The demand for drivers is at an all-time high with the American Trucking Association reporting more than 40,000 positions are now available, as trucking companies fight to find new drivers and keep their current drivers happy.
With such a competitive job environment out there, hard working drivers are finding plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere if they’re not presently happy. That’s why keeping turnover at bay is an important component to any trucking company’s success, and a chief way to do that is by making sure its drivers are satisfied with the work environment.
A recent article in Forbes states that truck driver retention is a key to keeping the numbers from increasing. As the article says, if you don’t know which managers are doing well and which are not, you will not know who needs coaching.
Surveys conducted by People Element of exiting drivers reveal there are a myriad of reasons why drivers aren’t happy. Discovering these before it’s too late is key in keeping retention numbers at bay.
Compensation and Miles
Survey data indicate compensation and miles as the biggest factors compelling drivers to leave their positions to go elsewhere, with 32 percent of all exiting respondents listing it as the major cause for quitting.
What’s important for drivers to understand is that all compensation is not created equal. For instance, many drivers are ready to jump from one company to another simply because the money per mile is better. But just because the paycheck may be a little better, doesn’t mean the compensation package itself is.
Arming your drivers with the tools necessary to do a competitive compensation analysis in case they are approached by other companies can help keep your workforce in place. By spelling out exactly what their perks are, you’re painting a clearer picture for them to compare. A company looking to poach a driver may be offering more cents per mile, but perhaps there’s no 401k matching or less vacation or even fewer health benefits. These are important things that could sway someone into staying.
Using Benefits to Help with Compensation Concerns
The Wall Street Journal says that high turnover rates cost business owners in money, time and productivity, which is why in addition to offering a competitive benefits package (such as health insurance, life insurance, and a retirement savings plan), trucking companies should offer perks that show you are willing to accommodate drivers’ outside lives.
Hiring experts will tell you that while compensation is a main reason people leave, even when drivers get raises, it might not be enough to keep them happy. According to Megan Younkin, consultant at People Element, giving a raise to someone who is unhappy is often a short-term solution, and that driver will soon find another reason why they are not happy.
Trucking companies must consider a wider range of factors to keep qualified drivers happy and contributing to the fleet. Sometimes, something as simple as a driver having a better relationship with their supervisor will keep an employee in their job. Maybe offering a long-time employee a local route or better equipment when it comes in, rather than catering to new drivers is the better play. It’s all about keeping everyone in the organization happy, not just the new guys.
Schedule & Off Time
Fifteen percent of drivers surveyed listed schedules and off-time as a reason for leaving. While that’s not particularly a high number, the fact that it’s an issue at all can be revealing because it’s information that a driver should have been aware of from the beginning.
By setting expectations in the hiring and onboarding process, drivers will know what to expect with their schedule, how to go about changing a schedule if they need to and what’s required if they need to be home at a certain time on a certain day.
“It’s important to work around these issues up front so those expectations are set,” Younkin says. “So when you have a new person out on the road, they’re not saying, ‘I thought I was going to be home in a week but I’ve been out for three,’ if you’ve already had the discussions and given them a more realistic preview of how it’s going to be, there shouldn’t be any issue.”
Management and Environment
A trucking company that wants to curtail its turnover rate needs to realize that drivers are more than just employees or contractors, they’re people who like to be noticed and appreciated. That’s why it’s important that executives and other company leaders stop by to introduce themselves and say hello to any new drivers. Some companies will even hold a quarterly lunch to welcome new drivers.
“As far as management goes, meeting face-to-face with direct managers as soon as possible and starting off that relationship is really key to retention,” Younkin says. “Once that relationship starts, expectations come in, people start reflecting on how they feel about the entire company, and they have a stronger bond to the company.”
When a driver is first hired, it’s vital to set up policies and offer them some sort of “go-to” guide so they can review all policies easily and quickly. People are presented with so much information during orientation and onboarding that no one can remember it all. By giving drivers the ability to have quick access to all policies and procedures (either on computer or paper), you allow them to access those quickly and easily.
Routes, Equipment, and Career Opportunities
Another common concern with drivers involves wait time—either at a customer or in between loads. While it’s not a main reason people leave their positions, it could be a contributing factor. The important thing to do is manage expectations by communicating both during and after orientation what the company policy is on wait time so that there are no surprises.
Another issue that comes up frequently in exit interviews relates to drivers feeling they are getting pushed aside for newer drivers when it comes to better routes and the chance at better equipment. For example, if brand new equipment comes aboard the fleet, a driver with 10 years of experience feels he or she deserves first crack at it before the newer drivers. Or if a driver is handling local or regional routes and a dedicated account opens up, they get upset if that goes to a brand new driver without ever being considered.
Those with tenure shouldn’t be forgotten and management needs to recognize their importance to the success of the organization as a whole. Instituting career advancement or professional development programs is a great way to keep these drivers happy and show them that you are thinking about their futures. Handing out promotions or job title changes can have a strong effect, as drivers want to feel as if they are moving up through the company.
A happy fleet of drivers will lead to success of any trucking company, so making sure you are outwardly communicating the importance of your drivers and inwardly communicating the appreciation you have for them can go a long way. Getting out in front of the issues during training and orientation will help make drivers comfortable and keep turnover at bay. Don’t let your drivers leave simply because you didn’t take the time to go that extra mile.