Content at the wheel

| February 01, 2006

More than money
Money alone isn’t enough to guarantee job satisfaction behind the wheel or anywhere else, says Rob Reich, vice president in charge of company-wide recruiting at Schneider National. He says his company evaluates driver job satisfaction in three parts:

  • Pay

  • The type and nature of the work and how it fits the driver
  • How they are treated, by the company and by the people who work around them.

The Conference Board’s report found that how much you earn is not a guarantee of job satisfaction. Their survey found that job satisfaction has declined across all income brackets in the last nine years. While 55 percent of workers earning more than $50,000 are satisfied with their jobs, only 14 percent claim they are very satisfied. At the other end of the pay scale (workers earning less than $15,000), about 45 percent of workers are satisfied, and 17 percent express a strong level of satisfaction. Note that a strong level of satisfaction is more common in people earning less than $15,000 than those making more than $50,000.

A survey by Development Dimensions International in 2004 talked to 1,000 employees from companies who had a staff of more than 500 workers. They found a lot of employees reported being bored, lacking commitment to the job and looking for a new place to work. But their pay checks ranked only at No. 5 in their lists of reasons for looking to move on. Top of the list was a need to find a place with better chances for promotion (43 percent), more challenging work (28 percent), more exciting work (23 percent) and more varied work (21 percent).

And yet, when a Truckers News survey asked: “If you have changed carriers recently, what promoted you to make the move?” the single biggest response was “better pay” (42.5 percent). Next came job conditions – less stressful working environment (29.5 percent), better working conditions (27 percent), previous employer was not being honest (25.3 percent) and better benefits (23 percent).

This suggests that while how much money you put in your pocket is not the leading source of true job satisfaction, it may be the leading source of job dissatisfaction. Another interpretation is that drivers seeking increased job satisfaction changed jobs for the wrong reason.

Research has also shown that feeling underpaid can lead to such job problems as lateness, absence and turnover. And turnover sits at about 100 percent in the trucking industry. Yet according to veteran industry analyst Duff H. Swain of the Trincon Group, a business consulting company with more than 20 years working with the trucking industry, some companies manage only 35 to 50 percent annual turnover. A University of Illinois study in the 1980s said 30 percent was an attainable annual turnover figure in the trucking industry.

“It’s no secret that small companies often boast of remarkably low turnover rates because of their ability to establish personal relationships with drivers,” says Swain. The drivers feel they’re an important part of a team, and they stay.

But many small companies lose this closeness as they grow and run head on into driver retention problems, says Swain.

Could the personal touch and a feeling of genuinely being needed be more important than pay?
Swain says yes. “Drivers leave companies because they perceive a lack of communication and feel like they are not respected or valued. It is not a pay issue,” he says. “Time and again trucking companies have increased pay, only to find that drivers will still leave, blaming poor earnings or lack of miles. But the bottom line is do drivers feel valued? Pay, of course, is a motivating force in non-competitive situations. But equalize the pay and you will find the problem still exists.”

So what to do? “Drivers want to be treated fairly,” Swain says. “They want to know what is expected, whom they work for, how they are doing, how to resolve problems and what is going on that will affect them.” He proposes truckers choose companies with a “career track” to give drivers a sense of being a valued part of a company with a clear-cut path into the future.

Schneider National’s Reich says his company uses both formal and informal communication processes so that both company and driver are kept informed about what is happening. It’s a way to exchange ideas, feelings and a general assessment of how each side thinks the other is doing and where they are going.

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