A surefire way to lose the best drivers, says Law, is not respecting their safety. He says companies will struggle to retain great employees if they push drivers too hard, if they delay repairs or otherwise don’t keep their fleet of trucks in good working order.

“There are companies out there that are willing to allow drivers to get those goods to the destination at whatever cost, whether that means operating an unsafe vehicle or running in noncompliant hours of service,” says Law. “You develop a reputation if your leadership doesn’t promote safety and safe driving. We do it differently. There’s nothing on that vehicle that is worth taking a chance over.”

Although some drivers are leaving the industry because ELD has cost them money, ultimately it may reduce the driver shortage, says Law. That’s because all companies must now operate by the same rules, which evens the playing field. Drivers can’t jump ship to work at an unethical company that allows them to earn more by working extra hours. Instead, those companies will have to increase pay rates to keep their drivers.

Drivers are the face of a jan/san distributor, but they often go overlooked because they aren’t in the office or directly contributing to sales figures.

Of course, every employee wants to feel valued by their company. Company leadership should make an effort to recognize and reward their drivers’ contributions. This can take any form, from financial bonuses to driver-of-the-month programs.

Plus, drivers are often the best resources to improve things like routing and customer service. Taking time to get their input can affect positive, profitable changes in how a distributor operates.

“The management team should understand how valuable a resource the drivers are and make a point to speak to them daily,” says Humphrey. 

He and his managers have all done ride-alongs with their drivers, and the experience always creates a deeper appreciation for this difficult and exhausting profession. 

“We want our drivers to understand they are the most important position in our company,” says Humphrey. “If we don’t have drivers, we can’t service our customers and we cease to exist.”

The driver shortage issue looks only to worsen in the coming years. Distributors that don’t start figuring out how to attract and retain quality drivers do so at their own peril, says Humphrey.

“If we don’t address it now, the cost of doing business will force many organizations out of business,” he says. Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.


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