Content at the wheel

| February 01, 2006

The study found that employees who had a positive perception of their relationship with their company were more likely to go above and beyond the letter of their job description and do a little more when they were at work. Bottom line: Your relationship with the work you do is not the same thing as your relationship with the company you work for. They are two distinct parts of job satisfaction, and in the end your relationship with your employer carries more weight when deciding if you are satisfied with your job.

Richard Alford, 51, started driving in 1972, and, less some time in the service, has driven for 26 years. The ABF Freight System driver, based in Louisville, Ky., says there is a key to his job satisfaction: “Personally I like the challenges that I encounter on a daily basis. I like to motivate the customers and be courteous on the highway, to demonstrate professionalism, to be the best driver I can be. I like to be an encouragement to other drivers. I think that’s all part of the profession. Driving isn’t just getting loaded and unloaded and being on your way. And money alone doesn’t do it. The challenge is it takes a lot of concentration and a lot of training to be the driver that you need to be. The satisfaction comes from not just doing enough but doing the best you are capable of doing.

“I’ve always been committed to what I do,” says Alford. “That commitment means I’m never ‘just driving.’ I’m always a professional driver. It’s not a one-dimensional career if you want satisfaction from it.”

Home again and very satisfied
Marshall Platter knows truck driving. He’s been doing it for more than 30 years, hauling pretty much everything that the industry has to offer for a lot of different companies. He’s been a company driver, owner-operator and small fleet (six trucks) owner.

And he knows about job satisfaction.

It’s a two way-street, he says. “This is not a simple industry. Sure you need the right stuff from your company, but a lot of the satisfaction you can take out of this job depends on what you put into it. It can be what you make it. You can’t just sit back and expect it to deliver satisfaction. What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.”

Not so long ago Platter decided to change jobs. He left his job driving for Marten and found “a better fit” for his needs at a small, 15-truck fleet in home base Houston, working as both a dispatcher and a recruiter. When it didn’t pan out, he went back to Marten.

“I tried it,” says Platter, 51, “but it didn’t work out, so I came home.”

Marten, he says, gives him what he needs to get the maximum job satisfaction out of life behind the wheel of a big rig. At its core it sounds a lot like the factor Duff H. Swain of the Trincon Group, a business consulting company with more than 20 years working with the trucking industry, laid out as the reason smaller companies can have dramatically lower turnover rates – the “ability to establish personal relationships with drivers.”

“I want to work for a company where the people give a damn. I can talk to the most senior executives of this company, and I know they listen to what I say and what other drivers say. You can tell they’re not just trying to look friendly,” Platter says. “They’re available to us, and they’ll sit down and talk to us. Drivers value that sort of communication, and they value honest communication. Honesty is especially important. Drivers don’t like jobs were the company floats you with a bunch of false expectations. Don’t promise to get us home every weekend if you can’t keep it. We’d rather hear someone say they’ll try to get us home every weekend and mean it. Get offered so many cents a mile, then come to find out the miles aren’t there, and there’s no job satisfaction because the relationship wasn’t honest to start with.”

A recent Truckers News poll found many drivers see a dishonest carrier as a significant reason for changing jobs.

In his smaller company dispatching and recruiting job, Platter hired new drivers for as little as 21 cpm. “But they were hub miles, not map miles, and I could prove to drivers what they could earn. I could also show them that if they kept in touch and told us what they wanted, we would do our best to do it. And we did. And they knew it. We got a lot of drivers home for the weekend to Houston, and that created a lot of job satisfaction for the drivers.

“If we couldn’t get them where they wanted to be or solve a problem immediately, we told them why. We explained what was happening and how we planned to get them the best arrangement we could. Sometimes they might get stuck for a weekend, but they always knew why and they knew we were trying our very best for that not to happen. They also knew we’d try and make it up. Marten does that. too.”

Sounds like more of Swain’s recipe for keeping good drivers satisfied. Drivers, Swain says, “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.”

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