Driver Retention: Apply a turnover tourniquet in 6 easy steps

On Wednesday, ATA reported the driver turnover rate for small truckload firms was enough to make you blanche—55%. Think that’s bad? Large truckload firms were cycling through their drivers at a head-spinning, stomach-churning 88%! With the cost of recruiting and training new behind-the-wheel talent averaging $4,000 – $6,000 per driver, it’s easy to see that carriers are quite literally bleeding gigantic, sticky pools of money.

How can they stop the hemorrhaging?

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) issued a Blue Ribbon Task Force report on Wednesday, addressing the key issues that drive truckers to flee one carrier for the next—or to leave the industry entirely.

A close look at those findings, as well as some potential solutions can help you keep your talent happy.

1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T, RESPECT—sing it!
Aretha Franklin was right on the money, baby. When we ask the Xata Nation community what carriers must do to keep them on their driving teams, “respect” is the message they shout loudest. As the CTA report states, “Truck drivers are our most important asset, the face of the industry—to our customers and to the public, and they are deserving of respect.”

That means staying true to your word, according to Xata Nation Facebook fan, Kenneth Kornexl, “Keep [your] promises about pay, running areas and home time.”

It also means keeping the flow of communication open. Do you recognize safe, productive drivers in regular company newsletters? Do you solicit their feedback on how you can better support them on the road? Is your internal staff—from dispatchers and fleet managers to payroll administrators and safety managers—accountable for driver concerns?

Xata Nation tweep, @TruckerDesiree tweeted that there also needs to be, “Accountability for provocative conduct by in-house to ‘motivate’ drivers that may be interpreted as pushing them to be unsafe.” She also suggested carriers, “Remove bonus structures for dispatchers who are encouraged to ‘motivate performance’ of drivers which can affect #safety.”

It all comes down to fostering a team dynamic that promotes safety and shared success.

Does yours?


2. Driver Compensation: Show me the money!
Fair compensation is a common gripe among drivers, and for good reason. Truckers make, on average, the same annual wage as they would in other comparable industries—but they must work significantly longer hours to earn that wage. And that doesn’t take into account the fact their jobs require far greater personal sacrifice due to time spent on the road.

Xata Nation Facebook fan, Chris Valero agrees. “I know they can maybe pay new drivers more than they could make at home working at a McDonald’s. I had a bad experience [with] a big company. Even [with] 3 yrs of driving they put me through their training program just to end up making 350 a week solo. Smh.. .22 cpm, 17cpm empty. No thanx.”

The CTA report reminds carriers that:

• Truckers need to be better able to predict their weekly pay.
• Compensation packages need to be more competitive, especially given time away from home—and they need to be more transparent, too. Group health benefit plans, group pensions and other benefits can also increase loyalty.
• Truck drivers should be compensated for the miles they log—but don’t forget about the work they do that doesn’t take place behind the wheel. There’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that happens outside of the cab.
• Like business travelers in other industries, drivers need to earn enough to cover business-related travel expenses while they’re on the road.

How are carriers, operating on 1-2% margins, supposed to come up with the extra cash?

Optimizing routes helps drivers avoid congestion headaches. When they’re making a living by the mile that means more money in their pockets.
• Maximizing backhaul opportunities helps ensure your fleet is operating as profitably as possible. Asset tracking tools can help you achieve that.
Optimizing fuel efficiency means more financial wiggle room to pay drivers a better wage. In fact, one Xata Turnpike customer actually rewards its efficient drivers by turning over fuel savings they’ve made directly to them.

3. Home, Sweet Home: Support work-life balance
Juggling career and family is tough stuff. And it’s exponentially more difficult for drivers that spend days, weeks, even months away from home at a time.

So, help drivers stay connected to those they love.

• Personal time is precisely that—personal time. Don’t interrupt it by requesting they come back to work early. Effective dispatch management means your drivers aren’t caught in a mad scramble.
• Strategically plan routes to help drivers make it home for important family events.
• Help drivers bridge the distance gap with technology. Not only can smartphones and tablets log hours-of-service or capture proof-of-delivery, free videoconferencing through services like Skype allows drivers and their families face-to-face time—whether that means choosing paint colors with a spouse or sharing a bedtime story with their kiddo.

Wherever you can help employees build strong relationships at home, you help them build strong loyalties to your business.


4. Detention Time: Go to bat for your drivers  
Drivers that spend long hours waiting to get loaded at a shipper’s warehouse lose time—and time means money. It’s your job to help trim down those wait times and ensure your drivers are treated well.

So, start tracking detention time—and bill for it.

The power imbalance between shippers and carriers is shifting, so your demands may carry more weight than they once did. In fact, the recent article, How to be a better shipper in four easy steps, from DC Velocity is a must-read for shippers.


5. Supporting Happy, Healthy Drivers   
The health and wellness of your drivers should be a top priority, says the CTA report. “Promote healthier lifestyles by focusing on diet, exercise and sleep—offer sleep apnea testing and treatment, communicate programs as beneficial to personal health. This is not a cost, but an investment in human capital.” And when you invest in your employees, you demonstrate that they matter.

You could try:

• Offering health screenings free-of-charge.
• Providing fitness memberships, like those offered through a new partnership between Snap Fitness and Pilot Flying J.
• Launching a company-wide health and fitness challenge. Whether it centers around a commitment to exercise or weight loss, you can help build a sense of community as employees support each other and push each other to live healthier lives. (Pssst! Rewarding participants with prizes that support their continued health and wellness would be a nice touch!)

After all, a healthy, well-rested driver is a safer driver. And that’s good for everyone.


6. Driver Security: Get ’em home safely 
Sadly, stories like the murder of Jason Rivenburg or the theft of high value freight by organized crime syndicates are far too common. Given the growing incidence of cargo-related crime, nothing should be more important than getting your drivers home safely.

How can you ensure they do?

• Provide driver security training—making sure drivers fuel up before leaving a warehouse, park in secure areas, call in suspicious activity to 911 and pledge “mum’s the word” on load contents.
• Dispatchers must be cognizant of drivers’ remaining hours of service—and partner with them to ensure they have enough time to reach a reputable truck stop along their route.
• Secure loads with a locking device to deter prying criminal eyes—some are even equipped with real-time GPS tracking.
• Know where cargo theft hot spots are located and avoid them, if possible.

Drivers are the heart and soul of your business, so show them the love. They’ll reward you with their hard work and loyalty.