Trucking carriers and drivers are both intimately familiar with the extent of truck driver turnover that exists in the industry. Many trucking carriers have experienced a “revolving door”—constantly needing to hire new drivers because current drivers are leaving the company. Many drivers have also worked for several companies within the span of a few years and very few find a stable driving job that allows them to build a long relationship with the same company.
Turnover negatively impacts both drivers and carriers, yet it persists in the industry. It isn’t just limited to a few companies either but is widespread throughout the industry. Solving the driver turnover problem is a matter of understanding the causes and implementing a few solutions laid out below. Here’s everything you need to know about combating truck driver turnover.
Causes of turnover
To combat turnover, we first need to understand its causes. There are several reasons for turnover that are unique to the trucking industry. Instead of documenting all possible causes, let’s examine some of the most common and important ones for recruiters and fleet managers.
First, turnover is directly related to the CDL driver shortage.
The shortage means there is increased competition between companies for the same small pool of drivers.
Trucking companies are incentivized to offer higher pay, sign-on bonuses, and other benefits which may attract drivers away from their current employer. Offering these benefits is the best practice for each individual company, as we have written about before, but ends up being bad for the industry as a whole. If there were enough drivers to fill every driving job, there wouldn’t be enough empty trucks in other companies to lure drivers away. The recruiting process also tends to be very quick, so drivers know they would be able to find work very quickly if they left their current employer. It may be easy to believe that drivers are simply going from job to job looking for the best quick deal they can find. However, it is important to remember that they are just like any other employees—at the end of the day, they are looking for a great job that also lasts for a long time.
Secondly, drivers may face unforeseen challenges on the job which they attribute to the company rather than the industry. This may be especially true for newer drivers who haven’t experienced problems like equipment break-down, canceled loads, bad weather, difficulty with shippers or receivers, and a host of other problems every trucker encounters.
It’s easy to blame the company rather than the nature of the job when these obstacles arise, especially if the company hasn’t been supportive or understanding.
At the same time, sometimes carriers really do deserve the blame for the driver’s low job satisfaction. Recruiters may have misrepresented the job details during the hiring process. Maybe drivers didn’t ask the right questions or recruiters failed to mention important details. Perhaps the recruiters over-promised benefits like pay and home time, or the company has been under-delivering. Either way, the result is the same: drivers feel cheated by the company and are motivated to look elsewhere for a better job. It’s important to remember that retention starts with good recruiting.
While there is no cure-all to rid 100% of driver turnover, there are a number of things your company can do to increase retention and keep more drivers month after month.
First, recruiters need to go after the right drivers.
Yes, you want to find good talent, but it’s even more important to find the right fit.
If you think about it, the top talent can easily be lured away by rivals who have enticing pay packages which your company cannot yet offer. However, if you find the right drivers for you, they’ll stick around with your fleet longer regardless of what the competition can offer. Let’ say only 35% of drivers you hire in January stay till December. Recruiters and fleet managers need to find out which company characteristics persuaded those drivers to stay. Maybe your company offers daily or weekly home time that works well for younger drivers on regional runs. On the other hand, maybe your company is better at attracting veteran drivers who don’t mind OTR runs with home time twice a month. Whatever the case may be, the drivers that stay with your company are the ones who are a good fit. Find out what characteristics they share, how they match your fleet’s needs, and recruit more like them.
That brings us to the recruiting process. We know that high retention starts with good recruiting. Targeting drivers based on the characteristics that make them a good fit is the first and most important step. With this approach, recruiters won’t need to over-promise benefits which the company can’t deliver. There would be no reason why recruiting wouldn’t be a transparent process. Recruiters should aim to paint an accurate picture of the miles, runs, hauls, and regions needed. They should also be upfront and honest about pay and benefits, especially if they aren’t as generous as what other companies can offer. Think about it—sooner or later the drivers will know for themselves and decide whether they want a better deal or not. Why not save time for everyone and lower turnover by finding a good match ahead of the game.
Finally, you’ll want to build some loyalty by forging the right company culture. Pay, benefits, and home time are all important, but not as strong as identity and a sense of belonging.
If you satisfy a driver’s need to feel important, appreciated, and valued, they may overlook a lower pay grade or weaker benefits package.
Engaging in driver appreciation is something that can be done every day and every week, by every employee of your company. Driver engagement surveys are a great way to discover what’s keeping them happy so you can keep doing it, and to show drivers that you really care about them as people and not just as employees.
Driver turnover is a monumental problem facing the industry, and directly stems from the driver shortage problem. Carriers and drivers both suffer when the employees aren’t a good match for the company, but it’s not an impossible problem. Combat your turnover problem by starting with good recruitment: target drivers who are the right fit, be transparent about job characteristics and benefits, and build loyalty with drivers through engagement and appreciation.