drivers a little more like family really helps boost morale. One of the best small carriers I know of keeps its drivers happy by paying for dinner at a nice restaurant when the driver’s wedding anniversary rolls around each year. The turnover rate at that carrier is maybe one driver a year – and they’re not hauling fancy stuff, either. (Chicken guts and dry cement aren’t glamorous loads.)
Anyway, you get the idea – drive a route or make a delivery while wearing your ‘truckin’ shirt’ and see what life’s like out on the road nowadays. You’ll be glad you did – and your drivers will be too. I’m betting your turnover rate will drop significantly.
Drive Long and Prosper – nothing like a road trip to stretch one’s legs and get a new perspective of your operation.