Truck drivers still gripe about long detention times, equipment and adapting to new technology. But they generally feel good about how their companies communicated during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data analyzed by driver retention consultant WorkHound Inc.
“Companies have had to over-communicate, especially as it relates to the pandemic,” WorkHound CEO Max Farrell said during a July 22 webinar sponsored by Women in Trucking. “This extra effort has had an impact on drivers’ satisfaction with their carriers.”
The top five hardy perennial issues – Logistics, Equipment, Pay, People and Communication – remained stable from January through June, Farrell said.
|Issue||Comments||% of Comments||Avg. Satisfaction||% positive||% urgent|
Transportation is a people-centered business and this has been highlighted in a time of crisis,” he said. “When it comes to positivity, the people [category] is far and away the most consistently positive theme. Satisfaction with communication has been on the rise since January,”
Not everything is rosy
Drivers shared frustration about a lack of transparency, which Farrell said is the key to developing trust and confidence with drivers.
“Feedback has to be addressed at the speed of business,” he said. “In trucking, a driver can be happy on Tuesday, fed up on Wednesday and quit by the end of the week.”
Average driver turnover stood at 89% during the first half.
“Drivers may be putting the needs of themselves and their families ahead of any difficulties they face in the workplace,” Farrell said. “Many were happy just to have a job during a global pandemic. People are getting back into the habit of trying to find greener grass somewhere else.”
The global health crisis generated the sixth-highest number of comments Workhound gathered from drivers via its app. Of 18,400 comments, about 9% mentioned coronavirus. The issue peaked at 14% in April and fell to 4% in June.
“COVID-19 quickly became a top theme in spring and has since dropped off as the topic became part of the new normal,” Farrell said. “COVID-19 comments contained a fair amount of positivity beginning in April and as of June were typically more positive than other top themes,”
Drivers regarded COVID-19 with relatively low urgency. They gave their companies average satisfaction scores. Coronavirus generated the second-most positive comments when compared with the top five issues.
In the early days, “we had a lot of drivers that really didn’t think COVID-19 was real,” Melton Truck Lines Inc. driver services manager Delaney Rea said during the webinar.
“They thought it was more of a conspiracy,” Rea said. “It started out with a pretty low level of concern and then spiked up quite a bit. It was interesting as we moved through it and more information came out; the topic of the comments changed,” she said. “It was some of the more positive comments that we’ve actually seen.”
The Melton story
Melton focused on over-communicating the company’s business plan to its 1,200 drivers during the early days of the pandemic. It didn’t offer hazard pay but hustled to book loads to protect driver jobs.
“We understood hazard pay to be more of a reflection of drivers feeling they weren’t safe or wanting to make sure they felt like they were being taken care of and that we understood what things looked like for them to be out over the road,” she said.
To avoid adding an unsustainable cost in uncertain economic times, Melton instead waived the co-pay on MD Live, allowing drivers to call and speak to a doctor at any time for free.
Like others, the company distributed care packages to its drivers at terminals with hard-to-find items like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, masks and gloves. And the company offered free meals to drivers.
“We needed to communicate with them not just what our business plan looked like but how Melton has been around for as long as we have,” Rea said of the 65-year-old carrier. “One of the ways you get through [a crisis] is by being conservative and making sure we still have a space for everyone’s job.”
The message got through. Several drivers offered to give up $0.01 to $0.06 of their mileage rate to help out. Melton did not take them up on the offers.
“That was a really heartwarming thing that came through,” Rea said. “We started to see more positive pay comments come through on the other side of that communication.”