Before we begin learning about drive managers, it’s important to distinguish the difference between a dispatcher and a driver manager. A dispatcher’s job is mainly clerical – answering phones and responding to mobile communication messages and emails. They keep the data in the system accurately and they communicate with the team frequently.

On the other hand, a driver manager manages people. It is a shift from “what’s your truck number?” to “who are you as the driver?” The data is important, but it is only part of managing the people who move freight day in and day out.

Building relationships is key to being a good driver manager. The following are some ways to build strong relationships with your drivers and your whole team.

Earn Driver’s Respect 

By showing honesty and integrity, you will be respectable as a drive manager. A driver manager needs to tell it like it is and show the drivers that you recognize how hard they work by working just as hard as they do. It’s important to not go home with unresolved issues or without telling your drivers that there is a plan for the evening shift to work out. Make sure you keep information in the system accurately and communicate issues and needs to the group so the important facts don’t get lost.

Give Respect by Listening 

One of the most important factors of respect in the trucking industry is understanding the world that professional truck drivers live in and you can do this by listening. When drivers call in or send a message, they do so to communicate information and attitudes. Part of the driver manager’s job is to recognize stress and frustration that the trucking industry places on truck drivers, which can be wearing. Not acknowledging the personal part of a driver’s communication is a sure way to be labeled a “dispatcher” rather than a “driver manager”. You can also be viewed as cold and uncaring.

Manage and Build Your Team

When talking to your team, talk about what “we” should do rather than what “you” should do. Recognize the efforts and good work that a professional driver does on your team. If a driver gets a safety award, gets great miles per gallon, or has a great on-time service record, let your driver and everyone else know how much you appreciate that. Have team goals like average miles per week, no driver service fails for a month or no accidents for a year. All of this will encourage your drivers to look after each other and help make the work environment more like a family.

Treat Drivers Like People

Break down the barriers between “us” and “them”. Driving a truck is a job and a lifestyle, but there’s more to a driver’s life. They’re just like everyone else. They have friends and a family. They have interests and hobbies. They have opinions and ideas. Take the time to know a little bit about your drivers in the same way you know about the person in the cubicle next to you. Maybe take a driver out to lunch. It’s a great way for both sides to get to know each other outside the truck driver world.

Treating people with the same respect you want to be treated with is the best way to keep a positive work environment. In the end, trucks are trucks, freight is freight, and people are people. We all just want to do a good job.