Understand the importance of maintaining your relationships with these helpful tips.
Being an owner-operator is about more than simply picking up and dropping off loads. While that’s arguably the most important part, much more goes into the job. The most important part is establishing and maintaining good relationships with fleet managers and customers. Relationship-maintenance skills and effective communication are both critical to your success as a driver.
Maintaining Relationships with Fleet Managers
Staying in regular communication with your fleet manager can shape the way you view your job. At Bennett, we strive to provide a phenomenal support system for our drivers. Learning the type of work you’re interested in, how you like to work, and even what your hobbies are; become important to us when you join our team.
Larry Barnes, the fleet manager of the McDonough terminal, says Bennett does a tremendous job of providing owner-operators with choices. Bennett allows drivers to create their personal “path to success.”
“Hundreds, even thousands of owner-operators can enjoy the freedom and flexibility of choosing their freight, annual revenue and home time; all specific to their needs and desires,” says Larry.
Christy Parker, another fleet manager with Bennett, believes the key to being a successful owner-operator is to talk to your fleet manager often, and make sure you have all the equipment you need for different types of loads.
Parker says, “Some of the easiest drivers to work with are those who have all the equipment they need for different types of loads, such as tarps, ramps, load levelers, a TWIC card and his or her passport.” Unless an owner-operator is only interested in <regional truck driving jobs>, Parker says, “Drivers who are more open to going anywhere and don’t limit themselves to just a few areas on the map are also great.”
Charlie Shireman is another one of Parker’s owner-operators. He appreciates having a manager he works well with. His advice is to speak with your fleet manager as much as you can to help build a stronger rapport.
Shireman says, “I call her often, but I know she’s busy, so I have to make the most of my time. I do this by planning in advance and preparing everything I need to discuss with her ahead of time. I make sure to tell her the most important information first. Not just ‘hey, my day is going well or bad.’ Instead, it’s more of a ‘Tomorrow, I plan on doing this and the day after that, I do this.’ I try to give her a heads up three or four days in advance.”
Because Bennett is family-oriented, we make sure our drivers feel both appreciated and understood. However, it’s the driver’s job to be proactive when attempting to reach specific business goals. Maintaining a positive attitude and requesting assistance from your fleet manager when problems arise often results in a lasting partnership between both parties.
Maintaining Relationships with Customers
As an owner-operator, it’s extremely important to foster strong connections with customers. Although load boards help you find work, they can’t create ongoing relationships to ultimately help put more money in your pocket.
Keep in close contact with your fleet manager, especially when problems arise, and position yourself as a reliable driver they can count on. It takes both time and effort on your part to win a customer’s trust, but it’s worth it in the long run.
Shireman’s number one success factor is calling shippers and receivers ahead of time to ask for specific details. He uses this time to ask questions such as, “Is there a place to park?” and even for suggestions on best places to grab something to eat.
“I always call ahead. When I put the address in the GPS, it isn’t going to give me details on whether or not you have any big trees or low hanging wires I need to be cautious of. Only they can provide that information.”
To establish these types of relationships, frequent communication should be the goal. Life happens, and trucks break down, but communication is key. When you stay in contact with your customers, they are almost always willing to work with you.
No matter what type of communication you’re striving toward, always make sure you’re practicing these skills. Being available and willing to connect are two things that can take you very far in your career as a driver.
If you’re considering a career change, it’s time to think about joining Bennett. If you want to learn more about what it’s like to drive with us, or if you’d just like more information, visit www.drive4bme.com, or contact one of our recruiters at 800-367-2249!