Secrets to Curbing Driver Turnover

Top fleet performers identify what appears to drive turnover within their fleet and use it as an opportunity to improve company culture or specific programs to improve retention.

5m3photos Adobe Stock On The Road 5f971fe4e60c1

Problem. Solution.

The problem is driver turnover. And, as a problem, it’s very complex since there are a lot of factors that go into determining “true” driver turnover.

So, what’s the solution? How do you get your driver turnover rate below the industry average of close to 100% in the large truckload segment and about 75% for smaller carriers? Follow the bouncing ball in all areas of why and when a driver leaves.

Here’s why. Year-after-year, top fleet performers identify what appears to drive turnover within their fleet and use it as an opportunity to improve company culture or specific programs to improve retention. Often, it has more to do with who the fleet is hiring rather than a sign of bad company culture.

If a company has a broken hiring process and employs people who soon realize they aren’t happy with the job or it wasn’t what they expected, they likely won’t stick around long. There will always be a few people who slip through the screening process to then turn around and quit, but if it becomes a trend, something needs to change.

Over the years, some fleets address this by improving communication across different departments so that everyone is on the same page on what the company needs from its drivers. From operations, safety and recruiting, these departments work together to develop job descriptions and refine the screening process, so that recruiters have a better idea on which candidates to target.

A number of fleets create profiles, listing characteristics of successful drivers to assist recruiters in their efforts to find strong applicants. By improving the hiring process, many fleets reduce their turnover rate during the first month.

So, what about those drivers who’ve made it through the first month, but shortly thereafter, decide to throw in the towel? That’s typically a sign that a fleet’s onboarding process may need to be improved.

Issues regarding how fleets go about onboarding drivers happen for a number of reasons, but there’s been some commonalities in how fleets address those issues. During a driver’s first 90 days with a company, they’re interacting with different parts of the business and corporate community. Those interactions help shape their perception of the company and their prospects for a future there. If those interactions aren’t good ones, or if the company isn’t making a concerted effort to bring drivers into their culture, drivers will stay detached and may drift back to a previous employer or find greener grass elsewhere.

Some fleets put in substantial effort toward their post-orientation activities and regularly check up with new drivers to make sure everything is going fine. When all departments are engaged with drivers to answer questions, help them adjust and get “up to speed,” the more likely they are to feel comfortable with the company.

To go a step further, some executives of fleets get involved with outreach as well. By engaging with drivers and building relationships right off the bat, top level managers can leave a lasting impact that supports the company’s efforts in maintaining a culture where drivers want to be.

That being said, fleets who have their recruiting and onboarding process in check will still see some turnover.

Sometimes drivers will leave for reasons as simple as a change in lifestyle. For example, if a driver has kids and takes a local delivery job that will allow them to be at home more, they’re leaving the over-the-road segment all together. That’s not a knock on the company or programs in place.

The turnover that fleets can address typically pertains to how drivers value the work they’re doing. Oftentimes, drivers will leave for new opportunities if they’re bored with their route, feel they have lack of opportunity for growth within the company or are frustrated with a specific mix of shippers and lanes they deal with. 

Large fleets tend to have an easier time finding solutions for a driver that becomes “bored” because they often have more divisions to place drivers in to “break things up.” The change of scenery, freight they’re hauling, and possible different truck they may drive can go a long way for boosting driver moral.

Many fleets, large and small, transition drivers into roles that get them more heavily involved with the business. Some examples include creating shipper scorecards and rating systems for drivers to use so they can provide feedback on the experience. If a driver finds a shipper to be especially difficult to work with, a change may be in order and accommodated. Additionally, we’ve seen drivers give input on their experience with truck stops and fueling locations which can be used when updating company policies.

The fleets that understand that experienced drivers are more valuable to the company than simply delivering freight are the ones that typically have an easier time retaining veteran drivers. Fleets that use their drivers’ industry knowledge to mentor other drivers or provide input to the company to improve operations, maximize the value of their drivers. Not only that, but drivers feel a greater sense of self-worth with the company. It’s a win-win and it’s no secret that some fleets have been getting the most out of their drivers for a while now.

Ultimately, finding solutions that enhance company culture is something that requires company-wide buy-in. Building the kind of collaborative, continuously improving culture that keeps drivers engaged isn’t something that can be executed solely by mid-level management. It needs full support by the executive team.

Bottom line -- there will always be turnover, but by identifying and hiring drivers that will likely be a good fit for the company combined with creating a culture where drivers want to work for you is the way to see improvements in your retention numbers.