Driver Retention, EOBRs and Freedom to be a Truck Driver

By Sandy Long

It has long been my contention that all of the micromanagement tools currently under consideration by the FMCSA and supported by the ATA are not about safety, but about driver retention and lack of training.  EOBRs lead that list, but the list also includes anti-rollover devices, directed at driver video cams, proximity detectors and electronic logs.

Turnover rates at the mega training companies run 200% for drivers; new drivers become fed up with the micromanagement techniques of those types of companies and have historically left after getting a year or two of experience.  The rookie driver then looks for companies where the trucks can run the speed limit; they receive more personal, respectful treatment and where they do not have to be told what to do every minute of their day.

In 2008, I wrote an article called ‘Freedom of the Road’ that was published by Layover.com initially and since then in the seven international trucking websites I write for.  Recently, I republished the article on my blog and on my facebook page.  Freedom of the Road talks about just that, the differing concepts of freedom that has long been associated with being  a truck driver and how it has changed over the years.  Perhaps though, after reading the responses on Facebook, I was wrong in my thoughts that the concept had changed so much over the years.  Follows is just one of those responses.

“I started driving in 2003 with a big company and a qualcomm that did everything except tell me when, where and how to use the toilet.  After about 2 years of that, and a year or so running local, I ended up with a small company that gave its drivers the freedom you’re talking about…”here’s when/where you pick, here’s when/where you drop, now figure out the rest and do your job” and I LOVED IT.  It was like I finally got to use my brain for something other than a space filler, and from that point on nothing could have gotten me back to a big company. I quit OTR about 3 yrs ago but Hubby still drives and he was lucky enough to find another company where we currently live, that more or less does the same thing.  He has the same idea of what freedom of the road means.”

From what this lady driver said, “It was like I finally got to use my brain for something other than a space filler, and from that point on nothing could have gotten me back to a big companymy contention that EOBRs and the other micromanagement tools are about driver retention is supported.  Why go back to a company where you are treated like a brain dead, meat in the seat driver when you can drive with some freedom to glory in being a respected truck driver.

If a company wants to retain drivers, they need to talk to those drivers who leave and find out exactly why they left.  Most assuredly would state that it was about being micromanaged and not being treated with the respect a truck driver is due.  None of the technology in the world can provide respect or freedom or pride in doing a job well and those concepts are what keep truckers trucking; that can only come from the head of the company down.

The final paragraph in Freedom of the Road says it all, “Guard your concept of freedom of the road; revel in it, enjoy it, love it, never let it go.  It is who you are and what you do.  It is the foundation of your career as a driver and a person; it is why you drive truck.”  That is why a driver leaves a company, to find their concept of freedom of the road and technology will not retain them.

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