Promoting Driver Satisfaction
David Kolman  
Last month’s column offered some suggestions for attracting, hiring, training and retaining the right drivers. The focus now is driver satisfaction. When drivers are kept satisfied, fleets benefit.
Research shows that drivers with higher job satisfaction are more committed to their companies, have higher retention rates, enjoy their work, care about the quality of their work and are safer and more productive. What does it take to achieve high driver satisfaction?
Management. Driver satisfaction starts with a caring management that understands just how difficult — and thankless — a truck driver’s job is. Truck drivers, like any other employee, want to feel that management cares about them, appreciates the work they do and is concerned about them as individuals.
If you are not already doing so, go out of your way to visit with your drivers on a regular basis. Truly listen to their concerns. If you are constantly out of sight — say at your desk all day — drivers may feel ignored and even demoralized.
Always treat drivers respectfully and courteously, especially when there is a problem. If you have an issue with a driver, keep your anger in check. Never humiliate anyone in public. Speak with them in private.
Do not criticize the individual, but rather, concentrate on their behavior. Most of us can deal with, and learn from, a thought-out critique. No one likes being criticized.
Culture. High driver satisfaction requires an organizational culture that is open, trusting and fun, and permits mistakes. Drivers should be made to feel that they have adequate freedom and authority to do their jobs and that making mistakes is a part of the improvement process.
If drivers are made to feel that mistakes are something to feel bad about or be ashamed for, they will no longer take the initiative to overcome the daily challenges and problems they face.
Communication. High driver retention companies place a priority on communicating with their drivers. This encompasses keeping them informed promptly, openly and clearly on a regular basis. Encourage communication and allow drivers easy access to you and other management.
Invite input from drivers. Be sure to address any issues, and then let drivers know how these matters were handled. This can be done by a note with paychecks, postings in the driver’s room, during drivers meeting, etc.
It is a good idea to communicate with your drivers’ families. Let them know when their spouse or significant other does something significant or exemplary. Tell the driver’s family how valuable he/she is to your company.
Make sure the family understands the advantages and benefits of working for your company. If the driver’s family thinks your company is good and appreciates their spouse or significant other, driver and family satisfaction is increased.
Recognition.  Sincere recognition and honest appreciation of a driver’s special efforts, commitment or attempts at accomplishment has a number of benefits. One is building loyalty and energizing other drivers. Another is enabling you to highlight desired actions and behaviors, holding up as role models those drivers who best epitomize them. This helps raise overall driver performance.
Notice good work or extra efforts and be sure to acknowledge them. Praise and recognition is best bestowed promptly (as soon as observed or learned about), both in public and in private. A hand-written note goes a way long to motivating more above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty behavior.
Compliments are best served early in the day. This puts your drivers in a more positive frame of mind as they face their day.
Celebrate successes and milestones reached by your department, your company and your drivers.
Make sure rewards, which can include a variety of benefits and perks other than money, are for genuine contributions. Be consistent in your recognition/reward policies.
Development.  The best drivers desire, along with fair compensation and benefits, opportunities. Create opportunities for them to learn and grow.
Help your drivers develop their skills. Enhance their ability to contribute to your company, while at the same time allowing them to flourish personally and professionally.
Embrace these ideas and you will better satisfy your drivers. It is not only a nice thing to do, but it makes good business sense. BI
Employee satisfiers
Money is not at the top of the list for satisfying drivers. In a study by an international outplacement company, money ranked fourth. Appreciation was first, followed by independence and a chance to contribute.
Meanwhile, a Gallup survey on the impact of employee attitudes on business outcomes found that in organizations where there is high employee satisfaction, these companies have a:
38% higher customer satisfaction scores.
22% higher productivity. 27% higher profits.
Equipment news roundup
Goodyear’s new DuraSeal tire technology features a “built-in sealant” that allows truck drivers to continue operating after a tire is punctured. The technology, which uses a gel-like solvent-free compound built into the inner liner of the tire, is designed to consistently and instantly seal punctures in the tread area.
International’s new 4x2 RXT is a more than 5-ton, 22-foot-long commercial pickup truck. Eight feet tall, it features an 8-foot-long bed, commercial hydraulic brakes, crew cab that seats five, air cab suspension, International ride-optimized suspension, and International VT 365 diesel V8 engine with 230 horsepower and 540 pounds per foot of torque.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2004 Medium Duty Truck Customer Satisfaction Study ranked Peterbilt the highest in overall vehicle satisfaction in the conventional medium-duty segment. Hino ranked highest among cabover medium-duty trucks. Six factors make up the overall vehicle satisfaction score. In order of importance they are: vehicle quality; engine; transmission; ride, handling and braking; cab interior; exterior design; and styling.
Kenworth now offers the Allison 3000 Highway Series vocational automatic transmission for its T300 medium-duty model. Designed for line haul and local pickup and delivery applications, the transmission is available in both five- and six-speeds and has a gross torque of 1,100 pounds per foot for 80,000-pound gross vehicle or gross combination weights.