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The Ultimate Guide to Driver Retention

The trucking industry, and the transportation industry as a whole, are facing an existential crisis. That crisis is driver turnover.

Most trucking companies struggle to retain their drivers. Their company is a revolving door of truckers coming and going. They’re choosing from bottom-of-the-barrel candidates, and their freight is rotting at the docks.

Does this sound like you and your company? Chances are, yes. As TruckingInfo tells us, the trucking industry’s turnover rate is around 78%. That’s better than it was five years ago, but it still stings.

Your truck driver turnover is hurting you. It costs you money and hampers your growth. Luckily, you’re not helpless. You’re experiencing what we call The Driver Problem. Just like all other problems, The Driver Problem can be solved.

Editors Note: Looking to Increase Driver Retention? Download our Free Driver Retention Kit here: Driver Retention Kit

The Cost of Driver Turnover

Do you know how much it costs to replace a driver? Maybe more than you think.

On average, the overall cost of advertising and searching for a new driver is roughly $5,000 per driver.

That number doesn’t even cover the cost of depreciation of a lazy asset sitting against the fence, not producing revenue. You also have to consider your losses for the drivers who leave; you put time and money into those drivers too. What’s worse is that you are losing drivers to your competition who you could’ve easily kept.

All of these problems are lessened by driver retention. If you keep the same team of drivers for a long period of time, the benefits are massive. You build palpable trust and create a solid company culture. A support system can be constructed to help newer drivers as they come aboard. Suddenly, you have a company that feels like the family you want, not just the family you have, and drivers no longer want to leave.

Read the articles below to learn more about the high cost of driver turnover:

How Much Does It Cost To Hire A Truck Driver? - Estimates vary between $5,000 and $10,000, but either way, it's an avoidable expense with good retention habits. 

Improve Truck Driver Recruiting & Retention Without Spending More Money - Separate your trucking brand from the competition by using these easy recruiting and retention strategies.

Recruit and Retain Younger Drivers Without Spending More Money - The average age of your driver population is going through the roof and you desperately need a game plan to bring the next generation into your trucking company. What can you do recruit more drivers without spending a ton on marketing and advertising?

Understanding the Why

Before you get started on creating a driver retention plan, you have to identify the pain points that cause drivers to leave in the first place. All drivers are different and have their own reasons for joining your company. They have their own reasons for leaving as well, but with a little research, you’ll find some repetition in why drivers leave. Then you can get to the root-cause of the issue and stop turnover at its source.

In our experience, most truck drivers quit for one of these five reasons:

1. Pay

2. Home time

3. Issues with supervisors/dispatch

4. Unmet or changing expectations

5. Lack of appreciation and respect

More likely than not, these are the issues your drivers care about. However, it’s still important to do some digging of your own. Use exit interviews and similar tools to identify problems in all aspects of the job, especially in these areas:

  • On-Boarding: Is the process quick, easy, and painless, or are your drivers forced to fill out a ton of paperwork at once?
  • Training: Are your drivers ready to be safe out on the road? Do I set them up for success behind the wheel? How many times have you said, “he was a good driver, but we had to let him go”?
  • Career Development: Is there room for advancement and growth for new drivers? Is there a support or mentoring system in place to help them along as they gain experience on the road?
  • Pay and Benefits: How does your pay compare to the competition? Could you offer a better bonus program based on performance (productivity + safety) and/or a guaranteed salary? Is your insurance attractive for people with families?
  • Working Conditions: What are some of the ways you can improve day-to-day operations on the job? What would your drivers change about your company?
  • Engagement: How often do you get to talk to or see your drivers? Can you or someone on your team make time for your drivers more regularly?
  • Culture: Do you have a driver-centric culture, or are drivers a means to an end?
  • Recognition: Do you thank and appreciate your drivers and staff enough? Do you recognize excellence and encourage your employees to strive for a high standard on and off the road?

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Read the articles below to learn more about understanding the why behind driver turnover:

Restaurants and Driver Retention - What if you ran your trucking company like a restaurant? What if you treated your drivers like customers? Sound like a strange comparison? Maybe, but I don’t find it strange at all.

5 Topics You Should Be Teaching in Your Truck Driver Safety Training - Professional drivers are held to high standards, and need training to match. Read our 5 driver safety topics that are must-haves in your training sessions.

How to Build a Safety Culture Through Safety Leadership - People don’t respond to charts of accident rates. They respond to real-life stories. Focus training on behaviors and stories rather than on statistics.

Retain More Drivers: Treat Them Like People - Treating your drivers better isn't just the right thing to do morally; it's the right thing to do for your business.

Creating a Driver Retention Plan

Once you’ve evaluated why your drivers leave, get drivers involved. Compile surveys and conduct interviews with your current drivers to get a feel for how things are going in all aspects of their job. Get ready to listen. They may tell you some things that are hard to hear, but if you want to improve retention, it’s critical to receive feedback.

Be warned: if you ask for feedback, be ready to take action.

The only thing worse than not listening, is asking and then ignoring your drivers' feedback.

You’re not committing to every idea that comes in. You need to commit to responding to those ideas and providing a sound explanation if it’s an immediate priority or if it ever will be.

Now you have a clearer picture of how to create your driver retention plan. Focus on improving one area at a time rather than everything at once. Set benchmarks for implementing new strategies and have ways of tracking results on a monthly or quarterly basis. Results could include turnover and retention rate, 1 to 1 interviews, or anonymous surveys, just to name a few options.

Read the articles below to learn more about creating a driver retention plan:

Retention Re-Invention: Why Should You Care About Driver Retention? - Investing in retention is one of the best things you can do for your business, saving time, money, and hassle. Read on for some 'Retention Re-Invention' quick tips and a preview of Scott Rea's presentation.

Retention Re-Invention 2: Building a Driver-Centric Culture - Drawing up a plan and getting every person at your company on board is essential to making drivers want to work for you.

How to Improve Driver Retention with Mentorship Systems - For drivers, working for a new company means a lot of change and a lot of unknowns. One of the best ways to address a driver’s uncertainty is with a mentorship system.

3 Easy Ways to Improve Driver Retention - There are dozens of things you could do to improve your driver retention. We propose three simple changes that you can start on today.

5 Ways to Show Your Drivers You Care - Companies both big and small deal with driver turnover. So what can you do to help reduce your turnover rate? Start with showing your drivers that you care. Read the post to learn more.

Measuring The Effectiveness of Your Driver Retention Plan

When you’ve been working on small-scale goals for a while, begin to implement a yearly review of your retention plan. Use KPIs and other measurements like those mentioned above to get a long view of whether or not your goals are being met. If not, reevaluate your plan. Study your exit interviews for the past year as well to help gather as much information as possible.

Read the articles below to learn more about measuring your driver retention plan effectiveness:

How Do I Retain My Best Truck Drivers? - Trucking is a relationship business. Drivers are people and their issues are your issues. Driver retention is all about establishing clear expectations and responding when a driver’s or your expectations are not being met. Read the article on how to retain your best truck drivers.

Driver Retention Re-Invention -What you’re doing today isn’t working. If you want different results, you need to do something differently. Read this article to learn how to take a top-down approach to driver retention at your company.


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