Ensuring goods and documents are delivered, on time and in good condition, dealing with the demands of operators and different clients, being consistently on the road with little or no breaks: it’s all in a day’s work for drivers. They are literally and figuratively the drivers of the supply chain, without which, e-commerce that thrives precisely on convenience and door-to-door delivery would not be possible. The role drivers play in the supply chain is undeniably very important. Despite being such crucial players in the last mile fulfillment aspect of the supply chain, drivers are often left unspoken for and their efforts are hardly recognized. Not to mention, our inattention aggravates the rapidly worsening problem of driver shortage.
Driver shortage is becoming the most apparent limiting factor to companies’ productivity and efficiency, the barrier to increasing capacity. Many choose to address this problem by focusing on the recruitment of new drivers. This can temporarily increase the number of drivers in the fleet, filling the voids left by those that discontinued their employment but it remains a resource-draining and unsustainable option – a band-aid solution. The amount of time and resources devoted to the recruitment and training of new drivers could be better spent on improving the revenue-generating aspects of the business. High driver turnover rate has been a common problem that has plagued transporters consistently across different logistics sectors. The ratio of the number of drivers being replaced in a specific time frame to the mean number of drivers is alarmingly high, hitting close to 100% for some large truck-load carriers. Long working hours and low pay are critical factors for high drivers’ turnover rate. Like other blue-collared jobs, working as a driver is often perceived as unattractive, poor career prospects and low-level. So for this Labour Day, it is time to make a change and celebrate these unsung heroes of logistics.
1. Improving drivers’ quality of life
Long working hours, irregular meals and occupational hazards involved are some of the many complaints drivers have. While these may be part and parcel of the job, the quality of life of drivers can be improved through conscious effort from the employers. Apart from the most direct method of pay increment, employers can also factor in short breaks for the drivers into their schedule for their health and well-being. Planning jobs by zones, otherwise known as zonal planning, enable drivers to maximize their time to make more deliveries and perhaps allow them to be closer to their homes. This gives the drivers more flexibility in their schedule arrangement, going home earlier to spend time with their family and balancing demands between their families and their job. By helping drivers achieve a better work-life balance, they would be happier and be more willing to stay, especially with the knowledge that the company they work for cares for them. It is not uncommon to hear fleet managers complain about their drivers stopping over for a cup of Kopi-O at coffee shops, which honestly is not too much to ask for. Having a pantry or resting facilities that allows drivers to unwind and interact with each other can potentially make them happier drivers, who can now and will want to do a better job for you.
2. Show appreciation
It is imperative to recognize that drivers are indispensable because the supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Take the effort to acknowledge them as a part of your company, make them feel valued and appreciated for their efforts. For those who perform well or go the extra mile, they deserve to be rewarded. Rewards could come in a monetary form or gift vouchers and awards like “Driver of the Month”. This would also motivate drivers and encourage them to outdo themselves. Organizing team bonding sessions is another great way to instill a sense of belonging and cultivating loyalty. How about an afternoon of recreational soccer? This allows for interaction within and between the different corporate levels of the company and fosters a sense of camaraderie.
3. Respect your drivers
Drivers are sometimes not treated with sufficient respect as they are often seen as replaceable resources. The constant shortage of drivers could be attributed to the poor treatment that drivers tend to receive. Companies need to be able to manage their diverse workforce effectively. It takes no more than changing the way you communicate to achieve this. Remember this Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Respect is fundamental in building a cohesive work environment. When problems arise in operations, drivers are usually the ones left to bear the brunt of the anger and frustration of the fleet managers. It is not uncommon for managers to raise their voices at their drivers, leaving them demoralized. It would help better if they were to motivate and encourage their drivers. Words like “Thank you” or “Good job” after a long day at work goes a long way to show appreciation and a mark of respect. Treat them as equals. If the drivers are facing difficulties at work, assist them and sometimes all they need is a listening ear.
4. Give positive autonomy
Distrust towards drivers creates extra administrative work and encourages the habit of micromanagement. This strains the relationship between the drivers and operators. It is exhausting for both parties, who are constantly wary of each other and neither side would have a pleasant working experience. Giving drivers a suitable amount of freedom and autonomy can have a positive effect for both the company and drivers. To the drivers, the freedom of action energizes and increases their sense of well-being, leading to better work performance and increased vitality. To the operators, they would be relieved of the need for non-stop supervision of the drivers.
5. Drive growth together
Employees should also offer opportunities for drivers to go for skills upgrade. This enables the drivers to value-add to the company, while acquiring skills that are useful to them as well. Many employees fear that the drivers would leave to companies that offer better prospects, once they acquire these skills. To the company, this would mean wasted resources that were invested in the driver. At the end of the day, this is a double-edged sword that needs to be addressed. The company can choose to remain stagnant by doing away with the training or choose to help themselves and their drivers remain competitive and keep up with times in the highly competitive landscape.
6. Empower drivers with technology
With the face of logistics changing at an unprecedented pace, delivery expectations are rising sky-high with the explosion of E-Commerce. Unfortunately, technology is still very much absent in the last-mile fulfilment leg of the supply chain. Drivers are not given the necessary tools to help them meet the increasing demands of their jobs. The end result: Exhausted and overworked drivers who have grown to dislike their jobs, simply because it has become too much to take.
One of the fastest ways to improve your drivers’ working experience is through the adoption of technology, equipping your drivers with the right tools for their job. Currently, there are a handful of technological solutions readily available in the market, that help users achieve greater efficiency and are easy to use. One of such solution would be a transport management software. By using a transport management software, effective communication between drivers and operators can be facilitated. It can aid in ensuring fair allocation of jobs and help operators plan better by suggesting the shortest routes possible. On the other hand, drivers can be empowered with mobile apps that display electronic runsheets and automatic delivery status updates. This automation will significantly reduce the amount of manual administrative work for both the operators and drivers. Technology can help streamline work processes which in turn, promotes a more pleasant working experience for all, by reducing the possibility of communication errors and human conflicts. Operators can now offer higher quality customer service while drivers can focus on what they do best, deriving greater job satisfaction and be more inclined to stay in the team.
Here goes – the summary of ways to increase driver retention rates:
With Singapore’s greying population and shrinking working population, it is no wonder that the problem of driver shortage will continue to worsen. However, it is definitely possible to reverse the increasing driver turnover rate with some effort and resources. While it is unrealistic to expect a radical change in perception towards drivers, it is never too late to start. And we can all start today, this Labour Day, with a simple “Thank you”.