The New York Times published a recent piece on the life of a long-haul trucker. The article not only calls attention to some of the issues that drivers struggle with in their jobs, but it also demonstrates the importance of letting your new drivers know what they’re getting into when they sign up to be a trucker.
In other words, you will retain truck drivers more often if there are clearly defined expectations between you and your drivers.
The article chalks up national turnover rates at about 80% and chances are your company has a rate close to that number. Even if you conduct exit interviews, you will find there is not just one reason that driver leave; everyone is different. You need to identify each driver’s needs before they ever hit the road. We suggest that you do this with a simple Expectations Agreement.
What is an Expectations Agreement?
An Expectations Agreement should be a brief but specific one-page contract between you and your driver. In it, you and your driver can hammer out your expectations for the job that should be met. You should review this on a monthly basis to make sure both sides are satisfied. You don’t want your drivers to suffer quietly for months and then abruptly quit on you.
"An agreement forces you to monitor each driver’s situation and allows you both to make changes if need be."
One of the major messages of the New York Times article was that drivers often feel undervalued and unappreciated. This is document proof that you won’t treat them that way.
An Expectations Agreement is important but it’s only one part of the puzzle. No matter how well you define and explain a job to an employee, you can’t possibly account for all possible experiences and scenarios they will face on the job. It is crucial that you get your current drivers to help you with this process.
Referring back to the New York Times article, there is a wide variety of experiences on the road. There are positives and negatives for every driver and they are rarely all the same. Certain factors could be deal breakers for a driver; you know that trucking is not for everyone. Better that you find out before you officially hire a driver and put them on the road that they don’t actually want to be a driver.
Using Current Driver Knowledge
In a meeting, have your current drivers describe their job. You can use the comments from your one-to-one meetings to lay it out for prospective new drivers. Nobody knows more about life on the road than your drivers. Even if it’s not all sunshine and roses, it’s important that new drivers get the whole story.
"Trucking has long waits, annoying traffic, physical and emotional tolls... If your drivers know all of this ahead of time, you can weed out those drivers who would probably quit for those reasons."
This will save you money and time, and you are then left with those drivers willing to work for you in spite of those challenges.
Introduce CDL Finishing School
Another way you can define expectations is by sending them to finishing school. Not only does finishing school better prepare your drivers for safer driving on the road (unlike regular CDL training), it gives them an even closer version of actual driving experience before they start driving for you.
"Finishing school helps new drivers see exactly what they’re supposed to do as a truck driver and everything they will need to remember on the job."
This will further allow prospective drivers to decide if this what they want to do every day, and if they do they will be readier to take on the responsibilities of the job than they normally would be.
Be up front with new drivers. Make sure they know EXACTLY what you want from them when they drive for you. And more importantly, know what they want from the job and from you as their boss.
If you go to the trouble of making sure there are clearly defined expectations for every driver that comes to work for you, you will find that retaining them is not as difficult.
Looking for more ways to retain drivers? Read our ebook, 75 Strategies to Help Increase Driver Retention.