February 8, 2016 1:45 AM, EST

Corporate Culture a Key to Driver Retention

This story appears in the Feb. 8 print edition of Transport Topics.

Fleets can persuade drivers to stay with their companies longer by ensuring the corporate culture is enjoyable, which is significant because many trucking companies are grappling with driver shortages, industry observers said.

They told Transport Topics that drivers who feel appreciated enjoy the time they share with colleagues at work and are adept at responding proactively to negative events are likely to keep working for their employer.

“Culture affects behavior, and behavior is what determines how much money you make and how operationally efficient your business is and what kind of experience you deliver to drivers,” said Tim Kight, founder and president of Focus3, which advises companies on performance-improvement strategies.

Kight added that most executives treat culture development as an afterthought: “They don’t see the linkage between culture and financial performance.”

A key part of a sound corporate culture is to train drivers and the rest of the workforce on improving the way they respond to negative events. That response is what Kight refers to as the “R” factor.

“The ultimate performance asset of any business is how the people in business choose to manage the ‘R.’ It’s the currency. It’s the ultimate human capital,” Kight said.

This week, Kight will be among the speakers at the Driver Recruitment and Retention Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The Feb. 10-12 event includes workshops and seminars.

Also, drivers will share their expectations for carriers, conference organizers said.

According to a report by American Trucking Associations, the industry needs to hire nearly 900,000 over the next 10 years, or an average of about 89,000 annually. About 45% of the demand for drivers stems from a need to replace drivers who are retiring.

“Recruiting and retaining drivers in today’s market is top-of-mind for carriers nationwide, and they are eager to hear from industry experts and professionals on tools, resources and strategy they can use to conquer the driver shortage challenge,” said Kelley Walkup, CEO of Conversion Interactive Agency, the conference’s co-host with Transport Topics.

Steve Sichterman, vice president at DriverFacts, said he agrees with Kight’s call for boosting driver morale as a way for employers to keep them longer.

“It’s hard to be home every night. In fact, it’s near impossible in over-the-road trucking,” Sichterman told TT. “You have to figure out ways to make their lives easier on the road, so they don’t feel like they’re missing part of their lives. And that’s a huge challenge in this industry.”

Sichterman will lead a workshop Feb. 11 on state and local hiring laws that employers must know. A full understanding of those laws will improve employers’ hiring ability, Sichterman said. His company, DriverFacts, teams up with companies to provide performance updates and comprehensive reports about the industry.