Need or Want?

I heard a phrase the other day which set my mind to dig deeper into the thought. The individual I was with spoke about his wife’s shopping addiction and he stated that she was a “want person and not a need person.” I did some quick research on the internet on compulsive shoppers and found that there is a small amount of endorphins and dopamine released into the system when something is obtained or purchased. A feeling of accomplishment is felt by most of us. Unfortunately, some of us enjoy the feeling so much and it is so short-lived that it is easy to get hooked on it and become compelled to have the feeling repeat itself repeatedly; it is very destructive.

Hearing that phrase immediately sent me to a flashback situation when I was speaking with a new truck driver at a truck dealership. This fellow, just new to the industry as a licensed AZ driver, was determined to become an Owner Operator ASAP. As we chatted, I noticed he was eyeballing a couple-year-old conventional that was tricked out to the wazoo. Next to that beautiful beast was a more conservative, aerodyne truck that was obviously going to be a far cheaper truck to operate and had much less bling.

Having been through the bling time of my life some years ago when it came to large cars, I was trying to impart my years of wisdom and inform the newbie in no uncertain terms what the best decision would be for him as a brand-new Owner Operator, at this point in his career. I went so far as to suggest that the net profit of the more aerodyne vehicle with less chrome would pocket the same net dollars in four years as it would take him to earn in five years in the “bling mobile” – if he were lucky.

As I have said in the past, I am no salesperson. I do not have that skill and I admire those that do. I mention it because, this person listened to all the things I could throw at him that would help him make a good decision. I went at him with things like; 20% better MPG, ease of maintenance with less bling and less unnecessary chicken lights, less capital expenditure, better cash flow and a lighter vehicle that will allow more payload. He looked at me and said, ya, but I have a young son, and I’d like to enter into some of the show and shine events with him this summer. What could I say? I wished him well and hoped that he has great success as an Owner Operator. I then went on my way. This person knew what he wanted and the fact that it was way more than he needed meant nothing to him.

So, what type of person are you? Need or Want? Suppose you strip it down and look at the famed Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In that case, you start with food and shelter, then move up the pyramid to things related to safety and security, then onto belonging, esteem, and finally self-actualization.

Interestingly, as I overlay this line of thinking onto the current situation of driver turnover, it seems that many companies with high turnover struggle to supply what a driver of today needs, let alone the want that is at the basis of driver retention.

Let us break it down a little; according to Maslow, the base of his hierarchy pyramid is the need for food and shelter. To me that means steady income. With that steady income, a driver buys food and shelter for his family. That is not too complicated. If you don’t give me work or miles, I won’t stay here as you aren’t satisfying my basic needs.

The next level is safety. Can you provide a safe vehicle for me to drive and provide a safe work environment for me to work in, provide good lanes and customers, fuel spots, etc? If I do not feel safe and secure, I’m out of here. Why stay? I have options that won’t put me in harms way and that will pay the same as your job or better.

If you are a company that does not have the first two driver needs nailed down and nailed down hard, you are likely a very high turnover company. I would guess that you are likely well over a hundred percent. You over promise and under deliver, you don’t pay at minimum market rate and your safety record is in question. Your trucks are likely being pulled over regularly by DOT because of it.

It is the next few steps that I believe eludes most trucking companies. The next step is belonging. Does your company make folks feel like they belong to a community? How do you create that sense of community? Do you communicate through newsletters, social media, etc., and what do you communicate? Do you try and involve the drivers’ families? Do you have functions and opportunities for them to participate in? If you do, I’m going to guess that you feel your turnover is manageable. You feel like this because your turnover rate is at or around published industry averages.

If you are a company that has mastered the first three steps and are also valuing your people and recognizing them regularly, I’m betting that you are on the low side of the turnover equation. If you are past this point and assisting your folks to be everything they can be in their careers, then you are likely best in class.

Your employees and your entire management team have built a company whose strategic advantage in the marketplace is its people. Congratulations to you. I’m sure that you are dealing with best-in-class numbers also;
20% and lower would be my guess.

The need in driver retention is income and safety; these are the hard things. Transiting from there to fulfilling the wants, belonging, esteem and finally, self-actualization is where best-in-class companies win the game.

Safe trucking,

Ray J. Haight

About Ray J. Haight

Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.