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Driver career options
  • Career development is a two-way street between an employee and company to help match an employee’s needs with a company’s needs.
  • An employee’s career development has multiple stages and human resources professionals should develop a list of jobs and the logical progression from one to the other.
  • Forming committees to gather input from employees, review problems, review accidents and develop countermeasures, can help improve drier retention.

One of the most important functions of the human resources (HR) department is to help manage the career paths of employees (known as career management). When the employee takes responsibility for their career management, the employee is engaging in career planning. At the point where the employee’s needs match up with the company’s needs, the process of career development is born.

The employee is ultimately responsible for their career and career path. However, it’s important that both the employee and the company understand that career development is a two-way street. The organization must communicate to workers that if an employee is interested in a specific career path, the employee should make that known to their manager.

Designing employee career paths

An employee’s career development has multiple stages (beginning, intermediate, and final). HR professionals should develop a list of jobs and the logical progression from one to another. For example, an employee accepts an entry level position (beginning stage) as a yard jockey in the operations department. This employee would become increasingly competent in the position and at the same time learn the organization’s rules and procedures. As time passes, the employee decides to stay with the company and wants to follow a career path to get to his or her ultimate job or position — driver manager.

At this point the employee tells his or her manager about the desired position or long-term goal. The manager would then communicate this information to the HR department. The HR department will set into motion the necessary career development program to help the employee reach the goal. As the employee moves along the career path (local driver to over-the road driver to driver trainer), there is time for them to review their career plans and make additional choices or changes (intermediate stage).

At the final stage in the employee’s career, the position of driver manager is reached. The employee continues to redefine his or her career development goals (for example, deciding now to move to a non-profit organization and work for less salary — but assuming the position of director of driver relations).

Upward mobility for drivers

One area that the trucking industry has been weak at is showing employees, especially drivers, that there is room for advancement. Most carriers do not provide a career advancement path for their drivers.

While many drivers may not be interested in career advancement, some of the best and brightest that carriers have working for them end up leaving their companies, and even the industry, in attempts to better themselves. Just knowing that there is an advancement program in place can improve the drivers’ opinion of the company, and therefore improve retention.

Here is a brief list of advanced positions that a carrier could consider instituting to provide drivers with an advancement track.

Master driver

This designation can be given to drivers that have a specific amount of safe and compliant driving. Additional requirements can include having completed skid pad training, advanced defensive driving courses, and advanced mechanical training.

These drivers can then be relied on to fix problems on the road, help other drivers that may be having problems (mentor), and assist with company projects. This position can be used as the basis for other positions. It can even be used as a requirement for other positions.

Committee person

Forming committees to gather input from employees, review problems, review accidents and develop countermeasures, develop policies and procedures, and/or develop enforcement practices can help retention for many reasons. Involving drivers in these committees can provide drivers with a position to advance to. Whenever appointing a driver to a committee, be sure to provide the necessary training.

Driver trainer

If a driver can be considered a master driver, and is interested in the training and safety areas, the next logical step is to become a trainer. Being able to provide a train-the-trainer program can retain drivers that are interested in moving into the training and safety areas.

Driver instructor or ‘yard trainer’

Drivers that become trainers and like to train will eventually be looking to do more. Providing these trainers with additional training and using them as “company instructors” is one option to help them develop. Having them teach a module of the company orientation and helping with road testing are typical uses of a driver that is serving as a company instructor.

Safety trainee

Drivers that have worked their way up through driver training and driver instructing typically become interested in the safety area. It is possible to involve these drivers in the safety department operations, but it may require some imagination.

Training these drivers during their off-duty days on the functions of the safety department can provide the next generation of safety personnel. It can also give the safety department a “surge capacity” that can be taken advantage of during busy times.

Dispatch trainee

Some carriers have programs that allow drivers that have an interest in dispatch to work their way into dispatch operations. In most of these programs, drivers are allowed to attend training and sit in with dispatchers during days off upon completion of (or as part of) the training.

Similar to the safety trainees, these drivers not only provide the next generation of dispatchers, but can also provide vacation relief and help during surges. Remember, drivers who have worked their way from driver to the point of being considered for a dispatch and/or safety trainee positions have proven they are interested in advancement. Typically, they will find a way to advance with or without the company. At each level of the advancement path the field will narrow. Many drivers either have no interest in advancing past a certain point or cannot afford the drop in pay that advancement can create. However, just having the positions available can provide drivers with a reason to stay, even if they do not take advantage of them.

Making the transition from peer to supervisor

“Promotions from within” are generally viewed by most employees as a path of advancement within a company. However, taking on a managerial or supervisory role can be more than challenging when a promoted employee supervises former coworkers. These new managers enter into an environment and daily routine that they quite possibly have never experienced before. Making that adjustment alone can be a very stressful time period for many people, regardless of their former position. When the duties of the job itself becomes the main focal point, and peer pressure begins to build from both former coworkers and possibly new coworkers, the newly appointed supervisor soon remembers the adage, “Be careful what you wish for!”

Other than the expected job training that this new supervisor must receive, there should also be an effort made by management to offer support and guidance to this valuable employee making the transition from peer to supervisor. Here are a few tips:

  • Provide a mentor to the new supervisor who will take the time to listen to the struggles and concerns of this employee in transition, especially when communicating with former coworkers. Daily recaps of the events of the day will eventually become weekly meetings as the new supervisor becomes more comfortable in the new position.
  • Communicate to the new supervisor that it is central to the company’s business philosophy to be consistent in their leadership and to treat all employees fairly. Draw on a statement such as, “Listen to the thoughts of those whom you manage but lead with the knowledge of what you know to be true and equal.”
  • Make sure the new supervisor continues to get training on more than just the necessities to perform the tasks at hand. More information on regulations and changes within the industry and how they relate to the supervisor’s job responsibilities will lead to a well-informed employee who can be an asset in the compliance of these rules and regulations.
  • Involve the new supervisor in committees or group discussions that are designed to improve the direction of the company. The experiences that the new supervisor can contribute to this group are invaluable not only in terms of the goals of the group, but also by providing the new supervisor with a sense of belonging to a group of leaders who can make a difference.

Management can assist in establishing a strong foundation whereby their newest member will again be able to contribute to the company with the all the positive results just as they did before.