Whether you’re reading this article on your phone, computer, or printed it out on a piece of paper, truck drivers made it possible. Truck drivers deliver food, clothes, entertainment, cars and anything else you purchase - if you bought it, a truck brought it! We are utterly reliant on trucks, yet the industry faces an existential crisis: clogged shipping docks, 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.
Do you want to work 70 irregular hours a week, away from your home and family, sleeping in a 72” bunk, eating fast food every day and working in a dangerous occupation that has a 64-year life expectancy? Me either. Which is why the industry faces a shrinking labor pool. The average truck driver is 55 years old and the next generation has little interest in making trucking their career.
In the truckload sector, driver turnover averages 100%. However, when you look at Private Fleets and LTL carriers whose operations get their drivers home nightly, turnover is about 11%. In broad terms, these facts explain the driver problem. But what about the specifics?
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. It starts 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.
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.
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. Driver’s don’t quit their company, they quit their boss. To solve this problem, provide effective education and training for your front-line leaders. Teach them how to communicate, listen and resolve conflict - because there will be conflict.
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 at that time.
We all have expectations; about dinner, a plane ride, 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 to create a driver scorecard.
Drivers rarely feel appreciated and leave your company as a result. 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.
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