In today’s labor market defined by phenomena like the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, keeping employees is challenging. These trends combined with unprecedented global supply chain issues make retaining truck drivers even more difficult.
Companies that can maintain a fully staffed and satisfied driver workforce are positioned to succeed, as driver recruiting costs are at an all-time high and companies are regularly offering sign-on bonuses over $10,000. While recruiting costs will always be a part of the driver staffing equation, they can be controlled and minimized with a good retention program.
So, in an industry that is experiencing a turnover rate exceeding 90%, how does a company retain drivers? As it turns out, competitive, market-based pay is just the beginning.
Look at any job board and it is easy to see that drivers are in high demand. To entice drivers, many companies are offering large sign-on bonuses and promises of weekly pay that might have seemed unthinkable just a couple of years ago.
While companies do not have to pay more than their competitors to maintain a driver fleet, they must be in the ballpark. Compensation is a top issue for drivers. No matter how great the company culture and benefits are, they will probably move on if they can improve their W-2 at the end of the year.
To determine the right amount to offer drivers, figure out what competitive pay is for the market of each individual driver and compensate accordingly. Drivers care about adding value to their company, so pay them properly to show them that they are valued in return. But remember, when trying to retain a driver workforce – and avoid paying a lot of large signing bonuses – competitive pay is only the baseline.
Tractors, Trailers and Tools
In addition to competitive pay, giving drivers the tools and equipment necessary to perform their job successfully is critical. Because they spend most of their working life behind the wheel, they appreciate modern, high-quality tractors and trailers that make them more comfortable.
Equipment that is well maintained is also important. Time is money for drivers, and breakdowns can cost them. Regular breakdowns due to older equipment or a poor preventative maintenance program might cause a driver to look elsewhere for work. Also be sure to provide safety equipment that is easily accessible in case of an emergency.
The support truck drivers receive while they are behind the wheel shapes their experience with an organization. Drivers need to be confident that someone is going to take their call when a question or issue arises on the road. When it comes to driver satisfaction, having a responsive dispatch team, accessible managers who spend time in the field, and reliable support when breakdowns occur make a big difference.
Keeping this team as consistent as possible is also important. Drivers can become easily frustrated when there is a revolving door of support staff unfamiliar with the intricacies of the business on the other end of the phone.
Most drivers have stories about inaccurate dispatches that cost them hours of time and money, or breakdowns that kept them sitting on the side of the road waiting for a response from roadside service. When a driver feels like they are supported by a team they know and their issues are addressed in a timely manner, they will be less likely to look for other jobs.
As the concept of working from home continues to gain traction, companies should give truck drivers flexibility with their schedules wherever possible. Although drivers can’t operate their trucks from a comfy home office, employers can create schedules that help them achieve more work-life balance.
Gone are the days of long-haul truck drivers hitting the road for weeks or months at a time. These asphalt cowboys still exist and are an asset to the industry, but more drivers are looking for regional work, daily time at home, and a schedule that allows them to balance their family and career obligations. Try to ensure drivers are home at night, get creative with work configurations, and pay them more when a job requires them to be away from their families.
Career Advancement Opportunities
Many entry-level employees are motivated to excel at a new job with the hope that their efforts will be rewarded with better opportunities down the road. It’s often the same for drivers. When they complete training to obtain their CDL they typically take entry-level driving jobs, and after gaining a couple of years of experience, they may move on to something more desirable.
It is important to provide opportunities internally to prevent drivers from seeking them at another company. This might include offering driving jobs with increased pay or a more desirable schedule. However, that shouldn’t be the end when it comes to advancement opportunities.
To continually motivate your best and brightest, consider adding opportunities for drivers to become trainers and team leads, and provide a clear path from the truck to the office. The best dispatchers and operations staff are often former drivers because they have firsthand experience in the field. This creates a win-win – the organization retains its best employees, and drivers’ desire for career growth is satisfied.
Driver Appreciation Programs
Driver appreciation programs have been around for a long time, but a quality one can lead to improved retention. One simple gesture that employers can make is personally acknowledging birthdays, work anniversaries and other special milestones. The key is to treat each driver as an individual, so don’t just send an automated email or card. Take the time to interact with them. Bring members of the leadership team into drivers’ hometowns for celebrations and appreciation cookouts. This creates valuable opportunities for drivers to make connections with managers as well as express any concerns before seeking a new job.
Remember that a satisfied driver wants to represent their organization. Give them branded gear that they can be proud to wear. Keep their domiciles stocked with water and snacks that they can take on the road with them.
Lastly and most importantly, treat drivers with dignity and respect. For a long time, many organizations saw drivers as numbers and resources that could be easily replaced. This mentality is why the driver turnover rate is so high. Drivers are a critically important part of the supply chain and must be made to feel that way.
The market is in drivers’ favor. They will gravitate toward the companies that value them, and in turn, those companies will enjoy the most success.