September 10-16 is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. While you no doubt see drivers on the road every day, this week is a reminder to show appreciation to the drivers who transport everything that lines the shelves at your favorite store — plus the materials used to build the shelves, the car you drove to the store, the gas you put in your car and the coffee you grabbed for the trip.
To do this, drivers are on the road for long hours, on holidays and during all kinds of weather. At Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we’re understandably biased toward these road warriors. And if we’ve learned anything over the six decades we’ve been in business, it’s how hard drivers work.
Recent well-publicized driver shortages and supply chain problems have demonstrated how much we all rely on truck drivers. In honor of the holiday week, we asked a few drivers how you can express your appreciation.
Most of us share the road with drivers every day. If you also interact with them as a logistics, warehouse or supply chain manager, here are some ways to say thank you.
Show Appreciation for Drivers Onsite
Jonathan Smith has been a driver for 10+ years. He is an over-the-road specialized open-deck driver. During his decade of hauling freight nationwide, he has observed a few simple things that make drivers feel appreciated.
- Let drivers use your bathroom. Drivers put in long days to get to their destination on time. To make their appointment, they are probably skipping bathroom breaks. If you have a driver come to your location, offer to let them use the bathroom. It’s a small thing that can make a big difference.
- Provide proper safety equipment. Some sites require flatbed drivers to wear a safety harness to tarp freight. However, safety harnesses are not one size fits all. If you require safety harnesses, make sure you offer them in a variety of sizes to fit all drivers.
- Give clear directions. Not all drivers use GPS and GPS is not reliable in all areas. Most drivers are not local. When a driver calls, give clear directions with street names.
Directions also include what to do when they arrive at your facility. If they need to use the second entrance and drive around back to access the loading docks, include that information as well.
You can simplify this process by ensuring that everyone who regularly answers the phone is prepared to give good directions. Not everyone is skilled at giving directions, particularly people who drive the same short route to work every day and don’t need to think about street names.
It may be useful to have one person at your location provide a list of written directions (from the nearest exit or major road) to everyone who answers the phone at your facility.
- Schedule realistic appointments. If you have multiple drivers arriving in one day, and you set appointments for them, make sure to space appointments evenly (or use open scheduling). It is frustrating for drivers when they arrive at a scheduled appointment and have to wait to load or unload.
Drivers are paid by the mile and they carefully plan their days to make the most of their time. Waiting at your job site for longer than expected impacts their income and it throws off the rest of their scheduled stops.
- Plan the logistics of your lot. When you are planning and preparing the area where trucks are loaded and unloaded, consider all the activities that take place from the time the driver arrives to when they leave.
For example, some facilities have a shed for drivers to pull in to tarp freight. This is a nice perk since it keeps the truck and driver out of the weather while they are doing outside work. However, if your cargo must be kept 100 percent dry, the tarp needs to be applied right away — not after driving across your yard to the shed.
Speaking of tarping, using tarps that weigh 100 pounds or more is a difficult job. Some shippers have overhead cranes that pull the tarp over the load. This is a tremendous perk that drivers appreciate.
Drivers are trained professionals who want to do the best job they can. Taking a few minutes to plan for their arrival shows that you appreciate the hard work they do.
Onsite Perks Truck Drivers Appreciate
Another one of our ATS drivers, Sam Galloway, recently visited a shipper who had amazing perks for drivers. He was so impressed he had to share.
- Drivers’ lounge. Depending on the time it takes to get the truck loaded or unloaded, drivers may spend a lot of time at your location. A lounge where they can get out of the truck and relax is a nice perk. Comfortable chairs, tables, vending machines and TVs are all it takes to provide a lounge.
- Onsite overnights. Once drivers have reached their mandated Hours of Service (HOS) limits, they need to take a 10-hour break. The truck can’t be moving during this break.
Most long-haul drivers have a bunk in their truck. If you have space for them to park and spend the night, that will help them make the most of their allowed driving time by loading or unloading at your facility at the beginning or end of the day. If you aren’t able to provide overnight parking, directions to a nearby truck stop are helpful.
Of course, not all companies have the space or budget to offer amenities for drivers. But everyone can make drivers’ lives easier by following basic common sense principles.
Make the Most of Each Driver’s Time
Drivers, like anyone else, want to do their job as efficiently as possible and then move on to the next task. Here are some things you can do to help both your businesses run more smoothly.
- Accurately specify your freight. The driver will arrive ready to accommodate freight as listed on the contract. If they arrive and the freight isn’t as specified (especially if it needs permits or a different type of trailer), there will be delays. This keeps the driver off their schedule for the rest of the day and will likely lead to additional charges for you.
- Have your freight ready. Having everything for the shipment gathered together, along with the appropriate paperwork, will keep everything on schedule. Time is money in trucking and drivers want to spend as much time as they can driving, not waiting around.
- Keep your site clean and well-labeled. Driving a 53-foot trailer around a job site isn’t easy. Tight turns, hazards and U-turns make it even harder for an 80-foot rig. If you regularly receive trucks, create space for the drivers to maneuver around your lot.
If there are multiple loading docks or parking areas, label them clearly. Then give instructions for the driver to navigate to the correct spot right away.
- Say thank you. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. Saying thank you for a job well done, and maybe even sending a quick note of thanks to your carrier or broker recognizing drivers who provide great service, goes a long way toward showing your appreciation.
While National Truck Driver Appreciation Week is only seven days out of the year, drivers are hard at work every day. A good, experienced truck driver is good for the supply chain we rely on. This week, take a few minutes to show a driver that you appreciate them.