They are the main component in any trucking operation, but often can be taken for granted, but keeping drivers healthy, happy and here is important. Drivers are one of the elements which can make or break a company, getting it right with drivers is vital.
If you talk to many successful trucking operators and ask them about the way the company has grown, they will, almost always, come down to saying the most important factor has been the people in the organisation. To a large extent this means the drivers, although as an operation grows the better drivers tend to transition across to be operations managers, driver trainers and compliance experts.
As an ex-driver myself I have worked in both good and bad environments. Over my career the requirements for being a good driver have changed somewhat. In the seventies the company wanted someone who was self sufficient, the driver was expected to be able to leave the yard and get all of the transport task done under their own initiative.
Phone calls were limited to occasionally checking in from a, hard to find, payphone to find out where the next job was. Drivers were expected to change tyres, try and fix the truck, negotiate with delivery and collection points and sometimes demand a cheque for payment for the load. There was plenty of rough and tumble on the highway and driver had to be tough to survive.
The relationship with home base was often limited. Drivers were sent out into the wide blue yonder and expected to return with the truck and cargo intact with little support from the operations team.
Looking at the current situation, we have come a long way from those days. However, with a rapidly ageing driving workforce, we have a lot of the workforce who actually started driving trucks in those wilder times. There are a lot of behaviours from that time which are regarded as totally unacceptable across the industry.
There is a clear point of delineation, the 1989 Grafton truck and bus crash. This was a catalysing moment for the trucking industry and the environment for truckies was completely transformed from that time. It marked the end of the open slather cowboy operator and ushered in the age of the responsible safe and professional operator.
The culture shift didn’t just happen overnight, but the ensuing 15 years saw a new breed of trucking operator and a new way of running a trucking operation emerge. The immediate aftermath of the tragedy saw a lot of the spotlight shone on the truck driver themselves, something they hadn’t had before. This illuminated the issues and brought them out in the open to be confronted and changed.
Since the dark days of the early nineties with its blockades and stand-offs between the authorities and belligerent drivers, we have seen development of a new style of trucking industry. There are still the cowboy operators out there and rogues driving trucks, but they are becoming a smaller and smaller part of the trucking community.
The truck driver of 2018 is expected to be a responsible member of society. They have to keep a strict work diary and the company will be regularly audited to ensure as much compliance as possible. The levels of compliance can vary between the standard hours regime, up though basic fatigue management and onto advanced fatigue management. All of which need a certain level of knowledge in order to comply and avoid fines.
The driver may need other qualifications beyond the driving license. There may be dangerous goods on board and they need to be accredited. There are codes of practice in the retail sector, the livestock sector, bulk grain and several others. Drivers need to be up to speed with these. Site inductions are prolific and growing all of the time. Drivers need to be aware of a wide area of expertise and knowledge.