Bad News Bearers

By on July 1, 2009
RoadKing Mag

We’re continually hearing about freight being off, trucking operations laying off workers, businesses closing and firms going into bankruptcy. Even trucking companies with years of strong performance are failing.

All too often, trucking companies — especially the larger ones — deliver bad news that affects their employees via email, paycheck stuffers, recorded phone message or some other impersonal means. Often, they choose those methods so company officials can avoid having to face their employees.

So it was refreshing to discover a for-hire trucking company that knows how to deliver bad news while providing hope and encouraging action.

The company, which wants to remain anonymous, had to reduce its driver force and cut back on pay to help to protect its business. As it took these measures, it held meetings to let drivers know what was happening  and why.

I attended one of the meetings, and was impressed by what went on. Key company executives made presentations and then took all questions.

They began by mentioning that the company has been searching for ways to operate more efficiently and find opportunities for savings, down to eliminating some office supplies and services and changing the brand of toilet paper.

The executives went on to explain in detail that the driver pay reductions were necessary because “the trucking industry is experiencing unprecedented pressure to lower rates,” and noted that the company “is taking the majority of the rate reduction.”

Throughout the meeting, the executives recognized the quality of work of its drivers, and acknowledged that “without your hard work, we wouldn’t have been able to retain the business that we did.”

The executives urged drivers to continue to make a difference. “If each of us does the little things to make us better, we will all benefit in the long run. Doing the right things every day will translate into job security for all of us.”
To help the company weather the economic storm, they reminded drivers to:
•  Treat the equipment they operate as if it were their own. Don’t damage or abuse it, maintain it to operate efficiently, and drive to maximize its efficient use.
•  Drive every day in the safest manner possible. “You have your own life, in addition to other lives, within your control. And, accidents are very costly.”  
•  Communicate with fleet managers regularly to help the company serve its customers better.  

The meeting ended on an upbeat note, with the executives promising: “When the economy returns to better times, and we can get an increase in rates, we will increase driver pay immediately.”

While no one at the meeting wanted to hear bad news, it was delivered in such a way as to make the drivers feel that they are an integral part of the organization, critical to the company’s continuation and success.  

When companies treat their drivers with integrity and honesty, drivers are committed to their job and company. Greater effort produces an increase in individual performance, and that positively impacts a company’s bottom line. That goes a long way to helping trucking companies endure the current weak market conditions.

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