Selection and Hiring
The tremendous demand for qualified truck drivers has placed a burden on companies’ recruiters. It has been reported that there is such a demand for truck drivers that some recruiters will hire unqualified drivers, if the alternative is having trucks sit idle in their lots.
The literature review also suggests that drivers attain satisfaction from a sense of achievement and recognition, and that key factors influencing how long a driver remains with an employer are steadiness of work, level of pay and benefits, company support while on the road, genuine respect from management, and amount of home time.
While all these efforts are time consuming and expensive, in the long run they are more cost-effective than having to recruit and hire again.
Driver Training Procedures
Companies have provided training programs for many years. However, the practice is evolving and becoming more far-reaching as the needs of the drivers change and standard-setting organizations become more involved. The most progressive training programs offer drivers the potential for advancement to other positions in the company, whether it be in management or sales.
If drivers receive training that allows them to advance in a company, they are less likely to change jobs. Although driving may remain a driver’s primary task, other jobs such as training or crash investigation could be a part of a career path.
A comprehensive training program that not only addresses technical and safety requirements, but also devotes attention to lifestyle issues and to the personal challenges truckers face in their profession conveys a message that the company cares about them and wants them to succeed. The payoff carriers can anticipate from providing this level of training not only includes gains in safety and productivity, but also results in drivers who feel more committed to the company.
Working Conditions for Long-Haul Operators
Driving a truck, especially long-haul, is a difficult lifestyle. There are long and irregular hours, poor living conditions on the road, and large amounts of time away from home. Often these conditions are exacerbated by poor treatment from shippers, receivers, and even their own company personnel. There is strong evidence of a link between the economic and scheduling pressures on drivers and crashes and violations of hours-of-service regulations.
Analyses of how working conditions affect safety revealed that truckers who drive in excess of hours-of-service regulations, young drivers, and interstate drivers are the most likely to have an increased relative risk of crash involvement. Addressing the poor working conditions that contribute to driver turnover and safety problems is an urgent need in the industry. To a degree, larger and more comfortable sleeper berths, which are found in newer model tractors, may help as will more and better rest areas with greater capacity for safely parking tractor-trailers. Also, modest reductions in transit times may be achieved through company provided conveniences such as electronic toll passes.
Finally, an essential component in reducing the exposure of long-haul truckers to those working conditions that pose the most serious risks to health and safety is more effective monitoring and more stringent enforcement of carrier compliance with hours-of-service regulations.
Safety-Related Rewards and Incentives
Research indicates that a commitment to safety from management carries over to drivers. Companies surveyed said that since their safety incentive programs were initiated, the incidence of insurance claims, workers’ compensation claims, and crashes have been reduced by 65 percent.
The features carriers include in their safety programs vary widely, and can include incentives in the form of monetary rewards (e.g., savings bonds), bonuses, gifts, discounts at truck stops, and recognition programs (e.g., patches, pins, plaques, etc.). Table 1 below lists a series of elements that research has shown are necessary for truck driver incentive programs to be effective.
Table 1: Elements Needed for Truck Driver Incentive Programs to be Effective
|• Managerial vigor|
• Rewarding the "bottom line"
• Attractiveness of the reward
• Progressive safety credits
• Simple rules
• Perceived equity and attainability
• Short incubation period
|• Stimulating peer pressure towards safe conduct
• Involving the family
• Employee participation in program design
• Prevention of accident under-reporting
• Rewarding multiple levels of the organization
• Supplementing rewards with safety training
• Maximizing net savings versus maximizing benefit-cost
Many safety-related incentive programs include recognition for passing certain milestones for “accident-free” miles driven. Safety bonuses also are very popular. For some carriers, bonuses are earned through a point system, which transfers to bonus money that gets included in their paychecks.
Other carriers reward drivers who are crash free for a full year with a savings bond. It would be expected that incentive programs that offer progressively increasing safety bonuses for longer periods of crash-free operation would give drivers a material reason for staying with their employers rather than moving to another place of work, where they would have to start again to accumulate safety credits.
Improving Perceptions of the Profession
Evidence indicates that public perceptions of the truck driving profession today are ambivalent. In a recent survey, the overall view of drivers of large trucks was positive for 80 percent of the public. At the same time, 64 percent of the public felt that truck drivers exceed the speed limit frequently.
In addition, a majority believed that a substantial number of drivers engage in drug use, drinking, violence, and recklessness, and that truck drivers are more concerned with deadlines than safety. However, the public also feels that truck drivers are highly independent; this is a prized and respected characteristic in our society and one that the industry can capitalize on in improving public perceptions and in recruiting and retaining drivers.
Improved perceptions of the profession depend not only on the public, but also on the attitudes of the drivers themselves. It has been reported that a good driver attitude about his employer can be expected to result from limiting office turnover (i.e., retaining good dispatchers), pursuing driver-friendly freight practices that reduce loading and unloading requirements for drivers, having management staff accessible to address driver grievances, developing non-pay incentives, and providing training and orientation programs that focus on “30 days at a time” for each new hire.
This study was performed by TransAnalytics, LLC, 1722 Sumneytown Pike, Box 328, Kulpsville, PA 19443 and The ATA Foundation, Inc., 1280 W. Peachtree St., NW, Suite 300, Atlanta, GA 30309. Contract No. DTMC75-01-P-00027. The full study and all FMCSA Tech and Analysis Briefs can be accessed at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov