Content at the wheel

| February 01, 2006

“We do annual driver surveys,” says Reich, “and you need a formal process like this to make sure you do talk. But you must also have a way for people to talk to each other in a more relaxed way as well. And there are two keys in all of this communication – both sides must listen, I mean really listen, and the process must be two way. We need to know how and what the driver thinks, and the driver needs to know the same about us.

“If you’re doing it right, the service team leaders (driver managers) don’t have to wait for formal meetings to know what drivers are thinking or what they want or don’t want.
Communication should just happen, and that will leave the driver aware of where he stands and what the future holds. That’s very valuable to a driver; it’s a central part of any job satisfaction.”

More than ‘just a driver’
Surveys show that doing a single task is a recipe for boredom and other job dissatisfactions. Trucking, say experts, company executives and satisfied drivers, gives you a chance to expand your professional skills, and there is ample evidence this has potential to bring a great deal of job satisfaction.

Job satisfaction also can have a lot to do with where drivers have come from and what goals they have set for themselves in the industry. “Many U.S. Xpress drivers have retired from another career – teachers, factory workers, police, firemen, and ex-military to name a few,” U.S. Xpress’ Kelley says. “Many want to see the country. Several husband and wife teams who couldn’t afford the RV lifestyle – they still need incomes and medical benefits.

“Others are hunters, fishermen and motorcycle riders. They take off as needed to do their things. Several grandparents with children and grandchildren in different cities – they visit the whole family when they are dispatched to the right cities.”

Massachusetts-based Roadway Express driver Steve Norbeck found his satisfaction training future truckers.

“It’s something that touches something within me. I get a lot of satisfaction when someone in a classroom suddenly understands something,” says the 34-year veteran driver. “When someone ‘gets’ a hazmat regulation or procedure, that’s a special feeling for me. Being able to get out of the truck and do something else, to pass on what I’ve learned over the years, is really rewarding. To know you’re not just a driver but someone whose experience is being used, being relied upon, is a big part of my job satisfaction.”

Norbeck also finds fulfillment in the fact that he signs off on his students, making his judgment the standard the company uses when it assesses drivers. The company also gives him a lot of leeway in how he does his training, clearly communicating to him that he is in charge of his work and not just going through the motions.

“You feel good when you know your judgments and decisions are not second guessed, that you’re respected and relied on to do something important and something more than driving,” Norbeck says.

Ted Gilberson has driven for 26 years with Marten Transport and is now a senior road skills evaluator with the company. To him, truck driving is a lot more then driving down the road. “You have to work with customers, dispatchers and a lot of other people along the way,” he says. “Learning how to communicate and interact with different kinds of individuals can go a long way toward helping you have a successful career.”

Going the extra mile can not only improve satisfaction but also improve a driver’s chances for success and advancement. “When a driver starts thinking about ‘his’ customers instead of company customers, when he starts thinking of himself as someone who is the front man to make sure the customer is happy, he becomes the sort of driver a company needs and wants to hang on to,” says John Shaw, who is responsible for recruiting and driver qualification at Warren Transport. “He’s likely to be promoted more than drivers who simply shrug their shoulders, say it’s not their problem and give the customer a phone number back at headquarters.”

Organizational psychologist Dr. Sheryl Youngblood says commitment is a huge factor in being satisfied with your job. “I’ve seen a lot of truck drivers begin to experience a renewed zest for living when they make a commitment to get involved in something,” she says. “For some, it has been as simple as writing. For others, it might mean working on behalf of a worthy cause. The commitment will be something different for each person, because we all have different talents and callings.”

Youngblood hosts the Knight Time Radio Show, a call-in talk show for truckers, and co-host Jimmy Frost drives long haul. “Jimmy maintains that the work he does with animal rescue keeps him happy and helps him endure the long periods away from home because he’s closely involved in something that is bigger than himself and trucking,” Youngblood says.

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