Opinion: Manage Driver Turnover by Avoiding the ‘Threats to Retention’

As everyone in the trucking industry knows, the driver shortage persists. With bonuses and incentives constantly tempting drivers to come and go between motor carriers, retention can be a daunting challenge. However, carriers can better manage this turnover by avoiding what I call “threats to retention.”



One major threat is not having a process to determine if drivers are a good fit for the company, and if the company is a good fit for the drivers. Unfortunately, the priority for many carriers is just to fill seats. But operating without a robust screening system that reaches beyond basic qualifications is an invitation for the revolving door of turnover to continue.

Currently, the most common methods used to address driver retention are to hire more recruiters, increase driver pay and offer college tuition programs or large bonuses. But the harsh reality is these approaches don’t work to retain drivers for the long term; again, they are simply short-term solutions designed to fill seats.

Unless recruitment actions are accompanied by efforts to assess the fundamental reasons why drivers are hired — and what compels them to leave — the cycle will continue. It is critical to teach recruiters how to better evaluate drivers by asking the right questions that resonate with their attitudes, wants and needs.

These are key ways to help eliminate threats to retention, but until carriers address the fundamentals (and there are many) and remove the threats to retention, they are simply postponing the inevitable — continuous turnover. A thorough screening, hiring, orientation and onboarding process also can help reduce turnover.

Here are some tips that could help lead your company to quality drivers who are likely to stay with your company longer:

Learn your threats to retention: CEOs and their teams need to know how drivers are treated with every interaction with company personnel. “Be nice” is the simple order of the day. Ensure interdepartmental cooperation on driver issues, and learn why drivers may be unhappy. Conduct “stay” interviews, which are periodic conversations with current drivers on how they feel about the company, the people and their overall job satisfaction. Don’t wait for exit interviews because those are too late.

Be tech-friendly: Your company’s website, application process, marketing, advertising, recruiting, hiring and other related functions must be relevant to today’s drivers. Be visible where your potential driver pool goes to get information such as social media sites and search engines. Encourage them to check out online reviews and driver testimonials.

Know the strategies of effective recruiters: Effective recruiters often develop a written process to build a sales funnel to hire drivers that “fit” a company. They use personality assessments and video interviewing as part of a system intended to increase retention and reduce turnover hiring.

Teach recruiters: Teach recruiters that their job is a sales process. They should follow up on leads promptly, and pick up the phone and call former applicants who may have become eligible to be hired or are simply ready for a change. Also, teach recruiters to be active listeners, and to learn why a prospect wants to change companies.

Build a brand: The brand should promote an “attractor factor” to draw drivers to your company. Deploy a “pull” marketing strategy that creates a unique impression, builds curiosity and makes drivers want to discover more about the company. Attractors can include having a reputation for great leadership, promoting a family- friendly environment and offering drivers favorable working conditions.

What other drivers say about your company — and what your drivers say — is your brand. Drivers can learn what is being said by following popular social media websites and trucking forums online. Companies can reply to comments, if necessary, to agree or politely disagree with what is posted.

Create a driver recognition program and establish a “driver-first” culture: These should be centered on showing drivers how much they are appreciated, and promote a culture that shows respect, appreciation and support for drivers’ roles, concerns and issues. Departments within a company should work together to solve problems, and promote drivers helping themselves, and each other. Responsive internal customer service for drivers must come from all departments and personnel, and acknowledgments for everyone — drivers and staff alike —can make a difference in attitude to improve overall retention.

If your company is serious about identifying the threats to driver retention, then put some or all of these steps into action. They could make a big difference, and turn around your driver turnover.

Risk Reward Consulting is a Chicago area-based firm that provides guidance to the trucking industry on issues including driver recruitment and retention. Beren is the author of “How to Create An Intelligent Driver Retention System.”