By Matthew Meeks
The industry has been hyper-focused on driver retention for some time now. Some sources claim there is a major shortage that threatens the industry, other articles claim it’s all exaggerated and blown out of proportion. Regardless your perspective, the stats don’t lie. Driver turnover is at a staggering 69% within the first 12 months of employment, meaning it’s more important than ever for companies to place a keen focus on drivers.
Afterall, the competition in the industry is very real. More and more companies are offering generous perks, benefits, and compensation packages to attract and retain quality drivers. On one hand, this is great for the drivers; allowing them to be selective and giving them more opportunity to negotiate. On the other hand, trucking companies face additional costs to stay competitive in a changing industry.
So, in 2019…what do employers really need to be giving their drivers to keep them around?
Let’s dive right in!
We’re not just talking about annual salary here. Compensation is so much more than that now. According to Truckload Carriers Association, 2019 saw carriers increasing compensation across the variety of areas including increased wages, profit-sharing and stock options.
These forms of compensation are more frequently being used as rewards for quality drivers who are an example for company success.
Other compensation that competitive fleets are offering their drivers include: signing bonuses and paid orientation.
Simply put: Companies need to offer more than just a salary and include incentives for drivers to stay.
Benefits like retirement savings plans and life insurance policies are being offered sooner and sometimes with no wait period for new-hires at all.
It might sound risky to offer new drivers such things from day 1 because of the turnaround statistics…or maybe it’s brilliant to offer it sooner because it will keep more drivers around.
Companies offering their drivers less than two weeks of vacation a year may find themselves being labeled as outdated and ungenerous. The upward trend now is to offer three weeks or more per year of paid time off. More time off and more time spent with loved ones is linked to higher productivity at work and is also good for mental health…
This helps create work/life balance which we’ll talk more about in a bit.
How about giving drivers some more kudos!
Score cards are common in the industry today but not necessarily the frequency in which they’re updated. Companies trying to become more competitive should consider updating score cards weekly instead of monthly.
Other best practices of recognition include awarding a “driver of the month” and “driver of the year” with certain types of special rewards for the winners (trips, event passes, etc.).
If you truly recognize your drivers, they’ll recognize the company’s efforts and stick around longer.
A company’s culture can determine whether a driver stays or goes. Company culture may even be the real key to retention…
The onboarding of new drivers should no longer be just, “Come to orientation and then we’ll send you on your way!”
Companies need to consider periodic post orientation check-ins, special mentoring, surveys, etc. Even sprinkling in small things such as occasional freebies, birthday/anniversary gifts, and t-shirt giveaways can go a long way according to TCA.
“Don’t waste my time bro!”
According to TCA, there’s been a heightened focus over the last year on improving trailer efficiency and eliminating disruptions that waste time. This includes carefully planning out how to handle maintenance and repairs. TCA suggests that, “The best performers schedule maintenance for nights or weekends so drivers don’t lose any productive time while it’s happening.”
Part of a company’s strategy should also be embracing new technology that’s available such as Transflo Mobile+ and its integration with the T-series ELD. This is a great place to start. Utilizing this new tech and monitoring the telematics it offers is a great way to streamline your operational strategy.
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Every type of professional is looking to improve themselves and their skills…and truck drivers are no exception. That’s why it’s crucial to offer drivers options to improve their skill sets and present them with growth opportunities too.
Many companies already offer online training, and one-on-one coaching, however a stronger focus on driver development may be necessary to stay competitive.
We recommend offering one or more of the following:
- On-road coaching
- Tuition reimbursement
- Passes to seminars and conferences
When a driver’s long-term goals are being supported by their employer, they’ll stick around long-term.
There’s a reason we saved this one for last – it’s a hot topic not just in the trucking industry, but in all industries.
Basically, work/life balance is about how a company is supporting its drivers when they’re not driving.
The company, Hirschbach, has found that “home time” is one of the top concerns of drivers and a major determining factor of whether drivers stay with a company or not. Time-off options and driver schedules should be considered carefully to support work/life balance initiatives.
This includes what facilities are easily available to drivers (showers, kitchens, internet access, etc.), and what cab amenities are offered (such as refrigerators, entertainment, and meal allowances). Other things to consider are a company’s charitable contributions and how they involve their drivers in these endeavors. Social events and wellness programs are also great ways to improve a work/life balance or employees.
At the end of the day, companies should really ask themselves one question:
“What efforts am I making to improve the overall image of the trucking industry?”
I mean…what driver wouldn’t want to work for the source of major positive change in the industry?
Not all companies are able to offer everything mentioned above, however if there is one thing to take away from all this it is to focus on acknowledging, helping, praising, and celebrating quality drivers.
Companies that invest time and money into their drivers will see it reflect positively on both their business and the industry.