As a carrier, your business cannot exist without truck drivers. This seems obvious, yet the industry faces an existential crisis: clogged shipping docks, supply chain shortages, full trailers, and empty seats. Carriers have cargo to haul but no one to haul it. Industry insiders call it the driver shortage, but we view it as the driver problem.
Editors Note: Looking to Increase Driver Retention? Download our Free Driver Retention Kit here: Driver Retention Kit
We’re not just playing word games. If there were a driver shortage, you’d be helpless. You’d be at the mercy of the job market. Luckily, we don’t have a shortage, but rather a problem.
Problems can be solved.
You can solve your driver problem, fill your empty seats, improve retention, and continue to grow your business. It starts with understanding why truck drivers are quitting.
We don’t have a shortage. If we did, our supply chain issues would be even worse than they are. Rather, we have a problem. And that problem can be summed up in one statistic – truck driver turnover is hovering between 80 and 90%.
The trucking industry cannot continue to operate this way. More importantly, YOU cannot continue to operate this way.
It costs anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 to replace a driver, depending on your industry. And with turnover around 80%, we call that a big problem.
Imagine how much more you can grow if you focus on improving driver retention.
If we want to improve driver retention, we first need to understand why drivers quit. Getting to the root of the problem allows you to plug the leak in your ship.
Lucky for you, we’ve been studying this issue for years. We’ve attended conferences and driver award shows to hear from all-star drivers why they stay with a company. We’ve also conducted hundreds of exit interviews with drivers to learn why they quit.
From our first-hand studies, we’ve narrowed why drivers quit down to five reasons:
2. Home time
3. Issues with supervisors/dispatch
4. Unmet or changing expectations
5. Lack of appreciation and respect
Don’t we all? Pay is always at the top of the list during exit interviews. But it’s not as simple as how much you pay. It’s how you pay. The issue is consistency.
Pay issues start with the competency of your dispatch team to keep their wheels turning. But it’s not just dispatch - shipper delays, traffic, weather, and road construction are all culprits that make drivers’ pay inconsistent.
A driver never knows what he’s going to make week-to-week. It’s hard for them to maintain a budget. To solve this problem, offer a guaranteed pay package. Scary? Nope.
You have all the in-cab technology needed to manage productivity. Paying cents per mile is a cop-out and puts an unfair burden on your drivers.
You won’t be alone in this trend, either. According to The National Transportation Institute, companies offering drivers guaranteed pay jumped 6% between 2020 and 2021.
Beyond guaranteed pay, it’s crucial to create a simple and transparent pay system. Drivers need to know exactly how they’re paid.
If you have a complicated pay system, drivers will get confused. When they get confused, they assume you’re cheating them. And when drivers think they’re being cheated, they quit.
Create a simple, transparent, and consistent pay schedule and you will retain more drivers.
The number one reason people aren’t interested in trucking is that they don’t want to spend weeks on the road away from their family and friends.
To a certain extent, it is what it is. But you need to be upfront with applicants about what you have to offer. Make sure you and your applicant have the same expectations.
To solve this problem, create a simple one-page Expectations Document that clearly defines the job. Include in those expectations how you accommodate home time requests for ball games, medical needs, family events, etc. and how far in advance you need those requests.
Remember: there are people who want the work you have to offer. They will be happy with the home time and work-life balance. However, you need to be upfront about it. Attracting drivers who are not happy with the home time will only lead to wasted time and money.
However, let’s say that’s not enough. Let’s say you have so little home time offered that you’re struggling to find drivers who will accept it. You can solve this problem too.
United World Transportation has this article that will help you create a more consistent and predictable schedule for your drivers.
Truckstop wrote an article explaining how consistent lanes and shippers will help maximize home time for drivers.
If you can’t attract high-quality drivers, you need to adjust.
Professional truck drivers don’t want fame or fortune - they’re a hard-working bunch who want a fair shake. They make a lot of personal sacrifices for your company which is why it’s so offensive when they get treated like second-class citizens.
Supervisors and dispatch can be rude, condescending, or outright mean to your drivers, causing them to quit. Drivers don’t quit their companies, they quit their bosses.
To solve this problem, create a company training program for your frontline leaders. Teach them how to communicate, listen and resolve conflict, because there will be conflict.
Many of our clients use The Leadership Development Program. This is a web-based course that will educate your frontline leaders on how to improve your retention.
In addition, when drivers bring to your attention any concern they have about how they’ve been treated, listen to them. Hear them out and bring them together with the supervisor to reach common ground. Not acknowledging their pain is the fastest way to run them off.
You don’t need to solve every problem immediately, but you need to state that they were heard and at least describe why you can't accommodate them at that time.
We all have expectations – about dinner, a plane ride, and how our kids are doing in school. When expectations are met (even when they are low), we’re satisfied.
When they go unmet, we feel let down. Many drivers walk because they feel let down by management. They want you to follow through on what you promised.
To solve this problem, promise only what you can deliver. Again, make sure every new driver starts day one with a simple one-page Expectations Contract. Have your dispatchers and drivers sit down together once a month to review the Expectations Document and use it to resolve issues and create a driver scorecard.
Use this as an opportunity to set clear job responsibilities and goals. And make sure your job ads and recruiting match the reality of your situation. You don’t want to attract people who will be unhappy with the work you have to offer.
When drivers feel appreciated, they are much less likely to leave. Whether it’s how they’re treated by supervisors, upper management, customers, or dispatch, they aren’t always seen as an equal.
To solve this problem, be specific in creating a culture of respect for every employee. Explain to drivers from day one that they’re the reason people in the office get paid.
Thank them for their hard work and make sure that you appreciate the vital role they play in our national economy. People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Make sure they know just how important they are.
Another way to show appreciation and respect to drivers is to create and implement a driver career path. Show your drivers clear steps they can take if they want to advance through your company.
Finally, we’ve shared articles in the past on all “the little things” you can do. Try some of these ideas for small initiatives that can make a big difference.
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