Developing an Effective Retention Strategy for Your Company | Part Two: Why Drivers Leave in the First Place

Why Drivers Leave

September 9, 2020


There’s a constant demand in the trucking industry to recruit; an emphasis placed on how to do it faster, better, easier. And in the process, thousands and thousands of dollars are being spent…and wasted.

According to a report by StayMetrics, among drivers hired in the first quarter of 2019, only 64.9% made it 90 days. This is almost a 5% decrease during the same period as 2018.

The startling numbers should give the entire industry reason to pause and reflect on whether efforts might, perhaps, be better spent elsewhere. The sought-after solution? Placing a focus on retention rather than recruiting.

To do this effectively, however, we must begin by examining why drivers depart in the first place. As you’ll see, driver retention need not be a complicated endeavour; putting a stop to the revolving door comes down this, above all else: making drivers feel like you actually care.

Here are the top reasons drivers leave:

Lack of Appreciation

According to an article on Medium, most employees leave their jobs because they don’t feel appreciated.

The key? Meaningful appreciation. A sticky note with “thanks” hastily scrawled across it isn’t going to have quite the same effect as something even a little more substantial; drivers want to feel like part of a team, not just another cog in the wheel.

Consider tailored gifts that go the extra mile; a Bluetooth headset for someone who loves music, for example, or personalized mud flaps for someone who flaunts a tricked-out truck.

Many fleets are also turning to social media as a way of expressing their gratitude. Put drivers in the spotlight by highlighting what makes them such an integral part of your work family, and precisely why you appreciate them. A little thoughtfulness can go a long way – trust us!

Poor Leadership

Fact: poor leadership costs companies a lot of money.

According to this article in Forbes, a Gallup poll found that only 18% of managers demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others – meaning 82% of managers aren’t very good at leading people. What’s more, Gallup estimated that this lack of leadership capability costs U.S. corporations up to $550 billion annually.

If your carrier’s turnover numbers are high, with drivers consistently making an exit for the competition down the street, it may be time to reconsider how those at the top of the corporate ladder are doing things. What processes can be improved to increase driver satisfaction? Don’t be afraid to dig deep to find the answers; they might surprise you and save your company a lot of money.

Lack of Communication

There’s something to be said for open lines of communication; every good relationship has them solidly established.

While this can, admittedly, be a challenge to navigate when drivers are always on the road, there are ways around the distance factor.

Technology is one of those ways.

Driver-centric software can – and should – be part of your carrier’s retention strategy. An online system – easily accessible whether drivers are on the road, or enjoying home time – provides an opportunity to establish open and direct communication between management and drivers, and can pave the way to a happier, more productive workplace.

Lack of Home Time

Life on the road can be challenging.

One of the biggest reasons? It can be lonely.

It’s not uncommon in the industry for personal relationships to feel the brunt of distance, so ensuring your drivers have adequate time at home with their loved ones plays a vital part in your carrier’s retention strategy.

Most drivers understand from the get-go that trucking is not a 9-5, Monday to Friday gig, but giving your drivers the chance to recharge at home is crucial.

Work/life balance is, indeed, a “thing” – don’t fool yourself into thinking the transportation industry is exempt from it, or it will cost you.

Poor Pay/Compensation

This one won’t come as much of a surprise; the median annual wage for tractor-trailer truck drivers across the U.S. is $44,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If your company has adopted a “leaner” mindset when it comes to driver compensation, it may be time to re-evaluate what your drivers are making to increase retention rates.

In this industry, one with remarkably high turnover numbers, it’s vital to remain competitive to attract – and keep – your best drivers.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the reasons behind a hasty exit is a worthwhile investment all carriers should make.

Consider implementing an exit survey, which can provide more insight into why your drivers are leaving in the first place and provide you with an opportunity to take a more proactive – and cost-effective – approach to driver retention.

Coming Up Next

Next week in our Driver Retention blog series, we’ll look at the power of increased communication and driver engagement.