Last week, the entire trucking industry celebrated our nation’s 3.6 million commercial truck drivers during National Driver Appreciation Week. Observed annually for more than 20 years, this year September 12-18 the tributes to drivers were particularly poignant due to COVID-19. “This week is a time to remind the public of the debt of gratitude owed to these unsung heroes,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.
Throughout the pandemic, drivers across the U.S. have made many sacrifices to ensure our nation’s freight keeps moving and our communities receive the goods that sustain them. In fact, 80 percent of U.S. communities rely exclusively on the goods delivered by truck drivers who move 72.5 percent of our nation’s total freight.
Founded by former ATA chairman Don Bowman in 1998 to raise public awareness, National Driver Appreciation Week is only celebrated once per year. But considering the outsized impact drivers have on our daily lives, they should be appreciated year round. Here are some ways to show drivers appreciation throughout the year and acknowledge their positive contributions.
Ideas for appreciating drivers
Celebrate safe drivers regularly
In a 2020 industry survey, 53 percent of drivers said recruiting drivers was a problem because fleets don’t respect them. And 45 percent said fleets don’t support drivers during critical situations related to safety. To demonstrate your respect for drivers while supporting them at the same time, celebrate driver safety efforts. You can make safety a fundamental part of your fleet’s culture by launching a robust incentives program to recognize drivers’ safety score improvements. You can also recognize safety achievements, like one- and two-million accident free miles.
Ideally, you should aim to go above and beyond incentives programs to show drivers you appreciate them throughout the year. Some ways to do this are by offering discounts for safety shoes, uniforms, and other gear; providing concierge services at freight terminals to help them with personal services when they’re on the road; and equipping drivers with up-to-date devices and safety technology. These thoughtful efforts can go a long way toward demonstrating you care about what drivers would like or want. The goal is to make a positive difference in their daily lives.
Keep communication positive
In addition to improving recruitment and safety, continual driver appreciation ensures better driver retention—57 percent of drivers say that poor retention is due to fleets not treating them like part of the team. Regular communication not only demonstrates respect, it also proves that you consider drivers valuable team members and that you’re invested in their success.
Savvy fleets communicate about everything—whether it’s timely information about operations, road conditions, industry news, team member updates, or employee recognition efforts. Above all, it’s best to keep communication positive. Rather than using a top-down management style and telling drivers what to do, keep communication flowing both ways. When drivers need to correct their behavior, provide driver coaching that includes what drivers are getting right.
In addition to increased retention, regular positive communication reaps numerous benefits, including:
- Improvements in driver behavior
- Better CSA scores
- Decreased claims
- Higher profits
Ask for feedback
Drivers are smart. Every day, they deal with equipment issues, overcome logistical challenges, and interact with customers. These experiences make them a great resource for fleet improvement ideas. However, fleets often neglect to ask for their feedback, and drivers end up feeling like they don’t matter. With drivers on the road for long periods of time, starting a two-way dialogue can keep them connected. A simple text or email from the right person just to stay in touch can go a long way toward keeping morale high and ensuring they feel appreciated.
If getting a conversation going is difficult, try surveying your drivers about specific topics. Here are some sample questions you might ask:
- What are your top three irritations during the week that you’d like to change?
- Do you have suggestions for eliminating those issues?
- Is there any specific equipment that could make your job easier?
- When you discuss an issue with your manager, how long does it take to resolve it?
This year, recognizing drivers during National Driver Appreciation Week was particularly meaningful. During the pandemic, drivers have played a critical role delivering essential supplies in these challenging times. Although recognizing every driver individually for their efforts on the frontline isn’t realistic, it is possible for fleets to show appreciation on a daily basis with practices like celebrating safety achievements, asking for feedback, and communicating positively. Netradyne is the only video telematics solution that enables fleets to provide drivers with positive feedback to increase driver retention.
Showing drivers appreciation has an array of benefits, including improving recruiting and retention efforts, boosting CSA scores, and ultimately increasing the bottom line. But above all, it helps you improve your relationship with your drivers and ensures they’re happy to be a part of your team every day.