Almost every industry has an employee retention problem, but where it hurts the most is transportation and logistics. Truck drivers are leaving the profession in record numbers. Last year, more than 300,000 drivers stepped out of the cab for good, according to The U.S. Department of Transportation.
The driver shortage is expected to increase from 80,000 to 160,000 by 2030. Certainly, the industry needs more drivers, but retention is where fleets directly control the outcome. Often, it’s easier to point at the problem than fix the underlying issue.
Perhaps that explains why the 2021 American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) annual survey found driver retention is the second-most concerning issue for motor carriers (the driver shortage was #1).
No matter where you are starting from, there is always room to improve driver retention without reinventing the wheel to keep them around longer.
Build Truck Driver Retention Strategies
Employee retention isn’t always about money or benefits, and the data proves it. Many fleets increased pay for long-haul drivers multiple times during the past year. Overall, driver pay increased 25% since 2019, and wages across all trucking segments are up nearly 12% since 2020. Even with record pay increases, the industry’s average turnover rate is 90%. That means for every 100 drivers hired, 90 will walk back out the door within a year.
Strong and effective retention strategies are key to fixing the problem. Here are three proven strategies to retain drivers that don’t require another pay increase.
Improve communication and gather feedback. Drivers who feel disconnected or disrespected will soon leave and find a new fleet. Contrarily, those who feel a sense of community and value for expressing their opinions are more likely to stay. In fact, research shows that engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their job.
Modern communication tools that keep fleets connected with drivers, and keep drivers connected with their work, inside and outside the cab, foster engagement.
“Every day that you wait (to implement a new mobile communications device), is a day you’re losing in being able to connect with your drivers and being able to have an impact on their life and daily work routine,” said Jim Field, vice president, mobilecomm technologies for Knight-Swift Transportation. “In our industry, the more you can do that, the more you’re going to retain drivers. That’s how you win.”
Truck drivers who are regularly asked for their feedback will feel valued, but only when they know their feedback has been acted upon to make improvements. One way to incorporate feedback into the daily routine is by asking drivers about policy changes that could impact their work lives. This can be done through a simple survey that is available in a mobile driver app.
Create a better work environment. Being a professional truck driver is and always will be a tough job, but there are many ways for fleets to improve the experience.
Companies that invest in technology innovation are noticing that drivers stay around for the long haul. A fully loaded, easy-to-use driver app, for example, can reduce the need for employees or contractors to use multiple devices to do different job-related activities such as reviewing routes, updating dispatch, scanning documents, managing paperwork, viewing pay, catching up on company news, and sending arrival/departure updates.
Additionally, fleets can leverage technology-enabled workflows that help drivers organize their days from start to finish, through a single mobile app. Consolidating work functions into a single app also reduces errors, limits unnecessary back-and-forth messaging, and boosts productivity. Every minute saved on non-driving tasks helps drivers improve windshield time and increase take-home pay.
Our own research shows that a 1,000-truck fleet can add 250 hours of drive time per day by using a single workflow and communication app. Research from MIT found that adding just 18 minutes of driving time to every existing U.S. truck driver’s day could be enough to overcome the driver shortage. Viewed through that lens, technology can potentially solve the driver shortage while making companies more profitable.
Recognize and reward drivers. What are you doing to make drivers feel appreciated? According to Apollo Technical, 76% of employees just want to feel valued at work and will look for another job opportunity when they don’t feel appreciated.
Recognition and reward programs are a great way to incentivize drivers and improve their loyalty. Create specific metrics that drivers can aim to achieve, whether it be with compliance, safety, or positive customer reviews. Then offer some type of reward for achieving these goals and publicize their successes either through the driver app, on social media, or in companywide communications.
These programs motivate drivers and give them something to look forward to, both of which keep them around longer. They also provide a fun connection with the fleet and their peers.
Get Retention Right
The industry average cost to replace each driver is $11,500, so churning drivers at high rates is unsustainable. Trucking companies must work to meet the needs of their drivers and create solid retention plans, or they risk losing talent to fleets that will.
Innovative trucking companies will lead the way with purpose and technology that supports drivers as well as their goals and objectives. Those that make drivers their top priority are poised to win big as the competition for talent accelerates.
To get even more information on truck driver retention, download “The Ultimate Guide for Recruiting & Retaining the New Fleet of Drivers.” Also, check out our previous blog for tips on recruiting drivers from all stages of life, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers.
Download Our Guide
Discover all the tips fleets need to understand what new recruits are looking for and what will keep current drivers on the job in our guide, The Ultimate Guide for Recruiting & Retaining the New Fleet of Drivers.
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