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How to Influence Your Drivers to Stay

Truck driver driving down a highway road

One of our clients was telling us a story that we hear a version of all the time. This particular story was about a top performing driver named Nancy. She’s a reliable, safe driver who they hired a little over a year ago. She has a clean record, runs on time and is great with customers. She likes driving and has been in the industry for some time. And then, one day she quit. This came as a surprise to her manager. Nancy is a great driver and she enjoys her work. Why would she quit?

The Straw that Breaks the Driver’s Back

Drivers rarely quit due to a single event. Rather, drivers quit due to repeated and frustrating circumstances that pile-up. Many small things add up over time and eventually one causes the driver to leave.

When a driver quits, it might catch the manager off-guard, but it’s not a sudden decision on the driver’s part. Nancy, for example, had a terrible week. Her dispatcher gave her another poorly paying load. Then, her paycheck came back missing a load for the third time in two months. When she called her dispatcher to resolve it, he passed her over to payroll where it didn’t get resolved for a week. Nancy was a top performer and in the top 10% of wage earners which is what made it so surprising that she left. For Nancy, the simple task of resolving a clerical mistake felt like moving a mountain. Do any of your salary employees need a PhD in Mathematics to understand their paycheck or wait an additional seven days to receive what they already earned?

Behaviorism and Driver Retention

It’s important to understand that drivers quit due to many negative events. However, to do anything about it, you must understand why people behave the way they do. That way, you can influence them to make the decision to ignore the calls from your competitors recruiters.

Understanding people and how they make decisions takes just a little bit of psychology. Specifically, you need to know about behaviorism. Behaviorism is the study of why people do the things they do. For our purposes, we want to understand why drivers quit. This can most easily be understood through the ABC Model of Behaviorism.

The ABC’s of Behaviorism

Behaviors are not isolated events. They’re preceded by a demand that influences a person to behave in a certain way to get a reward. We call these demands antecedents and these expected rewards consequences. An antecedent leads to a behavior which leads to a consequence. Thus, you have the ABC model.

For our earlier example where Nancy quit her job, the antecedents or demands placed on her were the negative aspects of her job. Her manager was rude to her, she was getting undesirable loads, and her paycheck was wrong several times. This led to her behavior: quitting her job. She quit her job for the expected consequence of finding a job that didn’t have those repeat issues.

Control the Demands Placed on Your Drivers

If you want to influence your drivers to stay with you, you must control the antecedents/demands placed on them. Nancy’s company was in control of all of the antecedents that led to her quitting. The dispatcher could have been more responsive and championed the payroll issue so she didn’t have to wait till the next pay period. The company could have made the loads board distribution more transparent. We’ve never met a driver who gets the good loads because a system that’s not transparent allows the driver to make negative assumptions. Finally, the pay system is complex and antiquated, thus ripe for human error. Again, when a driver can’t understand the system, the assumption becomes “I’m getting screwed”. If you want your drivers to stay, you must try to remove or improve the demands placed on them that cause them to quit.

If you want help coaching your front-line leaders to influence your drivers to stay, contact us to learn about our new Leadership Development Course. Our world class self-directed training will help your managers and dispatchers improve their leadership skills which will improve your retention.

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