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At a time when it has become more difficult than ever to attract and retain professional truck drivers, fleets think differently about this ongoing industry challenge.
To be more competitive in this tough job market, freight forwarding companies are not only increasing driver pay, but also taking steps to improve driver lifestyles and ensure a better work-life balance.
“Drivers are more in demand than ever in my career,” said Chad England, CEO of CR England refrigerated truck. “This makes it all the more important for great companies to continuously improve and have the kind of culture that people belong to.”
CR England, based in Salt Lake City, ranked 25th on Transport Topics’ Top 100 list of the largest rental carriers in North America, has done a different job in order to maximize time at home.
“Now we have up to 75% of our jobs in a dedicated scenario, a local type of job, or a set run in our over-the-road group. These have home time of one degree or another, ”said England.
In addition to extending home time, many fleets have switched to shorter routes, increased driver fees and increased comfort on the road.
CR England has adapted its operations to give its drivers more time at home. (CR England)
“Based on a recent survey of our employees, current and new drivers expect job security, work-life balance and fair and stable pay,” said Greg Hodgen, CEO of the bulk carrier Groendyke Transport.
Groendyke offers over-the-road jobs where drivers need to be away from home for an average of less than a week, as well as regional and local jobs where drivers can be at home every day.
The company communicates with its drivers to discuss their expectations and then works to meet their needs.
“It may need to change over time, so let’s rethink and try to accommodate drivers’ needs as life changes,” said Hodgen.
Enid, Okla.-Based Groendyke ranks No. 96 on the for-hire TT100.
Jerry Sigmon Jr., chief operating officer at Cargo Transporters, said drivers’ desire for time at home had increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For our younger drivers and those with families, time at home is the top priority when it comes to pay,” he said.
In order to better serve the needs of drivers, the truck loader is focusing on cargo in specific lanes that allow drivers to travel through their home locations.
“We have found that we can take better care of the drivers when we have them in the high lane density areas,” said Sigmon.
Coordinating trips home may require additional planning, “but we stand ready to do so if it’s worth it,” Sigmon said, adding that the majority of freight truck drivers allow for their 34-hour restarts after state hours Are home. Service rules.
“We have some who want to drive more or on the weekends and some drivers who want to stay outside for two weeks at a time,” he said. “We currently have enough cargo to take care of these driver needs.”
Cargo Transporters also checks its average transport length.
“We’ve been in that range from 400 to 425 miles, but we’re starting to see some opportunities in the 300 range,” Sigmon said.
The goal of the liquid bulk carrier Carbon Express is for drivers to travel 250 miles and then return, an approach that allows most drivers to return home every day.
Some drivers prefer to be on the road longer, but the fleet doesn’t use sleep tractors. Instead, the company rents motel rooms for its drivers to improve comfort and relaxation, said Steve Rush, CEO of the Wharton, NJ-based fleet.
“Our average monthly motel bill for 60 trucks is $ 40,000 a month,” he said.
In addition, Carbon Express charges customers more for weekend work.
“We’ll pick it up on Friday, but if you want it on Monday we want a bonus,” said Rush, explaining that the driver won’t come home to reset. “These are long and tough lessons for our industry and they have to start.”
CONNECTED: CR England announces historic driver salary increase
Rush said the federally mandated electronic logging devices and duty time rules helped prioritize drivers’ needs.
“For the first time since Jimmy Hoffa, drivers are interested in the game,” said Rush, describing ELDs and HOS as the new Hoffa. “I think the new Jimmy Hoffa is here and he won’t go away.”
Hodgen von Groendyke agreed that ELDs have improved driver lifestyles.
“Our drivers tell us that they feel they have more control over their sleep patterns and that they feel more rested,” he said, adding that ELDs have forced planners to better understand what is doable under HOS limits .
While higher wages can attract drivers, more needs to be done across the transportation industry, Hodgen said.
“We need shippers, consignees, freight forwarders and even the general public to show the drivers the high level of appreciation they deserve in word and deed,” he said.
Driver productivity and pay
Some fleets focus on non-contact cargo to optimize driver productivity and pay.
American Central Transport drivers smile during a corporate party. (American Central Traffic)
American Central Transport offers drop-and-hook jobs that eliminate the need for drivers to wait for loading and unloading.
“Drop and Hook honors their hours and gets paid much more consistently,” said Phil Wilt, president of the dry truck based in Kansas City, Missouri.
ACT has also become more disciplined in its trajectories to maximize home time.
“If we can get high concentrations in six major cities, we can triangulate the drivers and move them faster,” said Wilt.
Many fleets have increased driver compensation directly.
CR England, for example, has made several increases recently, including the largest total percentage wage increase in the company’s history.
“If we have the opportunity to reposition the trucking profession and really pay drivers like professionals, we will,” said England.
Fleets also welcome feedback from drivers to help address their concerns and further improve their lifestyles.
The management of CR England can be reached by drivers via “Town Hall” and face-to-face meetings and video chats.
“We made dozens of changes by listening to our drivers,” said England.
In order to improve the driver’s driving experience, ACT collects driver feedback anonymously and personally, for example during the monthly cookouts.
“When you’re collecting feedback, you have to act on it,” said Wilt, adding that management reacts when a customer is disrespectful to a driver.
ACT has installed a truck swap station to make it easier for drivers to get their belongings on a new truck. (American Central Traffic)
“The goal is not to fire the customer,” he said. “The goal is to work with them and help them understand them. Now is the time to do things right. “
Even small things can go a long way in making drivers’ lives easier, said Wilt.
ACT allows drivers to bring dogs and also offers “driver passes”.
“It’s a big deal for the drivers to bring their kids and let them meet everyone,” said Wilt.
ACT has a nurse who works with drivers on diet or lifestyle changes, as well as counselors who come by regularly to assist drivers around the clock.
The fleet also recently installed a truck swap station to make it easier for drivers to switch to a new tractor.
“They can walk back and forth on a platform instead of climbing up and down with their things,” said Wilt.
Cargo Transporters has the latest equipment and has added driver convenience such as refrigerators and satellite TV and radio.
Sigmon said shippers can also do their part to improve the driver’s experience by allowing them to park on their facilities.
“I understand that space is a problem everywhere,” he said, “but if the sender and recipient let the drivers park on site, it helps them a lot.”
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