Truck driver turnover continues to plague the industry. It’s as bad for large fleets as it has been for decades. It seems to have fostered a mentality that believes turnover is just a normal part of being in the trucking business. That’s just the way it is these days, for some reason.
And it costs fleets billions of dollars. We’ve heard estimates of the cost of truck driver turnover ranging from $8,000 to $15,000 per driver. For instance, if your fleet of 10 drivers has a turnover of 80% annually and your cost of replacing each driver is $11,500, your annual cost is $92,000 – that’s money you leave on the table. And you believe that’s just the way it is in trucking.
Or is it? At BrightOrder Inc. we have worked with many truck fleets and we believe there are key things that you can do to reduce your turnover costs by stemming the tide of drivers jumping ship. First, you must find out the most common reasons for drivers leaving your fleet. Exit interviews can help to uncover the reasons drivers leave you.
Some center around the following complaints:
● Feelings of being underpaid and unappreciated.
● Time away from home, especially with long haul drivers.
● Lack of communication, feeling there is no one you can talk with to resolve issues.
● Health issues, cause for retirement along with advancing age.
● Lack of respect.
● Substandard equipment.
Some of these gripes are not so easy to deal with, starting with feelings of being underpaid and unappreciated. Your drivers are specially trained professionals. If you want to keep them, you must treat them as professionals. Many fleets are now raising the pay levels of drivers and showing appreciation for the work they do. Of course you can’t just give large pay raises without freight rates responding in kind. The industry is not able to withstand a large surge in wage expenses until freight rates rise accordingly.
Unfortunately, that means the increase must be gradual, but any raise will be viewed favorably by your drivers and will help to retain some.
Truck drivers work long shifts; some are away days or weeks at a time with little predictability of when they will arrive home. To combat the stress this causes, some large fleets run primarily between a manufacturing facility and distribution centers to enable a driver to be home at the end of each shift.
Most small fleets can’t offer such a luxury. For them, the best way to maximize home time is through efficient planning with managers and dispatchers to generate the best route and communicate when the driver will be expected home and for how long.
It’s the Mushroom Syndrome: being kept in the dark and fed a load of crap. Overcoming this should start with the recruiting process. Some not so good recruiters feel the need to get new hires by whitewashing
the job to make it appear better than it actually is. And what happens when it’s not so great? Your new driver beats it.
Some fleets offer great sign-on bonuses that attract eager drivers who don’t often stay long. We’re more in favor of offering periodic retention bonuses and rewarding longer service. And we also believe you should be honest and forthright in describing the job so the new hire knows fully what to expect and is willing to do it. Drivers deserve better than BS. Again, treat them like professionals.
Another growing trend is to pair a new hire with a mentor – a veteran driver who is an open and honest trainer who can get to know and like the newbie and coach them and help resolve any issues that may arise.
Communicate with each driver frequently; get to know your people.
Health problems will arise for truck drivers due to the nature of their work. It’s dangerous, not just driving but loading and unloading, working in the extremes of summers and winters, often in the dark in
unfamiliar places. Then there’s the cumulative stress of the job, the lack of exercise and poor eating habits while on the road.
Hopefully, you can show empathy toward an ailing or injured driver and work with them to get through their difficulties and not lose them.
We’re not sure why this happens but we know that all too often it does. We suspect that it may happen due to managers, dispatchers, office personnel, shop people who don’t really understand the nature of a driver’s job.
We’re not saying you should offer sympathy, but at least treat them like an equal. Avoid using a patronizing tone and show respect at all times.
Drivers like the feeling of pride they get from piloting quality equipment that is proactively maintained. We’re not saying you need to purchase new trucks to retain drivers. We’re saying you need to take care of your equipment by maintaining it and cleaning it often.
Drivers spend a significant amount of time in the cab, they need to know it’s dependable and safe for them to do so. Creating a pleasant work environment will help you retain good drivers.