“Drivers first!” – How we prepare our drivers for work at Girteka
“Drivers first” is the mindset with which Girteka continues to support its drivers in their professional development and well-being. If employees are well-trained, satisfied, and feel supported, they can accomplish their professional and company goals efficiently. That is also the case for truck drivers. It is our belief that we secure the delivery of our clients’ cargo in the best way possible by securing the best conditions for all our colleagues, including our drivers, through their education, training, assistance, and equipment.
The profession of a truck driver is a huge responsibility that requires dedication and nerves of steel. Although we may not realize it, truck drivers play a vital role in the transportation industry and in the economy as a whole. Their duty – transporting goods and materials to various locations, helps keep supply chains running smoothly and enables businesses to operate effectively. Nevertheless, attracting new drivers and retaining current ones can sometimes prove to be a challenge for transport operators. As the competitional advantage of better conditions for drivers has been already highlighted for years, it is also now getting more focus than ever, due to the continuous driver shortage in Europe.
The situation in Europe and problems with drivers’ availability translate into the need for hiring qualified drivers from outside the EU. Even more proactively than before, road transportation companies are constantly looking for new drivers’ recruitment possibilities in every market available, as they help to keep supply chains undisrupted and logistics companies going. Poland and Lithuania are the two EU countries employing the highest number of non-EU drivers.
Among such employers is Girteka, whose success proves that non-EU drivers are an asset. However, there are bureaucratic barriers standing in the way as well. For instance, with the ongoing geopolitical tensions, EU countries severely restricted processes related to the working visa application for citizens of CIS countries. Girteka is therefore widening its drivers’ recruitment geography with the expansion further into Asia and such countries as India or the Philippines. We maintain that drivers from non-EU countries are just as valuable as those coming from Europe, hence, no effort is spared in attracting them.
Recruitment and onboarding process
To be able to sit behind the wheel of a truck of Girteka, a candidate must first meet certain criteria. Experience of similar work, good recommendations from former employees and knowledge of foreign languages are all considered as advantages. Although English is the official language of Girteka, it is not mandatory as the company embraces multiculturalism and an international environment. The new drivers are approved after screening of provided documents and candidate evaluation.
Planning and control of recruitment process is secured at all stages. Before the driver takes off on a certain route, he is provided with instructions and internal training courses, including courses of Code 95 obtaining a certificate. Upon receipt of the driver’s license and passing all the necessary procedures, personnel manager starts scheduling the date of driver route with the transport manager. Candidates are then directed to work in a single or double crew, depending on their previous work experience. For instance, an inexperienced candidate may be approved as an apprentice driver to work in a double crew with an experienced driver. A two-driver crew of experienced drivers is one of the measures offered by Girteka for increased safety of cargo on a given route.
All newcomers joining Girteka for the first time obtain a bank account and are offered medical insurance and a paid two-night hotel stay to alleviate the financial burden upon their arrival. When it comes to the trucks themselves, Girteka ensures that the cabins come in at least medium or large capacity with mid-height roof so that drivers have enough space to perform their duties and rest. In addition, in 2021, Girteka acquired a new 22,000 m2 facility in Sady, near Poznan, Poland, which is now one of the main places for drivers training, focused on improving drivers’ working conditions and time spent on trucks’ maintenance. Here, drivers will find showers, laundry services, a medical office, and accommodation services (by cooperation with our local partners).
The highest quality of services are the outcome of highest quality of skills and expertise that the drivers possess. All new and current drivers are trained at Girteka’s in-house Drivers’ Academy. The Academy is strongly focused on preparing the newly employed and current drivers to periodically update their knowledge and to improve their safe and economical driving skills. It is important that drivers learn not only the technical knowledge but also the guidelines of proper behaviour and communication in order to be able to respond professionally to various situations occurring at work.
For the convenience of drivers, there are several Drivers’ Academy centres located at Girteka‘s main transport divisions: in Vilnius and Šiauliai (Lithuania), as well as near Poznan (Poland). Each training centre provides formal training programmes for the acquisition of drivers’ professional qualifications and their periodic improvement. Each member of the Drivers’ Academy training team is a qualified specialist in their own field with competencies in both internal and external training.
The training programmes are divided into licensed and internal. Licensed include 95 code periodical trainings (a 35-hour training to obtain Driver Certificate of Professional Competence) and internal include over 20 different training programmes for drivers, such as ECO driving, Transics, Road safety, GDP, TAPA, Electric Forklift, Load securing, Work and rest time, Tachograph, Documentation, Driving in the UK, etc. There are also informal trainings that are no less important for the preparation of drivers: theoretical and practical testing, consultations on issues relevant to drivers.
For instance, after finishing the road safety programme, drivers are able to monitor the traffic situation on the road, understand, forecast and make decisions. The training also provides an overview of the causes of the most common accidents and advice on how to avoid them. Safe driving in winter training programme is directed for drivers working in Scandinavia and is carried out periodically before each winter season. The training covers those topics that are most relevant to working in the Nordic countries. All drivers must periodically (one to three years) repeat most of the trainings. In 2021, Girteka’s Drivers’ Academy completed over 60,000 driver trainings. Hence, when our drivers hit the road, customers can rest assured they come with extensive knowledge and driving skills to provide the best transportation services possible. And that is not all.
“Drive smart and safe!” – this is the main objective and goal of the motivational initiative for economical and environmentally friendly driving in Girteka named the ECO League, organised by the Drivers’ Academy. Economical driving is first and foremost about road safety for all participants involved. With the ECO League truck drivers are learning how to avoid accidents, how to predict situations on the road, take care of themselves and other participants on the road, and safely, efficiently deliver the cargo. Girteka maintains that with this kind of initiative the transport sector can not only reduce emissions and influence the safety on the road but also lead by example in becoming more sustainable and responsible logistics.
Education and training are crucial incentives in securing drivers’ professionalism. However, conditions behind the wheel are just as important. Having a very young fleet of trucks (the average age is 2,5 years old) means that the company is more efficient in providing a more comfortable environment for drivers that eases their stress and workload. Girteka, which is the largest asset-based logistics company in Europe, constantly grows and updates its massive fleet of over 9,000 trucks with the latest off-the-market vehicles equipped with the newest technology and solutions that also help secure safety. The company is constantly engaged in discussions with truck manufacturers for innovative solutions to improve safety and sustainability.
The trucks in our fleet have different specifications with varied options, however when it comes to safety there are certain standards that Girteka aims to uphold across its fleet. For instance, the trucks come with a fixed maximum speed of 80 km/h for road safety and CO2 emissions reduction. The type of batteries utilized are only AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) which is an advanced type of lead acid battery that is sealed, spill-free and safer in case of a road accident. Another safety feature – electronic brake systems with brake lining thickness display and break lining wear warning. These are just some solutions ensuring increased level of safety for the driver and the cargo.
Efficiency and support
Aside from solutions for increased safety and comfort, such as extra stowage compartments or additional cabin insulation (thermal and acoustic) among others, Girteka’s trucks are also equipped with high-end telematics providing transparency and real-time visibility (RTV) tools that not only benefit the customer, the carrier, but also the driver. The Transics Fleet Management System (FMS) is coupled with tablets that are found in the trucks for the drivers to use, facilitating a real-time exchange of data from the perspective of the driver, the manager, and the customer. The planning of transport can be rearranged and moved even easier thanks to SAP Transport Management systems.
For instance, by collecting data from all the company’s trucks with additional variables, like road standards, safe and secure parking places, and petrol stations, a tool known as the AI Operator defines the best possible route for cargo delivery, including requirements from customers. All information about where to go, which way, and where to rest or refuel is delivered to the driver through the Transics hardware. That information secures the driver from getting lost and provides him with all needed information previously defined and agreed upon during communication between the driver and the transport manager. With the help of this solution the driver, following clear instructions and guidelines, can focus on delivering cargo safely and on time.
Another digital solution utilized by Girteka is the AI Planner, which allows to plan transport aligned with the possibilities of finding proper drivers, trucks, and trailers, fulfilling the requirements and law regulations, and concentrating on cargo balance, to reduce empty mileage as well as deliver in the fastest time. The AI Planner follows the Mobility Package regulations and local requirements in terms of cabotage or truck drivers’ time work, fulfilling the need for breaks, driving time, or resting periods. With the support of this tool work time is planned more evenly across the whole fleet and noncompliance is prevented, securing the best drivers’ conditions and alignment with all legal restrictions.
With 26 years of experience in the road freight industry and 18,000 drivers to be responsible for, Girteka works hard to ensure that the conditions for our drivers’ professional development and well-being at work continue to improve and that the company remains an attractive employer for our current and potential colleagues. As proof of those efforts, between 60% and 70% of new drivers within Girteka join the company by recommendations from our current drivers. Furthermore, 40% of our colleagues, who have worked at other transport companies or have taken a break in their careers, have returned to work with us. With continuous training opportunities, digital solutions, state-of-the-art trucks, and support from the parent company, drivers can feel safe and comfortable and focus on the main mission – delivering goods at the right time and place and securing the highest quality of services for our clients.
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