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Driver Turnover and What Motor Carriers Can Do to Retain Drivers

Driver Turnover and What Motor Carriers Can Do to Retain Drivers

By Steve Binkley,
Safety Consultant

Most commercial truck drivers usually make their decisions to quit a motor carrier and move on in the first six months of employment. A recent study by DriverIQ, a Tulsa based consumer reporting agency, determined that almost 90% of drivers decide to stay or quit in the first six months and 71% of drivers were with the company less than one year. The study also determined that if a motor carrier could keep the driver past one year, there is a good chance of retaining the driver for up to 3-5 years.

The cost of replacing a truck driver ranges from $8000 – $10,000. It is particularly important for carriers to understand and measure retention and the cause of turnover. Why do drivers quit and move on to another carrier, when many carriers seem to offer similar benefits and utilize the same hiring strategies? Let us look at the top reasons drivers are likely to quit after only a few months of employment.

  • Pay – Discrepancies between what drivers are told about payment vs what the driver is actually paid can make a substantial difference. When a driver feels that the recruiter or someone else with the company has not been truthful about the pay, it becomes increasingly difficult to regain the driver’s trust. If the driver feels the carrier is not being honest about pay, then what else is the carrier not being honest about? Consider putting the pay scale in writing and/or have an additional person be part of the pay discussion.
  • How is the driver treated – Drivers want to feel like a part of the team. Drivers want to be respected and heard. Are drivers permitted to interact with other employees, and share their opinions on certain topics? If drivers feel disrespected or mistreated as a “driver” only there can be a detachment between driver and company. I always made it a point to take a driver to lunch or ask one to visit me at my office where we spent time talking about everything but trucking.
  • Job did not meet expectations – The driving job for any reasons did not live up to what was advertised. Was it pay, miles, home time, customers, equipment? If carriers are advertising or promoting certain job descriptions but something else takes place, it creates a disconnect and trust issues. Another factor is some individuals who think they want to be a truck driver, attend a truck driving school, and complete entry-level driver training, just to discover this type of work is not for them.  Many times, there is nothing a motor carrier can do to help resolve the issue or concerns that a prospective driver might have. It is just not a good career option.
  • No advancement opportunities – There are drivers that want an opportunity to advance within the company. They may not always want to be a driver. Maybe there are opportunities in safety, operations, recruiting, maintenance. To have options to come off the road and live and work what we consider “normal” lives can be just as important to a current driver. I know many administrative company employees who started their careers as drivers who have moved on to other opportunities with the company and continue to have outstanding service with the company. Former drivers are now owners Vice Presidents or Directors of Safety. What better selling point is there when drivers see and know other drivers who have successfully made this transition.
  • Home time – Todays drivers regardless of experience consider home time to be an especially crucial factor when searching for information about a motor carrier. Most drivers do not care to be on the road for weeks or months at a time and would rather be home more frequently with family, even if it means giving up some miles or income. Today’s drivers who are new to the industry are not used to being away from home for extended periods of time and their families have not experienced this type of separation either. There should be a clear understanding of when a driver can expect to be home, and every effort should be made to honor the home time.
  • Health Issues – Over the road truck driving can certainly place physical and mental stress on drivers. The truck driving lifestyle is not always the healthiest lifestyle. From bad eating habits to abnormal sleep cycles, this has a negative effect on drivers and forces the driver to early retirement and/or consider other job options. As motor carriers, do we provide healthy eating information and the importance of exercise and rest? Encourage drivers to take some time off when they become physically and mentally tired. We all need to recharge the batteries from time to time and drivers are no different.

For motor carriers to determine how to address driver retention, we first must understand the reasons a driver quits. If possible, conduct a driver exit interview. Speak to the driver’s immediate supervisor or others the driver interacted with. What could the motor carrier have done to retain the driver. The cost of a high driver turnover rate impacts the profit margins of motor carriers which is already a small percentage. By reducing turnover and cost associated with turnover, motor carriers can direct these resources elsewhere and drivers who are applying for jobs will learn which companies have those low turnover rates, which in turn gives a more positive reputation for the motor carrier and driver.

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