Tips for Successful Communication with Drivers
By Alexa Lemzy
When it comes to the trucking business, communication is king. It’s a business that relies a lot on the coordination of timing in order to be successful. Getting the goods from point A to point B might seem like an easy job, but there’s a lot going on in the background to make it happen.
When your drivers are out there on the road, you both need to be able to reach each other quickly and easily. Dispatchers have a lot of important tasks, from planning routes to monitoring a driver’s performance to processing orders. Without communication from the dispatcher the driver is basically driving blind.
The driver likewise is facing his own challenges on the road and needs to know that a fast solution is on the way when he needs it.
A combination of different communication platforms is ideal when it comes to handling long-distance truck drivers. While you might not want to send a lengthy message via text, it’s ideal for notifying your driver of the details of a last-minute change.
In addition to communication platforms, being sympathetic to the driver’s reality goes a long way in fostering effective communication. The relationship between the dispatcher and the driver can have a huge impact on the driver’s job satisfaction. Communication has a lot to do with that.
So, how can you make sure you’re doing your best to communicate effectively with your drivers? Here are some tips.
Above all other tips, this is the top one. Drivers are out there on the road, often dealing with harsh conditions or any number of adversities. They have time constraints and unexpected detours to deal with, weigh stations to go through, and numerous serious responsibilities to shoulder. If they get impatient or confrontational, don’t take it personally. Their jobs are very stressful and it’s important to recognize that their frustration is most likely a result of this.
Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand what they need. If there is a conflict, don’t escalate it by responding in kind. Use neutral phrasing and vocabulary in order to get through the issue and make sure they’re on their way to their destination. Remember that their success is your success.
A little bit of empathy goes a long way.
Use Video Conferencing
Drivers rarely get much face-time to talk with superiors or other key players at their jobs. Having a video conference can help eliminate some communication barriers by giving a voice and a face to some of the people involved. This type of meeting adds a human touch that’s often missing in their interactions with the company. Though scheduling challenges may make this difficult to plan and execute, it’s important to have this kind of face-time interaction with drivers.
This used to be the most common type of communication drivers used. Dispatchers and other drivers used CB radio to pass on crucial information or sometimes just to chat. The problem with this is that connections sometimes fail and call quality can be poor.
Today, drivers complain that a lot of the airwaves are being used by people spouting inappropriate messages. Most drivers today have traded the radio for the cell phone.
Make Cell Phone Calls
This is the most popular way to communicate with truckers. Most truck drivers carry their cell phones with them 24-7 and have them within reach on their routes. If you need to notify them of a change, it’s easy to call them and pass on the essential information.
Hands-free earpieces and headsets also make it easy for them to talk while they’re driving. It’s also convenient for drivers to call to notify you of an unexpected situation, or if they’re in need of support.
Leverage the Power of Texting
Who wants a voicemail these days? If for some reason a driver doesn’t pick up their phone when you call, send them a text instead. Text messaging is a fast and reliable way to make sure they get the message. SMS has a lot of advantages when it comes to this type of service. Drivers can read it at their own convenience instead of being forced to take a call at an inappropriate time.
On a cell call, information can get garbled due to background noise or a poor connection. Texts eliminate that type of miscommunication. You can also schedule text messages to arrive at specific times so you don’t wake your driver up while they’re catching up on precious sleep. Also, if your driver happens to be in an area with poor cell phone coverage, sometimes a text can make it through when a phone call won’t.
This case study of J.J. Van Tuijl of Bram van Tuyl freight hauling company in the Netherlands shows how he uses a bulk SMS service to send out about a 1,000 SMS messages a month via email. They cut down on typos and miscommunications, and found it to be a fast and convenient way to engage with drivers.
Make Use of Email
Email still has its place; however, it’s not an ideal solution for urgent communications. If you need to deliver a long and detailed message, though, texting won’t give you the room you need. The best way to do that is through email. A change in a driver’s contract or insurance policy, or a change in company policy that includes a lot of information translates best through email.
Social Media Can be Helpful
If your business has a social media page, you can use it to post photos of your team, congratulate people for a job well done and post helpful tips on topics that are relevant to trucking. This helps create a sense of pride and community among team members, and makes the drivers feel more connected to the company and fellow employees.
Find the right messaging mix for you.
Finding efficient ways to communicate is a top priority in the trucking business, and each of these methods has an important place in it. Whether it’s getting some face time with drivers via video conferencing or giving them some praise on social media, making use of the different communication platforms available can help enhance the effectiveness of your exchanges.