Tips for improving communications effectiveness.
Little Rock-based Oakley Trucking maintains a turnover rate less than 1/3 the current industry average for fleets the American Trucking Associations categorize as “large” (above $30 million in revenue). How? Pretty simple, actually. “You’ve got to take care of the ones you have before you go get more,” says Oakley recruiting director Jeremy Kellett.
“After all, our drivers have always been our best recruiters—and a happy crew means more referrals.” On the other hand, “If you don’t take care of them, they can hurt you, and your reputation. Not only among other drivers, but with your customers.”
1) Be Honest.
“Dry bulk hauling is harder work than a lot of trucking jobs,” Kellett continues. “It can be dirty and hot. Our Owner Operators have to learn fairly technical loading and unloading techniques. And they have to invest in specialized equipment for their trucks when they lease-on with us.
“So if anything, we make the job sound even harder than it is during our recruiting conversations. That way there are no unpleasant surprises. Once we get drivers in here, we take very good care of them.”
2) Be Consistent.
Kellett will tell you that the toughest part of effective communications is ensuring that every department is on the same page. With every load. For example: “We give drivers specific training guidelines regarding optimal pressure for unloading. But we have customers whose silos can’t handle that kind of pressure. If a dispatcher neglects to clearly communicate one of those customer’s specific requirements, the driver and the company ends-up looking bad.
“It doesn’t take many bad experiences like that to get a driver thinking he’d be better off working somewhere else. That’s why we’re constantly reminding each other to give drivers all the information they need.
“It’s also why we encourage drivers, from their first day of orientation, to call their recruiter if they’re having communication problems with their dispatchers.” In fact, Kellett notes, “our recruiters probably spend as much time talking with existing drivers as we do with prospects.”
3) Listen. Really Listen.
Ask any driver what they like about Oakley, and they’ll inevitably mention the Open Door policy. “If I need to do, I can talk to anybody in this company,” says Andy Keesling “And that includes Dennis Oakley (CEO).” Antoinette Calder, one of two women in the company’s Sand division, agrees. “Oakley believes in their drivers. They’ll listen to you. And they always tell you the truth.”
4) Set The Bar High.
“The big thing we focus on,” Kellett says, “is helping our Owner Operators do well in their business. Sometimes that means praise and encouragement. But sometimes that means pushing a little harder. If a guy calls in to say he’s going home after a light week, his dispatcher is going to make it clear that he’ll be looking at a small paycheck next week.
“Drivers don’t always like to hear that, but we know they really won’t like hearing what their wives have to say when they’re sitting down to pay bills. And there’s no quicker way to lose a driver than to make his wife mad.”