On Target 5 – A driving life

Over the past few weeks, we have explored recruiting drivers, especially those who don’t presently drive buses or coaches for a living, and subsequently training them to PCV level. Having got this far – and given the expense of your brand-new recruits – how do you keep them?

Well, firstly, don’t allow your operations people to go anywhere near them. They might be desperate to cover a job and take the view that they were throw in at the deep end when they got their wings, so why shouldn’t the latest recruits? For a good reason, you don’t want to frighten them off!

An RAF pilot doesn’t get his wings and go straight off to bomb Afghanistan

I can still recall the first job I ever did with real life customers on board, all of whom probably assumed I was entirely competent, knew my way around and I would not kill them. I wasn’t so confident… I reason that an RAF pilot doesn’t get his wings and go straight off to bomb Afghanistan. No, they have some practice runs first.

So, put them on a two-driver job, or if driving a bus, put them in the saddle when route learning and have a mentor with them, when in service. It makes such a difference and, while it’s true that you never know it all, those first few days and weeks are so important to break people in gently. Otherwise all that hard-won investment might be wasted.

In my experience, drivers who are with me for the first two years tend to stay forever. Sometimes, though, your long-established drivers get complacent and think that the grass is greener elsewhere. They moan and groan… and that can rub off on newer recruits. Make sure you watch out for the Awkward Squad, or send them away on tour a lot. You must ask yourself ‘if it is so bad, why are they still doing me a favour by working with (not for) my firm for over 25 years?’

We have a good benefits package as well. Again, everyone has the same

My golden rule is to treat all staff equally so, for example, if office staff get sick pay, so do my drivers. This is always at management discretion, so if anyone takes the Mickey, we deal with it appropriately. We have a good benefits package as well. Again, everyone has the same. This is provided though a specialist benefits provider and includes, helplines, medical cover, shopping discounts and a whole lot more. I have incorporated everything in one document and on line, all the benefits we offer internally as well, to make up a comprehensive package.

If you lend a van to get a driver home or lend them money to help them, they are benefits, and you should make the most of what makes you stand out from the competition. It isn’t difficult, especially in the coach industry, as drivers are often treated appallingly. Modern slavery, anyone? Is it any wonder that bus and coach driving often isn’t seen as a proper job? It is not all about money, it is how staff are treated, and the perceived benefit of these little extras is often well above the cost to you as an employer.

Most importantly, we treat everyone as an individual; we are open; we ensure communication through newsletters sent home (the same as school reports) as involving the families encourages loyalty through good and bad times.

If someone does a good job, we write and thank them, and a personal word from the boss always goes down well. Most importantly, we build up the role of our drivers. They are as responsible as airline pilots and on a par as far as I am concerned, and we just need to make sure the travelling public appreciate that, too.

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