Like other workers who take on jobs requiring highly independent and responsible action, truck drivers generally don't thrive in a company where they're told what to do, hour-by-hour or mile-by-mile.

Sure, they need to know what they need to do — just let them figure out the best way to do their job with the skills and experience they bring with them and the tools and guidance you provide.

The more this can be done, the more likely a driver will become more than just a driver, a development that will benefit him or her and the fleet operation they represent.

“Never tell people how to do things — tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity,” is how U.S. General George S. Patton captured this concept.

The results are a tad less dramatic than what Patton's Third Army accomplished in World War II, but the value of enabling someone to do their best is clearly reflected in what truck driver Don Gullett does for his employer.

Gullett drives for Galvmet, a Kansas City, MO.-based processor and distributor of galvanized steel and sheet metal (www.galvmet.com), and was recently named the 2006 “PacLease Driver of the Year” by the Seattle-based truck leasing company owned by Paccar.

To cut to the chase, Gullett is the kind of driver who got plied with enough cookies and cake by “his” customers after word of his award got out that he claims to have put on five pounds.

What stood out about Gullett on top of his 3-million mile accident-free driving record is how he extends his job description beyond driving to being a company ambassador.

The relationship-building Gullett feels comfortable engaging in on company time not only benefits his employer by building customer satisfaction, it rewards this driver in the priceless currency of job satisfaction.

His employer says Gullett works his job as he lives his life-being a friend to all he meets. “Don is an outstanding role model and a leader to our other drivers and our employees,” says Ken Moore, Galvmet's president & COO. “He's much more than a driver - he's a salesperson and ambassador to our customers. When our customers know he's going on vacation, they will buy in advance just so he can deliver to them,” he adds.

A nice perk of the PacLease recognition is the new ‘07 T800, one of five KWs leased by Galvmet from PacLease, that features signage about Gullett's award right on the door.

Gullett's take on customer service is decidedly personal “I know my customers by name and their families,” he points out. “I send them get-well cards when someone's sick. It's just something I've done all of my life.”

Galvmet makes good use of Gullett's obvious people skills by having him go on test-drives with prospective drivers to evaluate their performance and knowledge. He's also the designated company trainer, accompanying new drivers on two-day runs to introduce them to Galvmet products and the company's brand of customer service.

And according to the company, it's because of drivers like Gullett that it can include an on-time delivery promise in its solid-as-steel customer-service pledge: “Galvmet will deliver the right material, at the right time, every time. Right is defined as what the customer wants.”

Undeniably it would be wonderful but no, not every driver is or can hope to be a Don Gullett. Nonetheless, whether their operation is private, for-hire or vocational, or small, big or gargantuan, every fleet manager should strive to make the members of their driving force feel empowered to do the best job they can and as much as possible in their way — for their benefit and the benefit of everyone in their world.