Companies that run an active fleet may have some of the highest turnover rates among any industry. You can joke and say that truck drivers are inherently nomadic and this may well factor into the issue, the real core of the problem is that there are very few companies that can successfully create a rewarding environment of maintenance, policies, company culture, and pay rate to make these valuable professional drivers feel at home. Fleets across the country have been striving to find better ways to improve driver retention. However, better than any big new facilities or impressive looking policies is actually listening to your drivers, meeting their expectations, and providing what they really want and need from a fleet employer. To help you get ahead on driver retention improvements, here are a few insights into what will really make a difference to your drivers.
1) Manage Expectations
Companies often try to solve their retention problem by boosting recruitment but when actual everyday life on the job doesn’t meet up to the inflated promises of pay, hours at home, and enjoyable driving experiences, drivers get disenchanted and leave.
The simplest way to avoid the disenchantment phase is not to create ‘enchantment’ in the first place. Get points for being genuine and tell the truth to your recruits. Joke about how things get hard sometimes, give them a heads up on the weaknesses in your system, and let them make a real personal choice as to whether or not they’re a good fit for your fleet. The ones who choose you are much more likely to stay.
2) Share Your Fleet Culture Online
Along the same lines as managing expectations up front, you can actually passively increase targeted retention by sharing what life is like on the drive and back at the depot in an online blog, video series, or just a friendly collection of social media posts. When drivers considering joining your team can research who you really are and what it’s like to drive with you online, the right drivers will come to you and are more likely to stay because they chose the culture they prefer.
3) Create a Feedback Loop
You can say that everyone leaves for their own reasons, but if you want to prevent leaving, it helps to know what those reasons are. You may be surprised just how many fleets make improvements without ever speaking to their drivers. Hold regular meetings, as questions, and keep an open inbox so drivers can let you know what really matters to them. This can guide you to truly effective retention strategies based on the actual values of your drivers rather than corporate’s image of what those values might be.
4) Improve Working Conditions
Trucking can be gruelingly uncomfortable or practically an RV vacation depending on the quality of the rig, supplies, and support each driver has access to. Make sure every rig is well-maintained to reduce irregular engine and tire vibrations and install a GPS navigator and/or an ELD to keep your drivers on-track, out of traffic, and always able to find their destination without having to call for backup or directions. Make sure the cabins can remain both warm and cool enough without idling the engine and that each driver has everything they need to rest and live comfortably inside the rig.
5) Pay Smarter
The biggest complaint truck drivers tend to have when they leave a location is that the pay wasn’t enough, wasn’t as much as they expected, or wasn’t regular enough to be a reliable and comforting wage. Consider offering policies like a minimum pay per trip and reward programs for reliable driving, fewer maintenance requirements, and taking a greater personal responsibility for work performance. You don’t necessarily have to up your rates, just be real about them up front and help your drivers earn a steady paycheck they can trust.
6) Provide Reliable Home Time
Everyone can agree that getting time at home is incredibly important. Drivers have a right to a family and personal life and to be able to make and keep promises to their friends and family. Changing schedules often is a recipe for low driver retention as you yank them away from anticipated family time or send them home suddenly when no one is expecting them. Schedule time away and at home as early as possible and stagger shifts so that everyone can make plans and gets a certain number of nights a week with their families.
7) Welcome Old Drivers Back to the Service
Finally, changing jobs is essentially part of the truck driver culture now and even drivers that might be perfect for your service can wander off to try another company for a while. When a driver leaves, stay friendly with them because they might just realize that you are their favorite employer in a long line of employers. If a driver comes back to you, welcome them back to the service with open arms because they might just become the most loyal member of your team now that they’ve done some comparative research.
Changing jobs is something that truck drivers are used to at this point. They expect to see something that looks a little better and then leave to try it out. The path to driver retention is more than just about making your drivers happy, it’s about influencing the whole trucking culture away from the greener pastures mentality. When your company is welcoming to returns and rewarding to work for, the turnaround may be slow but your driver retention will absolutely improve.