In December of 2019, Avatar Fleet president Scott Rea guest-starred on the podcast Recruit & Retain: Trucking Edition. The episode discussed AvatarFleet’s solution to the driver problem, with a focus on the relationship between safety, recruiting, and retention. Last week’s article recapped Rea and podcast host Chad Hendrick’s discussion on the effects safety and recruiting have on one another. This week, we’ll discuss the positive correlation between safety and retention. When one improves, the other is likely to as well.
The Driver Problem And Driver Retention
In the first quarter of 2019, driver turnover was 83% for large truckload carriers. Driver turnover is the largest contributor to the driver problem. As Rea defines the driver problem in the podcast, “I never have enough drivers. I’m drowning in compliance paperwork. I’m constantly focused on putting out the next fire, accident, or incident. And, we have as many [drivers] walking out the back door as the front door.”
If this sounds like you, you’re experiencing the driver problem. Nearly every carrier in the nation struggles to retain quality drivers. You’re probably extremely aware of the fact that driver turnover costs you thousands of dollars per new hire. However, you might not be aware that poor retention puts you at risk for more accidents.
The Danger of New Drivers
New drivers are more likely to cause accidents, but I’m not just talking about the drivers fresh out of CDL school. “The best predictor of accidents is not tenure in the industry; it’s tenure with your company,” Rea says. In other words, regardless of a driver’s experience, they’re more likely to cause an accident when they’re starting a new job.
Rea points out that increased accidents with new hires is because of all the distractions that come with learning on the job: “‘This is a new customer. I’ve never been here. Do they have a restroom or should I pull over now? Man, the rest stops are looking pretty full. Should I pull over now and kill 30 minutes of productivity?’ These are the types of things that go on in a driver’s head that’s the other form of distracted driving.”
How to Increase Retention and Reduce Accidents
When retention goes down, so do accidents. How would a company go about improving one to improve the other? Your best bet is to invest in your drivers by creating a driver career path.
As it stands, the majority of the transportation industry is pathetic when it comes to providing a driver career path. If you’re like most companies, all that your drivers earn for sticking with you long-term is a few more cents per mile. We’ve learned that your drivers want more than that. Our four-rung driver career path is plug-and-play and easy to implement. These four steps help you invest in driver training, increase safety, and encourage your drivers to stay.
- Develop Your New Drivers With CDL Finishing School
One way to safely expand your driver recruiting pool is to invest in a CDL Finishing School. When you properly invest in a driver and you provided them an opportunity to start a new career, you've built up a lot of trust and appreciation. A proper Finishing School has a structured Instructor selection and certification process. This instructor executes the eight week curriculum that covers defensive driving, life on the road and key details about your organization. You’re investing in teaching the driver all aspects of the job, including those that were historically learned through the school of hard knocks. When you get ahead of the school of hard knocks, you prevent turnover and build loyalty.
- LLLC Driver Certification
Our research and experience has shown that the best drivers want to work for companies that invest in their safety. One of our clients used the local news to showcase how they invest in a safety culture using LLLC - they used their investment in safety as a marketing piece. You can’t be everywhere. Create a small army of safety ambassadors that are your driver trainers. Create a safety culture where your driver’s peers lead the charge. Your drivers will be safer and more likely to stay with you.
- LLLC Instructor Certification
Your veteran drivers may be looking for opportunities with your company that go beyond driving. LLLC Instructor Certification gives you a process to vet and promote your all-stars to the driver instructor level. Being an instructor provides an opportunity for someone who wants to help others. There are many drivers who want to share what they’ve learned over the years to the next generation - they want their peers coming home safely after each trip.
- Leadership Development
Many managers in the transportation industry landed their job because they were great drivers. The issue with that is success as a driver doesn’t predict success as a manager. Our Leadership Development Course consists of online self-directed lessons that give your frontline leaders the skills and knowledge they need to improve your company’s retention. And, if you have a great driver interested in climbing company ranks, you can assign them to the Leadership Development Course while you wait for a position to open. Otherwise, they might jump ship in search of a company who will invest in their leadership potential.
Safety, Retention, & The Driver Problem
Improving driver retention saves you money and time. It could also save your company from accidents. If you want the driver problem to be a distant memory, it’s time to invest in a driver career path. The training you make available to your drivers will show them you care, and they’ll know they can’t get it better anywhere else.