According to the American Trucking Associations, turnover of professional drivers reached 81% in the third quarter of 2016. Although this is down from the year prior, it’s crucial to stay focused on managing driver turnover so that it doesn’t creep back up once the economy improves. As trucking companies across the U.S. compete to attract new drivers and fight to keep their current drivers from leaving, ensuring driver satisfaction is critical. Seeing as fleet managers are the people who interact with drivers the most, the responsibility of maintaining driver effectiveness and keeping drivers satisfied falls mainly on them.
Unfortunately, survey data from People Element shows that 25% of exiting drivers say they had an unfavorable relationship with their supervising fleet manager. These negative relationships impact trucking companies in a variety of ways, such as high driver turnover rates. Survey data highlights several reasons why professional drivers aren’t effective or successful, as well as why fleet managers may be part of the problem.
Fleet managers and their team of professional drivers share a critical, complicated relationship that can’t function effectively without mutual trust. Discovering issues before it’s too late is of utmost importance when it comes to retaining highly capable and effective drivers.
Fleet managers can avoid issues from the beginning if they set expectations and also seek to understand the driver’s expectations of them. Survey data shows that:
- 53% of exiting drivers received the miles they were expecting
- 42% of exiting drivers didn’t get enough feedback from their manager
- 35% of exiting drivers were with a trucking company less than 90 days
From this data, we can assume that these drivers and fleet managers did not openly share or set expectations. When a fleet manager sets expectations, they should discuss the amount of home time a driver can expect, communicate how many miles they can anticipate, and provide contact information for who to contact when problems arise.
Given the number of exiting drivers (42%) who say they don’t receive enough feedback, fleet managers should also be sure to ask preferences for how drivers like to receive input and advice from their manager. Sharing and understanding expectations is not a one-time occurrence; existing drivers will also benefit from the opportunity to recalibrate and receive expectations from their fleet manager on at least a yearly basis.
Recognize communication styles and personality traits
Communication is at the core of any successful manager and driver relationship. It’s also helpful to have an understanding of each other’s personality type. That level of understanding can take a significant amount of time, but behavioral assessments can help provide insight for managers as they develop relationships with their team members. People Element uses Professional Dynametric Programs (PDP) to understand drivers on a variety of levels by identifying personality traits, decision making styles, energy styles, and energy levels. PDP recognizes these as the four main personality traits:
- Dominance: Assertive and productive; prefer a position of authority.
- Extroversion: Expressive and outgoing; enjoy socializing.
- Pace: Persistent, steady, and consistent.
- Conformity: Follow procedures, embrace discipline; generally loyal.
A study revealed that the strongest personality trait of a successful professional driver profile was pace, followed by conformity.
Have difficult conversations
Some situations require difficult conversations. Fleet managers can choose to avoid these situations, address them in an ineffective manner, or face tough conversations and handle them correctly. Based on People Element’s training and coaching programs, there are several techniques that successful fleet managers should use when they need to have a hard conversation:
- Invite the driver to have a discussion. Set the tone and be clear about your intentions.
- Approach the meeting with a calm and positive attitude.
- Open the discussion with a general, factual statement. Keep emotion out of the conversation.
- Ask the driver to share their perspective about the issue.
- Listen to what the driver has to say. Re-state what you’ve heard to confirm your understanding.
- Identify a mutually-agreeable plan and a date on which you will check-in with each other.
Having tough conversations isn’t easy, but it is necessary. If fleet managers consistently avoid conflict or uncomfortable topics, they’ll face more issues than if they’d addressed the original issue head on.
Maintain driver safety
Operating trucks safely and meeting today’s safety regulations is of paramount concern to trucking companies, fleet managers, and drivers. Everyone benefits when equipment is in good condition and drivers follow safety regulations. But accidents happen, and when they do, violations can be confusing and worrisome for drivers.
When violations or citations occur, fleet managers must understand how to work with the driver to handle these issues. Fleet managers should:
- Help maintain the driver’s self-esteem by emphasizing their strengths after a violation.
- Assure them that you are committed to helping them be more effective and improve.
- Focus on the behavior, not on the driver as a person.
- Choose your words carefully and be as clear and specific as possible.
An effective fleet of drivers ultimately leads to an effective trucking organization. Ensure that your fleet managers build strong relationships with professional drivers by focusing on expectations, personality styles, open communication, and safety. Ultimately the relationships your fleet managers build with their drivers will play a critical role in the level of success your trucking business can reach.