Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) drivers are a big part of many commercial trucking and transportation companies. According to Zippia, BIPOC drivers make up about 37% of the commercial driving workforce. As a result, there’s a genuine need for leaders in the transportation industry to support BIPOC drivers and their mental health. Keeping this community and increasing inclusion, equity, and diversity in your business is the right thing to do and a smart move that will create opportunities for your organization and your drivers.

With ongoing driver shortages, the rising cost of fuel, and increasing demand for services, fleet owners and operators need to do what they can to reduce turnover and improve the way they treat all of their drivers. If the Great Resignation impacted your fleet, there is no better time than right now to address why that was and how to fix it.

Preventative Maintenance – Not Just for Trucks

Every carrier knows what preventative maintenance is. Without proper, proactive preventative maintenance of what’s traditionally considered your business’s most important equipment – trucks and trailers –, costs will skyrocket, and loads will not be delivered. In addition, without preventative maintenance, trucks break down. They fall into disrepair and require replacement or often require costly repairs.

It’s clear why carriers invest so much time, energy, and funds into this type of maintenance. It helps keep trucks on the road and running smoothly. It reduces costs and ensures the best outcome. It also helps your organization’s bottom line.

It’s time for carriers to commit to the same level of care for their drivers, an even more critical asset. Physical and mental health are intrinsically linked. A successful, growth-minded carrier must prioritize the mental and physical health and proactive care and support of drivers.

The current driver shortage and Great Resignation, in which employees left companies that did not provide them with the support they needed, clearly indicate that it is time to change the status quo around employee-employer relations. That’s led numerous industry organizations to rethink their current retention and recruitment strategies. The most effective way to lower costs and keep your rigs rolling is to take care of your drivers.

To do that, carriers and fleet operators must consistently offer drivers the resources and support they need. In addition, your business must ensure drivers have access to the care and tools necessary to avoid situations (breakdowns) that could lead them off the road.

If doing this for your employees seems too expensive, consider the alternative. Turnover costs are incredibly high for new drivers. Organizations are now investing more time and money into training new drivers because they need to find a way to keep up with demand while more drivers leave the industry. The key to reducing turnover is to keep your drivers happy and healthy. That keeps them on the road and keeps the wheels turning. Read more about preventative maintenance for your drivers here.

The focus should be on all your drivers, but many traditional supports and resources overlook minorities and leave them feeling unseen and unheard. July is National BIPOC Mental Health Month, an excellent time for carriers to ask themselves, “How can my organization meet the needs of all of our drivers?”

Accessibility and Destigmatizing Mental Health

BIPOC drivers face the same personal and professional challenges and added societal pressures. In addition, they face the weight of systemic issues and microaggressions within the workplace. To support them, your company needs to offer a comprehensive mental health support program that is culturally sensitive and relevant to their specific needs.

That includes a focus on both accessibility and destigmatizing of mental health. This type of support is only beneficial when employees can access it. To break down barriers, offer different ways to access that help. That includes apps, telehealth services, live phone conversations, and other methods with licensed counselors.

Many BIPOC drivers struggle with the stigma of mental health more so than non-minority team members. The National Institute on Mental Health reports that 50% of white adults receive mental health services while only 33% of Black and Hispanic adults and 23% of Asian respondents do. To overcome this, talk openly and often about these services. Offer confidentiality reassurance, too. Provide the phone numbers, websites, apps, and contact info for resources so they can easily be used.

Representation and Inclusion Matters

Representation is one of the most critical components of success for BIPOC individuals. Building a diverse team at all levels of your organization goes a long way. It ensures a diversity of thought, and those employees who identify as BIPOC know their needs and issues will be heard and dealt with respectfully. Workers who see all members of their community represented at all levels in the company are more confident and feel their needs are better understood. They also are more likely to seek out help from those leaders.

Additionally, consider setting up Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), which can help to give team members of all backgrounds a collective space for community gathering and ensure their voices are heard and their issues are appropriately managed.

Incorporate other means that help to make your organization diverse and inclusive. Support all team members by giving them a voice in your company. Check in with them regularly, too, to ensure they feel supported. Ultimately, this helps ensure your business does all it can to grow a healthy, diverse, and successful team. When employees feel their voices are heard and their specific needs are considered and supported, all will be happier. When your organization supports the mental health of its drivers and, beyond that, takes special care to offer relevant support to its BIPOC drivers, it builds a strong foundation for a long, prosperous, healthy future.