The relationship between drivers and carriers is a broken one, stuck in a vicious cycle of mutual cheating, lying, and other nasty behaviors from both sides. Truck drivers have become accustomed to abusive practices from companies, and in turn the drivers have little respect for the company. Which then leads companies to lose respect for drivers. Everybody points the finger at everybody else: drivers believe carriers and fleet owners are evil overlords keeping them from earning a decent living, and companies believe drivers are unreliable and unlikely to stick around. Companies carry great financial risk as the cost of doing business, and so they operate from a place of fear: fear of losing money, fear of failure. Drivers fear losing their paychecks, their livelihood, and their personal financial security.
In this contentious relationship between company and driver, nobody wins. Speaking from my experience managing our own fleet, I can tell you that the majority of drivers who come through our doors expect us to cheat them. I will frequently loan money to new drivers (in the form of a pay advance), and in too many cases, it comes back to bite me. So my guard is up: I start to assume that new, untested drivers are looking for ways to cheat me.
Truck drivers have become accustomed to abusive practices from companies, and in turn the drivers have little respect for the company.
If you do your research on our company, you’ll find some negative reviews written by former drivers, claiming we withheld their pay, as well as all sorts of unflattering personal insults I don’t feel the need to repeat here. That first part, though, is true: we have withheld pay from many drivers. Why? In most cases, it’s because they quit without notice during their 90-day probationary period. Our driver agreement states that we will cover start-up expenses (transportation to orientation, lodging, background checks, medical card, and many others) for all new drivers. If, however, they leave without notice before their first 90 days are up, then they owe us those funds we spent getting them started. And if they do drive for 91 days, and then walk away from a truck without giving notice, we reserve the right to withhold their funds to cover our costs to recoup that truck, pay any fines they’ve incurred, cover damages, etc. To be honest, what we’re able to withhold usually doesn’t come close to covering what an irresponsible driver costs us.
In my years in this industry, I’ve seen it all. I often tell my staff that this is the way it is in the trucking business. But isn’t it a shame? Shouldn’t I be able to trust our drivers? Shouldn’t our drivers be able to trust us? Fortunately we have some excellent drivers who have been with us for a long time, learned our system, and are doing great out there on the road. Unfortunately, those folks are the exception in this industry.
I don’t expect to be able to change the relationship between all drivers and all carriers. What I do hope, however, is to change Tempus Transport’s tiny slice of the world. Above all else, we recognize it when we have a great driver, and we will do anything in our power to keep that individual in our truck and earning a good living. We employ driver liaisons who answer our drivers’ calls 24 hours a day to ensure that our drivers are supported out there on the road. We offer a competitive rate per mile with opportunities for advancement, and we regularly recognize drivers who do great work. My personal phone is always on, and I’m always happy to hear from our drivers, whether they have a question, a complaint, or a new idea about better ways to do things.
And here is what we ask of drivers, in addition to all the usual stuff about being safe, being legal, delivering on time, and operating efficiently.
- Be nice. I don’t care who you’re talking to (shippers, consignees, driver liaisons, recruiters, gas station attendants, your co-driver, anybody else in the world). Smile, and be polite. Remember that we are all trying to do our jobs, and nobody is inherently out to get you.
- Tell the truth. The quickest way to get yourself terminated is to lie to us. If you crashed a truck, don’t blame it on your GPS or make up some other story. The truth is going to come out eventually, and it’ll be easier on you in the long run if we hear it from you first.
- Keep us informed. If you’re having a problem with your co-driver, tell us. If you are burned out and need to take home time, tell us. If you can’t afford your bills and need an advance, tell us. If you’re going to be late delivering a load, tell us. If you find the best place for ribs in Memphis, by all means tell us.
As a fleet owner, we are in a symbiotic relationship with our drivers. If drivers don’t make money, neither do we, and it’s worse than that because our business is losing money. If a truck is sitting for a week, we still have to make a payment, pay salaries, pay rent on our office, keep the lights on, etc. The whole idea that fleet owners are fat cats cheating drivers out of pay is really laughable if you look at the numbers involved in running a business in this industry (which is not to say there are no dishonest fleet owners out there; quite the contrary).
In closing, I’d like to acknowledge that the vicious cycle is kept alive by both drivers and companies. Most of you know how long it takes to stop a 70-foot rig traveling at 65 mph. Multiply that by an entire country of full of trucks, dispatched by an industry full of carriers and fleet owners. You begin to see the magnitude of the change that’s so desperately needed. So we start with what we can control, and we invite you to do the same.