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How the Trucking Industry’s Turnover Rate Impacts Safety 

Posted by Scott Rea on April 4, 2017 in the category Compliance, Retention
graph trucking industrys turnover rate chalkboard, blackboard

Vigillo LLC, conducted a study that concluded higher driver turnover strongly correlates with higher CSA scores. Furthermore, the correlation was even stronger with metrics outside of CSA BASIC scores, such as “out-of-service (OOS) inspections and volume of DOT-recordable crashes”. Vigillo reported that trucking companies with high turnover rates “had a driver out-of-service rate 189 percent higher” than low-turnover trucking companies. The vehicle OOS volume for those high-turnover carriers was “300 percent higher”.

Vigillo CEO, Steven Bryan, sees “strong correlations” between turnover and safety culture and argues that culture can actually be measured in turnover rates. We agree strongly with Mr. Bryan. The quantitative and qualitative analyses are there to back it up. High-turnover companies invest less in their drivers. Drivers know when you treat them like a number and will leave. If a driver knows the company gives them the bare minimum, then the company receives the same from the driver.

Driver’s Needs

This data suggests that the only acceptable behaviors are behaviors that support your drivers. Drivers want efficient and consistent management processes. Drivers want a fair and just work environment. Drivers need to consistently make enough money to pay their bills. Drivers need support in learning the job and becoming familiar with routes, procedures, and even little things like where to stop to eat. Yet the trucking industry often doesn’t consistently provide these basic necessities.

Perception is Reality

Good communication skills form the foundation of a driver-centric culture. We communicate using language, but language is far more than a communication tool. Language creates our reality.

Setting Expectations

Clearly defined expectations for job performance eliminate surprises between you and your drivers. Setting clear expectations makes open, honest, and productive conversations routine. This in turn makes it easier to manage performance. It keeps the conversation focused on the result you need to run a profitable business. You define clear goals up front in a simple one-page scorecard and then provide a team to support the driver. Dispatch, Driver Liaison, Safety, HR and Driver Mentors all play key roles in helping the driver meet his or her goals.

If the driver can’t get the job done, you did your best to set him or her up for success. You have documentation to show how you clearly set expectations and data to show a lack of progress. There’s no argument because it’s just the facts, ma’am.

Taking the Pulse of Your Fleet

You need a consistent process to routinely check in on drivers. This should also give you ample time to make adjustments before it’s too late. For the first month on the job, dispatch should call weekly to discuss progress on the driver scorecard. Give the driver the opportunity to have the same conversation about the internal staff members meeting his or her expectations. Good examples of questions to ask are:

  • What do you like about your job?
  • What do you dislike about your job?
  • What have you felt good about accomplishing in your job and in your time here?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, team, or company, what would it be?

Taking Action to Reduce Turnover

  1. Start by clearly setting expectations with a one-page scorecard for new drivers. Be sure it’s a two-way document that includes what the driver can expect from you.
  2. Make asking open-ended questions a documented process. If you’re going to ask the questions above to take the pulse of the fleet, you’d better be prepared to make changes. The worst thing you can do is to ask questions and then do nothing – drivers will lose respect for you and you’ll be worse off than if you had never asked.

If you need more specific tactics to improve truck driver turnover, check out the E-book we wrote: 75 Strategies to Help Increase Driver Retention.

75 Strategies to Help Increase Driver Retention