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FEATURE: Cabin comfort is the key to driver retention

23 October 2019 #CV Sector #Features & Interviews #News #TNB News

By Steven Cairns, Managing Director of MV Commercial

The UK’s driver shortage is a major challenge for operators, with fewer people choosing a career behind the wheel. Currently Britain needs a further 45,000 truck drivers and that means, for truck drivers, it’s a buyer’s market. For operators, that means ensuring you keep your existing staff.

It’s easy to assume salary will play a key part in whether you retain or lose drivers, but the working environment can be a more significant factor than it first appears.

A truck driver can spend up to 56 hours a week behind the wheel. That’s longer than most office workers will spend in total at their desks. Most desk users would think nothing of ensuring their working environment was as comfortable and pleasant as possible – so why should it be any different for drivers?

The specification of the truck cabin is a significant factor in driver retention. I’ve always believed that every operator should avoid a ‘base-spec’ for their truck and should instead invest in making their cabs as pleasant and as safe as possible if they want to ensure they keep the best drivers.

Safety and comfort

It may seem like a minor point, but if driver is expected to regularly spend nights away from home, equipping the cab with elements such as a genuinely comfortable bunk and a decent power supply for cooking facilities can make a significant difference to their outlook towards their employer.

For instance, operators such as J Murphy and Sons routinely specify cabs with air-conditioning, microwaves, fridges, washing facilities and comfortable sleeping areas because their fleet managers understand the impact this has, both on retention and on driver performance. It’s easy to write off creature comforts as ‘nice to haves’ but the reality is, they’re actually essential to good operations.

Comfort is crucial, and the cab should also be specified to support the driver in doing their job safely and efficiently. Good drivers want to work for a company that takes their duty of care seriously.

Trucks with elements such in-cab camera systems and blind spot vision aids mean a driver works in a safe and efficient manner and also it provides opportunities for FORS certification, which is a benchmark for quality operations and can be a decisive factor in contract wins. Other features such as Bluetooth payload measuring systems make it easier for drivers to fulfil their duties and have the benefit of helping their employer to protect their operating licences and safeguard their standards.

Therefore, it’s a wise move for operators to involve their drivers when specifying new trucks. They are the ones best placed to understand the parts of the job that aren’t necessarily in the official documentation but are nevertheless important.

We won’t be able to solve the driver shortage overnight, but it is operators who invest in a quality cab specification and ensure their trucks are designed around their drivers’ requirements, who are the ones that are more likely to hold on to their best people and win more work in the future.

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