It’s no secret that the commercial trucking industry is currently experiencing a dramatic shortage of truck drivers. Each year, more and more Baby Boomers are retiring, leaving a hole in the industry that, as of yet, younger generations have not filled. According to the American Trucking Association’s Truck Driver Shortage Analysis for 2015, the shortage of truck drivers has risen to 48,000 across the US, and they estimate that trucking companies will need to hire around 89,000 new truck drivers next year to meet anticipated demand.
In a study of basic economic principle, the demand has seriously outpaced the supply, leading to a highly competitive environment. The shortage has resulted in lower truck driver retention rates and skyrocketing driver turnover figures. In fact, in the third quarter of 2015, the driver turnover rate for commercial drivers maxed out at 100 percent, according to the ATA.
Virtually every single fleet company is actively recruiting commercial truck drivers and, in this environment, simply offering a higher salary is not the answer. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few strategies and practical ways to recruit and retain happy truck drivers.
Make Trust and Respect a Two-Way Street
You expect trust and respect from your employees and, in order to reduce driver turnover, your truck drivers must be able to expect these things from the company as well. Establish a company culture that prioritizes communication and collaboration, starting at the top.
- Put It in Practice: Use truck driver surveys to evaluate current pain points. Make them anonymous (you’re more likely to get honest and candid survey results if you offer anonymity) and then work to develop a strategy to prioritize and address any discovered issues. This will demonstrate to your commercial drivers that not only will you listen to them, but you will work to earn their trust by taking an active interest in their concerns.
Check in with New Truck Drivers Early and Often
Many of the statistics for driver turnover demonstrate that commercial drivers are more likely to leave in the first few years of employment with a company. This can be the case for many reasons, but by checking in with your rookie truck drivers on a consistent basis, you can help identify and correct any issues that may be causing new drivers to leave.
- Put it in Practice: Set-up a schedule wherein fleet managers conduct regular check-ins with new commercial drivers—after their first week, and then monthly throughout their first year with the company. Not only will this help you reduce driver turnover, it will also help new truck drivers establish a relationship with and investment in the company.
Make Positivity a Priority
One element of a commercial trucking company’s culture that can discourage commercial drivers is a feeling that they are not recognized or appreciated. Rather than only directly addressing truck drivers when there is an issue or problem, make an effort to regularly communicate successes and affirmative recognition with them as well.
- Put It Into Practice: Institute a process where fleet managers identify and give positive feedback to a certain number of your truck drivers every week or every month. This helps solidify a beneficial relationship between the commercial drivers and the fleet managers, while also making your drivers feel like their hard work is noticed and valued.
Provide Opportunities for Learning and Advancement
A commercial truck driver, especially a younger one, is unlikely to stay with a company for a long period of time if they feel that they have no opportunities for learning or advancement. Combat this by offering continuous learning opportunities, such as seminars and classes where commercial drivers can learn about technological advancements and trends impacting the industry. Publicize new job openings and job advancement opportunities at all levels of your company, so that any qualified truck drivers are aware and have the ability to apply.
- Put it Into Practice:
o For Learning Opportunities: Arrange for commercial drivers to have the opportunity for advanced learning through webinars (online seminars that can be joined remotely via phone or an internet connection). Potential topics for these seminars include: overview and updates on new ELD mandates, Red Cross certified first aid/CPR training, and more.
o For Job Advancement Opportunities: Include notices and applicable information about advancement opportunities and job openings in company communications and e-mail newsletters.
Offer Better (and More Innovative) Benefits
While salary isn’t necessarily making or breaking a commercial driver’s decision to start at or stay with your company, your benefits package might be. With salaries holding fairly steady across the board, truck drivers can easily make lateral moves, knowing that they won’t be taking a major cut in any area—pay, insurance, and other benefits—in doing so. Discourage driver turnover by offering graduated incentives, so that the longer a truck driver stays with the company, the better their benefits get.
- Put it Into Practice: Consider implementing a graduated incentives program, where benefits increase at the 6-month, 1-year, 3-year, 5-year mark, and so on. This way, truck drivers are incentivized to stay with your company, as opposed to seeking similar compensation and benefits elsewhere. Some ideas of benefits to consider increasing include: home time, paid vacation time, bonuses, 401(k) match amounts, and more.
Evaluate Your Company’s Unique Needs
While these strategies and actionable suggestions are a great starting point, it’s important to remember that there is no perfect solution or exact right answer for the problem of how to improve truck driver retention and lower commercial driver turnover rates. Every company and each truck driver is different, and establishing the unique needs and priorities of your company and your drivers is an important first step on the road to helping your fleet company find and keep happy truck drivers.