Content at the wheel

| February 01, 2006

There’s more to your career than being just a driver if you do it right.

Some people are just after a paycheck while others truck happily along with their careers.

Obviously, life is better when you’re content with your career and where it’s going. You feel less stress and enjoy your days behind the wheel more. You have, in two words, job satisfaction.

So what is that?

An increasing percentage of Americans are not happy in their jobs, The Conference Board reported earlier this year. This decline is widespread among workers of all ages and across all income brackets.

Half of all Americans today say they are satisfied with their jobs, down from nearly 60 percent in 1995, according to the board’s report, which was based on a survey conducted by TNS, a market information company. But among the 50 percent who say they are content, only 14 percent say they are “very satisfied.”

The board reports that one in four of us just show up at work to collect a paycheck.

“Rapid technological changes, rising productivity demands and changing employee expectations have all contributed to the decline in job satisfaction,” says Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center. The board creates and distributes knowledge about management and the marketplace to help businesses strengthen their performance.

So what’s the difference? Why do some drivers rate their job satisfaction as high while others – doing essentially the same job – are dissatisfied? Money? Yes. But it’s just a single factor amid many.

More options
Even just a decade ago most drivers had fewer choices and less control over their destiny, says U.S. Xpress Director of Recruiting Gary Kelley. “The job satisfaction came from the paycheck,” he says. “There was very little choice in the industry. We said to drivers, ‘This is the job, this is how you do it, this is where you do it and when you do it, now take it or leave it.’

“But today drivers have choices, and making the right ones – not just choosing the best pay packet – is the key to increasing your job satisfaction.”

Pay is the cornerstone, the point where the job satisfaction debate begins. While pay may not be the sole issue in job satisfaction, without enough of it, the rest doesn’t matter. And pay almost inevitably attracts a driver in the first place. It’s the starting point.

Officials with J.B. Hunt, Crete Carriers, Covenant Transportation and Schneider National have said driver pay would have to increase dramatically before enough new drivers would enter the market.

“I don’t believe you can pat a driver on the head and put candy in the terminal and draw in drivers,” says J.B. Hunt CEO Kirk Thompson. “Treating them well is only the price of admittance. Pay and home time – if you’re not paying drivers and getting them home on a frequent basis, you’re going to be out of business. Driver wages are inadequate to attract enough qualified drivers.”

“Pay is important,” says Duane Acklie, chairman of Crete Carrier Corp. “We don’t have a shortage of drivers, just a shortage of drivers willing to work for what we pay.”

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