Driver turnover, known as churning in the trucking industry, is a very expensive and time-consuming issue for trucking companies, mainly because recruiting and training new commercial drivers is a huge undertaking. But churning also impacts safety and employee morale. That is, safety data reveals that truckers who change jobs frequently have more crashes than those with stable employment. So why do fleet managers have such a hard time retaining drivers?
One problem may be the lack of a driver retention plan. Fleet managers work hard to recruit safe drivers but then fail to take the measures necessary to keep them. Like employees in other sectors of the workforce, drivers who feel underpaid or unappreciated tend to look to other employers for a better position. Creating a driver retention plan can help companies keep their fleet’s best drivers.
And doing so is increasingly important for businesses that can’t afford to have parked trucks. As the shortage of qualified commercial drivers continues to challenge businesses with interstate-transportation needs, many companies are taking note of what private fleets (which generally have greater success in retaining their drivers) are doing to entice their drivers to stick around.
Here are five strategies that can improve the workplace for truckers and reduce turnover:
Add a Fleet Management Program
While many drivers may balk at the mention of a fleet management program — no one loves the idea of Big Brother keeping tabs on them — the fact is that a well-run program that automatically logs mileage, time allocations and fuel management can actually improve driver retention. For starters, when a manager uses a fleet management system to improve safety and compliance across a team, it’s easier to identify and reward drivers who are performing well; this boosts morale and retention.
Drivers who don’t know what’s happening in the fleet or company are more like to leave, particularly if changes are implemented and drivers sense they’re getting the short straw. Smart fleet managers communicate why certain decisions are made and how changes help the company, the fleet and drivers themselves. For example, if speed-governing is added to a fleet, drivers need to know why and what’s in it for them.
Also remember that communication is a two-way street. If drivers have something to say, managers need to listen. Effective managers ask employees to share ideas and opinions on decisions and they request suggestions for improvement. Drivers are on the road with the company’s equipment; they can provide valuable insight to what changes can improve the system. So survey drivers and find out where the company is getting it right and how it can potentially improve. This not only provide management with important information; it tells drivers that their opinion matters.
Reward Drivers for Good Performance and Loyalty
Like every type of employee, drivers like to be rewarded when they do a good job. Rewards can come in the form of bonus pay or a raise, but sometimes public recognition is rewarding, too. Has someone reached the million-mile milestone? If so, he or she deserves some appreciation. Does a driver have a safe record? Something as simple as a “safe driver” sticker can mean a lot. Fleet managers can also recognize drivers who are compliant with company rules by posting their photo in the lounge or lobby so others can see their recognition.
Yes, rewarding good employees may cost some money, but this kind of investment will never cost a business more than recruiting and training a new driver.
Demonstrate Respect for Drivers
Drivers are an integral part of a transportation- or shipping-centered business. Without qualified drivers, the fleet is grounded. Yet drivers often hear things like, “You’re just a driver.” When a person feels disrespected and expendable, going somewhere else is a natural response. Fleet managers can show respect to their drivers by recognizing good performance, treating them as an important component of the operation, sharing relevant information and telling them the truth. Drivers who feel respected and valued are more likely to stick around than those who feel belittled by managers and marginalized by their employer organization.
A driver cannot deliver a load if he’s stuck at a repair shop with a broken axle. Drivers who take pride in what they do don’t want to work in a rusted malfunctional truck. Mechanical problems occur in even the best operations, but fleet managers should keep equipment well maintained and replace it when it gets old and worn out. This is good workplace practice, and drivers appreciate this attention to their professional environment.