Highway Mind: Correcting Course on Mental Health

Dangerous traffic. Chronic stress. Empty passenger seats. And way, way too much time to think. When you’re a driver in the trucking industry, it’s all part of the job. Over time, though, these strains can take a heavy toll on the mind.

The risk of developing mental health issues in the trucking field is high — leaving many drivers debilitated, unsafe at the wheel, or with suicidal tendencies. If left untreated, mental illness can pose significant threats to more parties than just the driver. Other drivers, pedestrians, the truck, and even the cargo are at risk as well. The damage in these circumstances is astronomical for everyone involved.

Strap In for the Long Run

As a company, you can help steer your drivers to safety. Putting resources in place to help protect your workers is not only responsible, but it’s also smart business. According to estimates from a recent World Health Organization-led study on mental health, depression and anxiety disorders cost the global economy $1 trillion each year in lost productivity.

In addition to safeguarding against damages and inspiring productivity, it’s an employee retention opportunity in a perennially competitive hiring market. You have everything to gain by making your company more amenable to drivers — especially in the arena of mental health.

So what are the best ways to take action? Above all else, you want to take time to explore the mental health tools and options available for drivers. But before you swing into problem-solving mode, you need a firm grip on the issue at hand — the stressors, the risks, and the underlying needs that cause them. These insights should form the basis of your approach.

Know the Mind Behind the Wheel

The complexities of life on the road are myriad. The isolation of extended days and weeks behind the wheel leaves many drivers feeling deeply alone. The monotony of the highway can be numbing on the one hand, while the dangers of traffic and blind spots can spike anxiety on the other. On top of that, drivers often witness a greater number of major accidents than the average person. And some have been in critical accidents themselves. The trauma of these experiences can be particularly damaging to a driver’s stability.

“PTSD is an ongoing risk in this line of work,” said Katie Love, Customer Success Manager at WorkHound. “Accidents involving injury and death are extremely shocking events to witness or experience directly. Drivers may develop obsessive fears or flashbacks while having to remain on the road for prolonged periods of time.”

Another challenge for drivers is the amount of time they must spend away from home. This makes maintaining relationships difficult for some. Time spent with family and friends is often inadequate, perpetuating the sense of loneliness many already feel while isolated in their trucks. For some drivers, the ripple effects can be far-reaching.

Employers: Reach Out and Listen

As a company, the single most important thing you can do to support drivers struggling with mental health is to make a connection.

“Stigmas around the topic of mental health can make it very difficult for workers to admit when they’re struggling, even in 'open door policy' cultures,” said Love. “But when employers proactively and consistently communicate about the issue, drivers start realizing they’re not alone in their experiences and are thus more likely to seek help.”

Another way to make employees more comfortable expressing their mental health needs is to provide them with an anonymous way to do so, suggested Love.

“At WorkHound, our company feedback platform is designed to facilitate sensitive conversations like these,” she explained. “It’s also a great way to gain insight into potential changes you can make internally that would better accommodate employees’ mental health needs while making them safer on the road.”

Some of those changes might include:

  • Implementing an emergency phone line that allows drivers to call trained professionals for support when they need someone to confide in on the road
  • Adjusting your insurance policy to provide coverage for remote therapy sessions
  • Providing workers with their schedules far enough in advance so that it’s easier for them to arrange quality time with family and friends
  • Amending your bereavement policy so employees have adequate time to travel for funerals and experience necessary grieving with loved ones
  • Offer the opportunity to bring companions on the road: family, friends, or pets
  • Creating physical spaces that encourage social interaction for drivers when they are in the office environment
  • Being more receptive to drivers’ needs for time off
  • Allowing drivers to use PTO in some of the locations they travel for work or providing a stipend for their vacation time
  • Offer assistance for self-care routines, such as gym memberships, a massage, or even necessary hygiene practices, like a hair cut at a barber

Most importantly, remember to listen closely and be responsive as ever. Drivers know what they come up against on the road better than anyone, which makes them excellent partners in tackling this problem. And be sure not to wait to take action or communicate updates. Drivers who reach out with mental health concerns and assume they’re going unacknowledged will take note — and potentially seek employment elsewhere. But when employees feel valued and that their needs are being taken seriously, especially on the topic of health, it makes a real difference. And ultimately, driver safety and company safety always go hand-in-hand.

WorkHound provides an easy-to-use feedback platform that gives employees a voice. If you’re ready to learn how using our tool could improve the feedback culture at your business or organization, request a demo today.


WorkHound, Marten Transport take on driver retention through expanded partnership

Chattanooga, Tenn. (May 31, 2018) -- WorkHound and Marten Transport, Ltd. (Nasdaq/GS:MRTN) are announcing a partnership expansion from a limited rollout of 500 drivers to more than 1300, Marten Transport’s complete over-the-road (OTR) fleet, on WorkHound’s software platform developed to help carriers improve driver retention.

WorkHound raises the voice for frontline workers through an anonymous feedback loop provided by a mobile communication service. Through this effort, Marten Transport credits WorkHound with retention of at least 50 drivers in the first four months of the partnership.

“The greatest benefit of WorkHound for Marten Transport is about identifying a real issue for our drivers and fixing it so they’ll stay,” said Lars Offerdahl, Marten Transport Director of Recruiting. “It’s about doing away with the surveys, where we assume the issues that drivers face, and truly listening to open-ended feedback. This is how we can find a micro win that results in a macro change in our company’s turnover and policy.”

Changes that have resulted from Marten driver feedback include a pet policy that allows drivers to travel with pet companions, a passing speed bump to increase the speed of trucks as drivers make passes on the interstate, and updates to terminal facilities.

WorkHound has also helped drivers reveal and resolve frustrations with other software functions while Marten Transport continues to invest in technology upgrades.

“Marten has been an awesome partner to work with,” Max Farrell, CEO of WorkHound said. “We built our product to help carriers listen, act, and respond. Marten has taken that to heart and made positive changes for professional drivers while regularly responding to driver feedback. We’re thrilled to continue growing this relationship.”

WorkHound is taking on the staggering industry-wide turnover with some of the largest fleets across the United States by implementing change based on feedback to ultimately open the door to the future workforce. While trucking remains WorkHound’s main focus, other industries that encounter difficulties with retention— warehousing, manufacturing, and nursing— are next on the horizon.

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About Marten:
Marten Transport, Ltd., headquartered in Mondovi, Wis. and trading symbol MRTN on NASDAQ, provides value add temperature control and dry transportation via: Truckload, Intermodal, Dedicated and Logistics services.

About WorkHound:
WorkHound is a real-time engagement platform for frontline workers. WorkHound creates a fast and simple feedback loop to give workers a voice. Companies act on these insights, enhance communication, improve operations, and increase worker retention. WorkHound currently specializes in helping companies in trucking, healthcare, manufacturing, and warehousing industries.


Driver Retention Starts with Driver Feedback - HireRight Webinar

We all know the truck driver shortage is real, but is good pay and home time enough to satisfy driver retention for the long-term? Or should a different approach be considered? Max Farrell, WorkHound CEO and Co-Founder, presented a HireRight webinar on why it’s essential to tune in to drivers’ needs. 

WorkHound started with the mission of helping people love the work they do. And they do that by raising the voice of frontline workers through listening to anonymous feedback, acting on issues and responding with change.

Learn about driver retention the WorkHound way in this webinar:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTGrF0sFnBo

Ready for more? Request a consultation here.


5 Driver Retention Ideas From MATS 2018

The Mid-America Truck Show (MATS) is the largest show in North America. This is where you can learn about the latest trucking industry products.

Our WorkHound team interviewed experts from 35+ trucking companies to learn more about innovative driver retention ideas. Here are the best approaches companies are taking to increase driver retention rates.

As you can guess, there’s no quick fix to driver retention and recruiting isn’t complete once a driver is hired. That’s why it’s important to combine ideas from the list below. The end result should be happier drivers, increased retention rates, and a more efficient operation!

Be transparent:

From one expert in the field: “Recruiting is like dating-- it’s important to set realistic expectations.”

Recruit to retain on the forefront by presenting and aligning realistic expectations. Many carriers are actively looking for drivers that will fit the company culture. This includes drivers with experience that fits the expectations for their role.

Set recruits up for success by being completely proactive and transparent. Be upfront about any unique policies or perks that your company has to offer. And then, create a retention cadence beyond the drivers’ first few months to ensure your expectations are continuously aligned.

In short, don’t over promise and under deliver.

Connect:

It’s no secret that at times, drivers and dispatchers can have an adversarial relationship. That’s why it’s important to facilitate face-to-face connections whenever possible.

If a driver isn’t able to meet these key players in person, set up a video call. Retention is everyone’s job in every department.

And this goes beyond introductions. Staying connected includes checking in with drivers throughout the year about how they are doing, not just in the first 90 days. Keep drivers up-to-speed by checking in regularly.

Trucking is a community and drivers want to feel like they’re part of the family. Open up dialogue about life beyond work. As one connection at MATS said: “If you treat a driver like a driver, you lose them. If you treat them like a person, you keep them.”

Don’t forget to give drivers a voice beyond the recruiting process. Ask for referrals. A happy driver is the best recruiter.

Offer perks:

Create a great brand image that makes drivers proud of their company.  Lately, carriers are establishing this identity through employee perks.  

To get started: Create short orientations so drivers can quickly get on the road.

Does your company offer an Employee Stock Ownership Plan? Empower drivers to become an owner through an ESOP program. This is also a great way to incorporate financial coaching. Help drivers get set up for success off-the-road through financial planning.

If your carrier is just one pillar of an even larger operation, maybe you can offer advantages for other resources in the organization. If your company or ownership group owns a restaurant or resort, consider perks. If they own a truck shop, what would it take to offer discounts on parts?

Maybe your carrier already offers incredible benefits and it’s been awhile since you’ve reminded the workforce. Repetition is okay and an open opportunity to start a positive interaction.

Close the gap:

In any organization, it’s challenging to build connections between the top-level and those on the front line. Especially in a mobile workforce like trucking.

A quick call from leadership on a special day can go far. Consider anniversaries at one month, six months or a year. And don’t forget birthdays! One carrier we met even offers a bonus when drivers work on a milestone dates.

Retention mindset starts from the top down.

Adaptability:

“We’ve always done it this way” is a pretty dangerous phrase, especially in an industry changing as rapidly as trucking.

If you’ve found yourself saying this phrase but don’t know what to do next, consider tracking issues that your drivers are facing and tackling their feedback head-on.

Change can be good and it might be time for it. Adapting to your drivers’ needs is the key to their happiness which will ultimately result in higher retention and a more profitable investment in recruiting.

And remember: A happy driver is the best recruiter.

 

Special thanks to these companies for sharing actionable wisdom:

Merx Global, A & R Logistics, ContainerPort, Daily Express, Mercer, Foremost Transport, Hogan Transports, Trailer Transit, CoreTrans, Transport Investments, Online Transport, Atlas, Eby Brown, Dominos, Long Haul Trucking, Koch Trucking, and Quickway Carriers.