Fleet experiencing Frequent Breakdowns?

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If your fleet is experiencing frequent breakdowns on trips away from the home terminal it may be a sign of infrequent or inaccurate daily pre-trip inspections by a driver or drivers. If it’s happening more often with a certain driver, it’s pretty obvious that person’s attitude is indifferent toward required daily inspections, both pre and post-trip.

But the driver in question always submits completed daily inspection reports. Even so, you know from road repairs that inspections are being performed poorly or not at all or defects would be found at the terminal instead of on the highway.

Your concern can have serious consequences if that driver is not brought in and confronted about his or her lack of proper vehicle inspections and why they are so important. Your people must gently impress on the driver the serious outcome that could occur based on underperforming – or not performing – daily inspections.

Daily Inspection Reports May Offer a Clue

Completed inspection reports which always reflect no defects should also be a warning to you. It should make you question whether inspections are actually being performed at all. And if they’re coming in that way from a number of drivers and breakdowns are occurring often, then either your shop’s maintenance is inadequate or your drivers are not performing detailed daily inspections.

And if it’s the latter you can bet you have a serious culture problem. You can’t just fire the bad apples and hire more drivers. This is trucking, after all and drivers are almost impossible to find and costly to replace.

Culture Must be a Work in Progress

Unfortunately, culture issues cannot be remedied quickly and can’t be cured by throwing money at drivers. They require driver education and team building in order to change attitudes, both yours and the drivers. Yes, I said even your attitudes may need to change before you are able to empower team spirit.

In many cases, culture relates back to recruitment and retention practices. Promising everything and then not backing it up can result in lack luster driver attitudes of indifference. And in that case, your fleet owner may be to blame for poor attitudes by not living up to promises. This tends to make for unhappy and uncommitted employees who don’t take their work seriously. And in trucking, that can be downright dangerous.

Tell it Like it Is

Obviously if your recruitment practice includes a distorted picture of the reality of working life at your fleet you are not going to have workers who are into their work life. Start with the recruitment process and tell it like it is, not how you think new hires want it to be. Reality is better for hiring the right fit and for retaining him or her in a happy environment. Never sugar coat it to fill seats.

Indicate that you want drivers who want to be known as professionals and that is how they will be treated within your fleet. Inspire them to live up to professional standards. Spell out the requirements for your drivers. Never stop treating them as professional drivers. Remind them of their importance to shippers, receivers, and the public at large, including their families.

Never raise your voice when speaking to a driver. Remember, they respond better to coaching, not yelling, which tends to alienate a driver and is likely to produce feelings of “who cares” in drivers. Be a leader, not a captain. Captains give orders. Leaders use empathy and persuasion to convey a need to improve.

Never talk down to drivers or treat them as substandard people. Treat them as equals and encourage them to do their jobs well. If they see you as a leader, you’re more likely to develop a team spirit among them. Remember to reward them for jobs well done. Consider creating an incentive program to inspire them to even greater work habits.

Display Personal Interest in Your Drivers

Take a personal interest in them. Ask them about their families, outside interests, and home time. When they know you care about them it will go a long way toward retaining good drivers. Try to always have their backs. That will foster loyal drivers. And always stress the importance of daily pre and post-trip inspections for everyone’s safety.

Remember, it costs less to grow good drivers than to hire new ones and start over.