Here’s what drivers are really talking about

Pay is important to drivers, but it is not the topic they talked about most in feedback with their employers. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Pay is important to drivers, but it is not the topic they talked about most in feedback with their employers. (Photo: Shutterstock)

WorkHound compiles anonymous driver feedback from its platform, and found some surprise trends on what’s important to truck drivers

Fleet managers always want to stay on top of their drivers’ needs, but do they really know what those drivers are feeling? WorkHound recently collected a list of what topic areas, and comments, drivers have been providing fleets in 2017 and surprisingly, pay was not the number-one issue. The company’s software platform allows drivers to provide anonymous feedback to fleets, providing more data that managers can act upon, and it was from these comments that WorkHound put together the list.

“We built WorkHound to give drivers a voice at anytime and give companies the tools to reduce (driver turnover),” explained Max Farrell, co-founder and CEO, during a Stifel Equity Research conference call on Monday.

Andrew Kirpalani, co-founder and CTO, noted that the WorkHound approach is an open-ended forum for drivers to speak their minds – whether that be compliments, complaints, or random thoughts.

“When management drafts a feedback [survey], you can only reaffirm or deny what you already think because you are crafting the questions,” Kirpalani said. “WorkHound works to help drivers enjoy the work they do and companies to reduce driver turnover.”

For the feedback, WorkHound collected the comments across its driver database and grouped them into standardized categories. The type of comment drivers most often left related to people, with 17.1% of all comments involving a person. Equipment mentions involved 16% of comments with logistics (15.9%) and pay (15.3%) rounding out the top four. Some comments fell into multiple categories and were recorded that way. In all, 64% of all comments included some mention of one of these four topics, the company said.

“We are huge fans of closing the feedback loop, but positive retention happens when change happens,” Farrell said, and change can’t happen until fleet managers understand the problem.

The driver comments are skewed toward long-haul drivers as 81% on the WorkHound platform driver over-the-road. All work for companies with at least 100 trucks with a mix of tanker, refrigerated, dry van, flatbed and expedited operations. About 90% of drivers were ELD compliant before this year and 89% are company drivers, Farrell said.

 
 

The most commented on topic involved people and included a wide mix of positive and negative feedback.

“Ultimately, the things that stood out to us is trucking is still a relationship business,” Farrell said. Drivers want to be respected and treated well.

Many of the positive comments centered around the theme of family. “One of the big things that stood out to us is there were mentions of family atmosphere and drivers appreciated that,” Farrell said. Drivers appreciated office staff helping to solve problems and appreciated dealing with competent and professional people.

But on the flip side, there are a number of concerns for drivers, including the level of overall rudeness, unprofessional staff or staff that does something that puts the driver in an unsafe situation, and a lack of understanding or empathy from office staff.

“The lack of understanding between staff and drivers starts to create [problems],” Farrell said. “Any opportunity a company can use to create a shared experience will go a long way to [improving relationships].”

On the equipment front, which was mentioned in 16% of comments, the obvious theme was that drivers often don’t understand the equipment choices fleets make.

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“Some executives think that drivers don’t want to work. One of the things (we found) is drivers do want to work, but feel limited by … equipment decisions made by the company,” Farrell said. “There are reasons these equipment decisions are made, but drivers often don’t understand the reason.”

A prime example is the decision to switch to automatic or automated transmissions. Experienced drivers, Farrell said, often believe they are more efficient at shifting and by automating the process, a level of control over the truck is being removed.

Truck speed governors are another area that has created concern among drivers. “What we actually see is drivers see governors as safety risks and feel like the driver’s experience and skill level are being discounted,” Farrell explained.

Driver-facing cameras were another hot topic as drivers, who live in their trucks, feel the devices are spying on them. “Drivers feel violated and they are always being watched,” Farrell said.

Additional frustration was seen with in-cab devices such as GPS navigation which is often outdated and required system updates which keep the drivers from driving.

“While many equipment changes are made for safety or efficiency, they often don’t benefit the drivers … and a lack of understanding leads to drivers feeling they are [being] forced upon them,” Farrell summed up.

Logistics was the third most popular topic discussed, which Farrell explained in this feedback relates to the “how of a driver’s work,” such as fuel stops, planning and load assignments among others.

A big complaint was that “drivers who are not moving are not making money and office staff doesn’t understand this,” Farrell said. He also noted that drivers, given a choice, prefer West Coast runs that cover long stretches of uninterrupted highways that minimize disruptions and keep the wheels turning.

“Drivers also feel a special kind of gratitude to companies that accommodate for their special needs, whether it is getting home for birthdays, emergencies or other family events,” Farrell said.

Among the negatives of logistics, WorkHound cited wait times, routing and fuel decisions which are not in the driver’s control.

“While trucking is thought of as independent and entrepreneurial, many drivers don’t believe this,” Farrell said. “They want to keep moving and they don’t feel they have the power to do that.”

The topic that most fleets believe is probably tops on drivers minds actually came in fourth in this feedback. Pay, though, is still an important issue for drivers, but it’s not usually about how much pay the driver receives, but rather how they receive it.

“A lot of people expect drivers to complain about wanting more money, and this is probably unsurprising. But one of the biggest challenges is how drivers are paid,” Farrell said, saying that confusion can result from how companies calculate paid miles (household goods miles) versus how many miles the driver actually drove (practical miles) and thinks they should be paid for.

“Drivers often have to fight for their correct pay weekly,” Farrell explained. “For folks in the office, they don’t have to deal with this issues as salary pay is predictable and expected” so they are not as understanding of the importance of this.

Other pay issues revolve around reimbursements, confusion over payroll systems, complex detention pay reimbursement formulas, and toll and scale reimbursements.

“It is the little things that matter in this business, and it is these [things] that make the difference between a happy driver and a [not happy driver],” Farrell added.

The feedback also found few mentions of autonomous trucks in 2017, as drivers seemed more focused on their day-to-day challenges. Merger & acquisition (M&A) activity was also a topic that drew mention, with buyouts of fleets creating uncertainty that is not effectively cleared up through communication channels.

Miles, home time, safety, customers, training and routes were also topics that drivers frequently mentioned in their feedback in 2017.

“To be successful, you have to make sure you are setting expectations and checking in on drivers,” Farrell summed up. “When it comes to equipment changes, listen to driver feedback and if you are not going to listen to their feedback, at least communicate the changes and the [reasons why]….and, if you ask for feedback, have a plan to respond.”

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