Truck driver retention requires more than a week of appreciation

Last week marked the 21st annual U.S. National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. With a different “National Something Week” every week, it’s easy to be cynical about this week of celebration, but some drivers aren’t.

“As a whole, we feel appreciated this week. You get that from the White House all the way to your local carriers. I think it’s a good week,” Gary Mars, a fourth-generation driver who currently works for Walmart, told Supply Chain Dive.

A strong economy, tough work in often tough conditions, increasing regulation … there are plenty of reasons why the trucking industry is still strapped for drivers. So perhaps its not surprising that Elisabeth Barna, chief operating officer and executive vice president of industry affairs at the American Trucking Associations, said 2018 may have been the biggest celebration she’s seen.

“More shippers are getting involved this year,” Barna told Supply Chain Dive, describing offers of coffee, soda or hotdogs upon arrival. This year, she’s also heard reports that some shippers are handwriting thank you notes to driver and their families — thanking them for making the sacrifice of having mom or dad away from home.

It’s a meaningful gesture, said Barna, to make the drivers feel acknowledged for the crucial and tough nature of their work. “They don’t want to be treated like a number; they just want to be treated like a person,” she said.

Snacks, T-shirts and sincere thank-you’s were surely appreciated last week, but it’s the fundamentals that keep drivers behind the wheel according to drivers and those who hire them.

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