NZ Trucking Association: Retaining good truck drivers

By: David Boyce

With the shortage of good truck drivers across the country, NZ Trucking Association sheds light on how to appreciate, retain, and shape the good guys

You will be aware that the Trucking industry in New Zealand is facing a shortage of good truck drivers, especially in Christchurch, Auckland, and the freight triangle between Hamilton and Tauranga.


Knowing that your competitors have trucks parked up as they are unable to find good truck drivers, you would think that most proactive trucking operators would be making sure they were doing their best to look after their drivers so that they have no reason to start looking elsewhere.

With this in mind, here a few thoughts on how to help retain your good truck drivers.

Pay your drivers more money

Sounds simple but as we all know with the constant pressure on freight rates, it’s not that simple. The chance of negotiating significant increases in your freight rates is not going 
to happen anytime soon. But there is another way—reward good behaviour that reduces your costs.

Give well-rounded training

Part of your ongoing employee training programmes should include driver training in fuel efficiency techniques, pre-trip inspections, preventative maintenance, vehicle presentation, safe driving, health and safety, safe loading and unloading, customer engagement, and regulatory compliance.

All of this training will result in better driver behaviour, which will, in turn, reduce your business costs and increase your profit margin.

These savings in business costs can be reported monthly to your drivers as part of your employee engagement programme.

Share these savings with your drivers

It may not be an increase in their base hourly rate but it can certainly be tied to regular bonuses that can be paid out monthly.

Engage with your drivers

Treat them with the respect they deserve and make them feel like they are an important part of your businesses team.

Have regular paid toolbox meetings with your drivers

Fire up the barbecue, make some bacon and egg sandwiches and a hot coffee or cup of tea.

At these regular meetings, you can talk to them about any current issues, proposed changes to schedules, health and safety, and progress on the monthly cost saving initiatives.

Always have a two-way conversation and seek their feedback

Find out what is important in their lives. Never turn it into a dictatorial preaching session. You will be surprised at the positive response you will get.

Unexpected awards

Put in a system of providing drivers with unexpected rewards for when they go the extra mile for your business.

Small things such as movie tickets, a restaurant voucher, a magazine subscription, a small gift basket to mark a special occasion, or even a free company branded chilly bag to carry the healthy food you want them to eat. These small rewards show the driver that you care about them.

Sponsor employee and family events

Engage with your drivers and their families. Sponsor company picnics, movie nights, social nights, dinners, and sports events.

If a driver is successful at a sport or other non-work related activity, look for opportunities to provide some form of sponsorship and promote it in the workplace.

Look for opportunities for your business to support worthwhile charities in the community. All these activities will help you to engage with your drivers.

Look out for their well-being

Truck driving can be an unhealthy lifestyle for many, with periods away from home, long hours, a sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, poor hygiene, and diet. Drivers are susceptible to obesity, sleep apnoea, diabetes, and heart disease and life expectancy can be lower than other occupations.

Drivers’ well-being should be a top priority for employers. They should be able to plan their off-duty time without the expectation of interruption by their employer. Trucking operators can influence drivers’ lifestyles by exercising control over despatchers, schedules, hours of work, and health and safety practices.

Many trucking operators are now offering programmes to help their drivers get healthier. Regular drug and alcohol testing may well be part of your business procedure, but have you considered putting in subsidised regular health checks along with healthy eating and weight loss programmes for your drivers?

A growing number of businesses are now offering drivers free or partially subsided medical insurance as part of an overall company group scheme. All these initiatives show your drivers that you care about their health and well-being.

Offer training, development, and further education opportunities

Most drivers want to learn more and they want to be rewarded for their loyalty and hard work. Offer incentives to gain further training and qualifications.

This is good for your drivers and good for your business as they bring their new skills back into the business.

Try and get your drivers home each night

This may not always be possible, but with a bit of thought when scheduling, this can often be achieved. Look at setting up dedication runs rather than the traditional floater fleet model.

This helps drivers with not only having regular sleep patterns but also helps with their family life because if this is not working, then pressure from family can soon cause an otherwise happy driver to start looking at other employment opportunities.

Have good communication channels open within your business

Deal with problems quickly and efficiently. Don’t let drivers leave the yard with a small problem in the back of their mind because with all that time alone in the cab, by the time they get back, you can guarantee it has become a major issue, which is likely to explode on the first person they come in contact with.

Offer support

Offer good support to drivers who are having problems, as they may have been in 
a vehicle accident and struggling to come to terms with it. A session with a good counsellor can help them to deal with the associated issues.

Allow drivers to take unpaid leave

Life is full of desires, unplanned events, and emergencies. You need to provide your drivers with the ability to take unpaid leave when the need arises. Examples include:

  • The death of a close friend
  • Extending maternity leave
  • Buying and selling a house
  • Sorting out kids’ issues at school or attending an important sports event
  • Looking after a family member with a serious illness
  • Opportunities to further education
  • An extended overseas holiday or sabbatical

Get your drivers to disconnect from their work at the end of the day

With new technology, many drivers feel chained to work outside work hours, making them feel that they never get away from it.

Turn off workphone

Encourage drivers to turn off their work phone when they are finished for the day or during weekends. When a driver is on vacation, don’t contact them unless it is truly an emergency.

Remember, the key to retaining good truck drivers in your business is engagement, respect, culture, and reward.

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