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The Newsroom

With driver turnover at an all-time high, those in management positions are looking for ways to ensure their trucks aren’t parked against the fence.

During this year’s TCA event in September, I hosted a presentation on Making Driver Turnover a Problem of the past. It should come as no surprise that more than a few people are concerned with this particular topic. 

So, for the past two weeks, I summarized my first five recommendations, outlining the steps you can take right away. Today, we'll look at the remaining action items.

Recognize That Retention is a Shared Responsibility

First, know and understand that everyone on your team is responsible for retention. Everyone. There should not be one person – even if that person is the owner or manager – whose task it is to ensure drivers are happy for the long haul.

The entire company should be involved in the process, right from the recruiting and application stage, onwards.

For argument’s sake, let’s take a look at one stat we all know to be true: Just over 60 percent of drivers make it past 60 days. This speaks to how critical that first half-year of a driver's experience with a company truly is.

And this includes the onboarding process, which is why carriers must pay close attention to how they manage it.

Some things to consider related to onboarding, specifically:

  • Is it easy to apply to the company? Was the driver's job accurate, or was it misleading?
  • When it comes to training, what does the process look like? You need to look at every detail. If you are doing classroom-based learning, consider the hotels the driver stays at and the food you serve during breaks.

Ongoing, you need to consider everything from how dispatch communicates with drivers, to how much their compensation is, to the condition of the trucks you put them in.

Know this: every single step – every single element of the driver relationship – matters.

Don’t Preach, “Drivers Are No. 1”

Sure, it’s catchy. There’s no denying that.

But, if you’re a recruiter, how would that make you feel? What about if you’re the safety manager?

Ouch, right?

The toughest role to fill may be the driver, and the number one need may be a driver, but the number one person? That’s everyone, and that needs to be reflected in the culture. Foster a culture of inclusivity, and watch as everyone learns to embody that from the top down.

Focus on Training and Professional Development; it Matters More Than You Think

Many fleet managers and owners are surprised to learn that training and professional development do matter to drivers. And yet, a startling number of fleets continue to rely on traditional, classroom-based learning.

While this type of learning certainly does have a time and place, you’ll find many of today’s drivers prefer to have access to their training when and where is most convenient for them; they don’t want to give up weekends to meet DOT requirements.

Access to online material increases the chance your drivers will see their learning as more of a positive opportunity to embrace rather than as something they need to simply check off their to-do list.

Seek out courses that translate complex ideas and regulations into a real-world context that drivers understand; content that provides an interactive learning experience that's effective regardless of your drivers' learning styles, language, or educational background.

What are you doing to invest in your drivers and support your driver retention goals? Remember: by making investments in your drivers, you’re demonstrating respect and appreciation for the men and women who go the distance every day to make your fleet successful.

Develop a Culture of Safety

A culture of safety does three things:

  • It lowers corporate liability
  • It reduces the number of highway accidents
  • It contributes to a solid retention strategy

 Your commitment to maintaining a strong safety culture – right from the hiring stage -- signals to all drivers, existing and potential hires that your company values driver safety. Do you provide PPE? Do people actually wear it when necessary, or is it just something you hand out on day one and forget about?

Further to this, drivers should never be afraid to speak up when they see potential issues that impact safety. Such ownership amongst drivers leads to increased engagement, pride, job satisfaction, along with a deeper connection and a feeling of inclusion – all factors influencing retention.

Finally, it’s important to recognize drivers that take safety seriously. Yes, it’s a job requirement, but if other drivers see peers being awarded, the overall attitude towards “safety” will shift.

You could consider safety bonuses, or even honoring drivers at safety meetings, highlighting their achievements in a company newsletter, on social media, and even though local news outlets.

Ensure There’s a Focus on Retention Across Your Company

While I covered “Retention is a Shared Responsibility” earlier on, I’m going to hone in a little further for this last action item: understand that retention should be a company-wide focus.

Make it a part of your company’s mission statement, and then here’s the catch: ensure everyone knows it inside and out.

Post it in public spaces everyone will see and take note of, emphasize the mission during meetings and training sessions and make it a focus of your company’s social media efforts.

A collective goal guarantees a cohesive message and ensures everyone is on the same page from the start.

To Wrap Things Up...

The trucking industry has long suffered from a driver retention issue, but it doesn’t always need to be this way.

Take the 10 steps outlined these past couple of weeks and outline your company’s plan for each one. Make sure you also identify who will be the one responsible for ensuring each step is addressed.

In time, with hard work, dedication, and cohesive, company-wide goals, you'll see retention can increase, trucks won’t be parked against the fence, and driver turnover can indeed be a problem of the past.