Best Practices in Employee Relations: The Transportation Industry and NATERA

IRI Podcast episode on Employee Relations in Transportation Industry

Today, ProjectHR continues its ongoing Best Practices in Employee Relations series, and this time, we won't be exploring positive employee relations within a specific company, but rather, within a specific industry – the transportation industry.

Our guests today are: Daren Wingard, Vice President of Associate Relations at C.R. England and Executive Director of NATERA, the North American Transportation Employee Relations Association; Tammy Bartter, Senior Regional Human Resources Manager at Old Dominion and the current Vice Chair of the Board at NATERA; and Katharine Weber, Principal at Jackson Lewis, P.C. and NATERA’s Executive Secretary. Here, they explain:

  • The impact of the pandemic on the trucking industry;
  • A common misconception regarding the transportation industry and unions;
  • The challenge of connecting and engaging the "ultimate remote workforce" - truck drivers; and
  • The new 2022 Labor Activity in Transportation Report, a report you can use to prepare your employee relations strategy!

If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free! 


The Transportation Industry and COVID

  • The transportation industry has had to undergo many changes in the last few years because of the pandemic.
  • In the trucking industry, workers that were able to work from home were sent home. 
    • While most drivers were relatively protected from COVID on the job, because they were alone most of the time, companies still needed to provide drivers with information on how to stay safe when they are outside of their truck.
    • Employees that worked in maintenance shops also needed to be trained on workplace safety during the pandemic, and adapt their workflow to keep each other safe. 
  • There was also a labor shortage during COVID, and companies had to take a good look at their hiring processes, training programs and relationship-building. Hiring is now so much more than just how much someone is getting paid.
    • It is also important to put a focus on leadership teams to be approachable, and willing to listen to employees, hear their concerns, and share that communication. 


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A Look at the Transportation Industry

  • It is important for all companies, regardless of the industry, to listen to all types of employees.
  • In the trucking industry, leaders want someone who is really interested in truck driving, which is not a very social job. Transportation leaders are working on figuring out how to still keep employees engaged when they are so used to being on their own.
  • There is a growing number of women getting involved with the trucking, and that has led to a shift in employee relations shift in the transportation industry,
    • Female drivers have a different perspective than their male counterparts, and it is a different experience for them.
    • The transportation industry is putting in a real effort to listen to female drivers, and learning from the women joining the industry.
  • The transportation industry needs more truck drivers, and getting more women attracted to the field can help them develop a great career, and this is becoming a focus for industry leaders. 

Transportation Industry and Unions

  • Despite common misconception, most companies in the transportation industry are not represented by a union.
    • It can be challenging for employees who are represented by unions to re-establish relationships with non-union companies.
    • COVID was already a distraction for employees, and companies don’t want that to become an opportunity for union organizers.

Transportation and Employee Relations

  • In order to have positive employee relations in the transportation industry, it needs to start with leadership training.
    • People in leadership positions need to have the tools to help them, and their team, be successful.
    • Leaders should start with a more formal one-on-one process to get to know each of their employees, and find out what support they need to build a relationship. Leaders need to be on the ground, learning from their employees on the job, and playing an active role in employee development.
  • Given the current political climate, transportation leaders are anticipating a collaboration with federal agencies on the industry’s role with unions.
    • Recently, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice reached an agreement with the North American Transportation Employee Relations Association so they can collaborate on the enforcement of labor and antitrust laws. This shows a lot of political momentum and an issue to watch in the transportation industry. 

Engaging a Mobile Workforce

  • Companies need to have different approaches to employee relations in the transportation industry based on the type of employee. Someone who works in IT has a very different work style and outlook than a mechanic or a driver. Someone who works in IT would likely respond better to a high tech approach of interaction, such as a video call, whereas a truck driver might respond better to lower-tech approach, such as a simple conference call.
  • Technology is a wonderful thing, and all drivers have handheld devices to keep in communication with their supervisors and peers. Companies have started to implement communication systems to keep drivers in the loop on things, even when they are out on the road.
    • It is important to make this communication accessible and hassle-free, being able to address any problem drivers may run into.


  • The North American Transportation Employee Relations Association (NATERA) has a conference every year to discuss issues and innovation in the trucking industry.
    • NATERA looks for leaders within the industry to create an employee culture, deliver creative ideas, and helps everyone feel supported.
    • In addition to the annual conference, NATERA also hosts webinars throughout the year and monthly group sessions to talk about specific issues happening within the industry.
  • They aim to not only provide advice to people within the transportation industry, but also create a positive experience with employee relations within the transportation industry.
  • NATERA’s mission is to support our members and conference attendees, to help them be even better at their jobs, and to put them in positions to make their companies more effective and successful. They can share information and ideas, and form new connections through annual conferences and other events. 
  • The association offers individual and corporate memberships which allow people in the transportation industry to attend events and conferences.
  • NATERA recently collaborated on the 2022 Labor Activity in Transportation Report, which provides crucial information for those working in employee relations in the transportation industry. The report goes over trends in the industry and has useful articles from NATERA board members.
  • More information about NATERA and their conferences can be found at or by searching “North American Transportation Employee Relations Association” on Linkedin
    • The next NATERA conference is scheduled to take place in Tampa, in February 2023.

The Colllaboration

  • NATERA and IRI Consultants recently collaborated to create the 2022 Labor Activity in Transportation Report.
  • This report was created to help employers in the transportation industry with positive employee relations strategies by:
    • Exploring the current labor activity trends in the industry; and by
    • Sharing articles about employee relations written by NATERA board members.

Daren Wingard Background

  • Served as Director of Operations for Continental Express
  • He was Vice President, Intermodal for Interstate Distributor Company
  • Currently, Mr. Wingard serves as the Vice President of Associate Relations for C.R. England.

Tammy Bartter Background

  • Received a degree in Human Resources Management, Business Management from Franklin University
  • A.A in English Language and Literature from Columbus State Community College
  • Ms. Bartter spent more than 20 years of her career with UPS, as an Operations Improvement manager and then as Human Resources Manager.
  • She currently serves as the Regional Hr Manager for Old Dominion Freight Line.

Katharine Weber Background

  • Juris Doctor from Chase College of Law
  • She was an Attorney/Member with Cors & Bassett, LLC
  • Ms. Weber currently serves as a Principal with Jackson Lewis, P.C.



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