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Building a culture where trucking fleets consciously address driver plight

Building a culture where trucking fleets consciously address driver plight (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

In many ways, the primary objective of fleets is to make sure they keep their drivers in the best of spirits, and help them stay productive throughout their time behind the wheel – a challenge considering the myriad of complications that arise when on the road. Those complications can include mental strain arising due to excessive traffic bottlenecks, irate fellow drivers on the road, excessive documentation and regulatory measures and even family problems. 

Even seasonal changes can cause considerable stress for drivers, like roads being snowed in and hurricanes wrecking entire regions. The emotional, mental and physical stress usually translates into distraction, which can cause accidents and let the situation quickly spiral out of control. 

“A study showed that the total health and productivity cost of worker stress to American businesses is estimated to be $150 billion annually. The study also stated that 40 percent of job turnover is due to stress and there are many factors that lead employees to feel stressed,” said Marilena Acevedo, the vice president of human resources at PetroChoice. “For instance, inadequate staffing, personal conflicts on the job, lack of support from manager/management, reduction in employee benefits, lack of recognition or no recognition programs at all.”

The stress can manifest in several different ways on the road, and an emotionally volatile driver can potentially cause or be involved in disastrous consequences. “When your mind is preoccupied with something, it’s easy for a driver to zone out or get distracted with a long to-do list that’s racking their brain. While management can’t physically be on the road with drivers to help mitigate the stress and keep drivers focused and productive, there are things they can do and offer drivers off the road that can help,” said Acevedo. 

Educating drivers on the importance of mental and physical health would be paramount. The fleet management can promote preventative care among its workers, including immunization and health screening for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, among many other ailments. Drivers should be given the option of round-the-clock telemedicine services, providing access to a doctor online or via phone. This can help reassure drivers with non-emergency related ailments and to quickly ask for assistance if need be. 

“Fleets can offer a health savings account (HSA) where the money is set aside for drivers to pay for medical expenses. There can also be two types of flexible spending accounts (FSA) – a healthcare FSA, which is used to pay for healthcare expenses, and a dependent care FSA, which is used to pay for dependent care services with pre-tax dollars,” said Acevedo. “When you have an account that sets aside pre-taxed dollars should an emergency come up, it can help people stay at ease when an unexpected situation arises.”

Fleets can provide drivers with additional perks like floating holidays, that let them choose when to use their paid time off. This enables drivers to spend quality time with their family and friends, and help with the work-life balance that eludes the majority of the drivers in the business. 

“Very few employer actions rank above recognition. If employers have it within their budget, a service award program is a very nice way to reward employees for years of service or above and beyond performance. If you can reward drivers in front of their peers, it makes it that much more special. If budgetary constraints exist, a simple ‘thank you’ from the manager at the end of the day or at the end of a difficult project goes a long way,” said Acevedo. 

This apart, it is imperative for fleets to invest in their driver supervisors and managers, training them on giving clear directions, feedback, performance appraisals and to communicate clearly with their subordinates. 

“In order to understand what drivers want and need, employers can conduct employee engagement surveys to understand what is stressing them out, and gain insight into how management can make their jobs and lives easier,” said Acevedo. “It’s an easy and fast way employers can gain information and get a pulse on how drivers are feeling.”

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  1. Mike

    I blame much of this on these ridiculous HOS, there is no flexibility! I am now either having to force myself to sleep, or drive when I would rather take a nap and get a good couple of hour rest. I now have new health issues since all of this started, including the extra stress that is not needed. I have put on weight and am generally miserable, I would not recommend trucking to anyone. 30 years out here, and about had it.

  2. Steve Zimmerman

    Fine ideas in theory but will a company actually spend money to address driver issues? That’s another stress factor for drivers; watching the bottom line while dealing with inadequate equipment, difficult loads & poor facilities. Drivers don’t believe managers, if a company is serious, they would hire a driver liason officer, a sounding board for drivers who would honestly take their concerns to management. They don’t exist because most companies don’t want to hear the truth about themselves.

  3. Kobe

    ELD is the major STRESS FACTOR in the recent industry, with all so called “planning ahead” witch work only in those office brains not in the real world. A driver need to deal with more then 1 source of stress and majority of planning doesn’t work because of time lost on pick-ups or deliveries where people who work on those departments give ZERO or less consideration to the driver who’s under ELD time, long time spent on pick-ups or deliveries accumulate with some traffic and strict appointments or a hard time finding a parking spot after 4-5pm rises the level of stress in a driver, what a online doctor can do about……

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