The Culture of Work for Truck Drivers Is Changing

As we make our way through the roller coasters of 2020 and 2021, rapid and distinct shifts at work are taking place.

In the past, the amount of time a car sat in the parking lot was often intricately tied to his or her value. Employees and employers alike saw long hours on the job as a badge of pride, a sign that they were dedicated and worthy of respect.

These days, though, we’re more likely to view long hours and blurred work/life boundaries as signs of potential burnout. In recent decades, researchers have gained a greater understanding of the conditions that make us more productive as employees for the bottom line (hint: long hours are not involved) and the things that do not.

And as a whole, younger generations of employees and their employers have used that knowledge to fuel a new culture around work — one where your value is not tied to the hours you’re putting in.

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The Culture Shift at Work in Another Industry

To see this shift — and the perils of not evolving alongside it — look no further than the current state of the restaurant industry, particularly in fast food. 

Faced with widespread layoffs last year, employees in that industry have chosen in mass numbers to look for other work as they reenter the workforce. 

What are they looking for? Opportunities that require fewer hours, have better benefits, and value employees for the quality of their work, not the quantity of it.

How the Culture of Trucking Is Changing

Hiring, by nature, goes in cycles. In nearly every industry, companies face shortages and enhanced hiring needs when older generations age out of the workforce and new ones enter it.

The trucking industry is no exception. As we look to fill a massive need for professional drivers over the next decade — with estimates showing more than 1 million hires needed — trucking carriers have to evolve their hiring practices and their cultures to better meet the needs of younger drivers.

This requires hitting a reset button on how work is viewed and how employees are valued, as well as taking a thoughtful look at benefits related to time off the road and more.

“We are seeing companies allow drivers flex time and finding ways to get drivers home, or at least have a better schedule for time off,” says Max Farrell, CEO & Co-Founder at WorkHound. “Many drivers get only a 34-hour reset, which is what’s required. That’s the status quo for drivers of older generations. But in order for the industry to adapt for future generations, they’re going to have to reevaluate how time off works.”

To maintain their physical and mental health and well-being, drivers need meaningful time off.

“There’s an assumption that because the work drivers do is done sitting down, they’re resting,” Farrell says. “But that’s not true. Drivers need a ‘weekend,’ even if it’s not Saturday and Sunday. They need time off between drives, and they also need paid time off.” 

There are a lot of factors that play into the discussion around time off for trucking companies, but it’s an essential conversation to have.

“Paid time off still isn’t common in trucking, but companies are beginning to become more accommodating,” Farrell says. “Drivers historically haven’t had a lot of autonomy in general over their time off, and securing PTO has been fairly convoluted. When drivers don’t get paid time off, they don’t take time off, which creates a culture of diminished productivity and negatively impacts wellness.”

On the flip side, it’s also important for companies to take downtime into consideration. Truck drivers are often forced to take time off the road to handle work-related tasks that they aren’t typically compensated for — but fortunately, that’s changing.

“Companies are making pay changes that accurately compensate for the work that drivers are doing, not just when the wheels are turning,” Farrell says. “There are a lot of previously uncompensated duties that companies are now figuring out how to pay for.”

Opening Up the Lines of Communication

As our view of work evolves and less focus is paid to the “long hours = value” mindset, there’s another important piece of the culture change to keep in mind.

From years of gathering feedback from drivers, we know that they feel valued and respected when they’re given the chance to share their thoughts and concerns with their employers. Trust is built through open conversation — and action taken based on those conversations.

Implementing a feedback program is an important piece of the puzzle that allows drivers to speak up whenever and wherever they need to.

“Trucking as a whole tends to rely on open-door policies to encourage drivers to come in and talk,” Farrell says. “We know that simply doesn’t work. Drivers may never make it to the facility to get to the door.”

That’s where WorkHound comes in, providing the “open door” your drivers need, whether they’re miles away or close to home. It’s a simple solution with big results.

“The most successful companies are now finding new ways to build communication bridges across their organizations,” Farrell says. “At WorkHound, we love helping companies find out what their workers really need and how to adapt to rapidly changing landscapes all across the trucking industry.” 

Let a feedback program become a communication bridge for your company. Sign up for a free demo to learn how WorkHound can help!