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October 5, 2021 10:30 AM, EDT

Perspective: How to Retain Drivers in a Tight Field

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You’ve built the best team of drivers of your career. They’re safe, reliable, efficient — and happy to be on board. You’re ready to enjoy the benefits of a stable, productive fleet.

But competitors keep trying to lure them away. With supply chains stretched to capacity as the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, demand to haul freight and an accompanying need for drivers are both soaring.

Industrywide, truck driver turnover remains at a historic high. Drivers are leaving fleets for better wages, benefits or more convenient shifts. So, how are you going to keep that great team of drivers intact?

Retention

Kahn

Prioritize safety: It goes without saying but — safety first. Be sure you’re checking all the boxes, and manage your fleet with your drivers’ well-being at top of mind. That means making sure that your drivers are properly trained to operate your fleet’s vehicles and maintain a steady schedule of training updates. Follow maintenance schedules to ensure your vehicles are roadworthy. Check tires, perform daily walk-arounds and the like.

Make it known their actions matter and safety is your top priority. Build a safety culture that engages with drivers on their routes. And use technology to check for dangerous road conditions and driving. By incorporating these safety features and processes, you are not only ensuring your drivers feel safe and secure, but also valued.

And drivers are more willing to stay at a company when this culture of safety is established and consistently practiced. By not investing in a safety culture, drivers will leave for other fleets that make this a priority.

Utilize Peer-to-Peer Learning: Your best drivers are a wealth of information. They know your company’s best practices because they use them all day, every day. Hold monthly lunches or workshops to discuss best practices. Host a ride-along trip to keep drivers engaged and get hands-on experience. This can help expedite the learning process. Identify the experts, give them a platform and promote engagement.

Smooth Your Technical Needs: There are products on the market that have the power to help motivate drivers. By documenting and evaluating all driving time per driver, new elevated solutions can clearly recognize drivers’ good behaviors. The ability to highlight the positive builds better working relationships between fleet supervisors and drivers, and inspires camaraderie among drivers. Instead of slapping hands for bad behavior, advanced dash cam platforms, for example, can reward drivers with recognition and bonuses based on perfect documentation.

Get Creative About Incentives: Yes, financial rewards are a go-to for fleet managers and are welcomed by drivers. But what about positive recognition? For some drivers, a mention on the company website, a plaque on a prominent wall or a feature in a newsletter can make a big difference.

Gamification — the application of game-design elements and game principles in nongame contexts — can also engage and motivate drivers by earning points for good behavior. For example, a fleet manager overseeing 50 drivers can break the fleet into teams of 10, consisting of junior and senior drivers and create contests focused on improved seatbelt compliance. This also gives senior team members an opportunity to take a leadership role, while also helping them to feel more appreciated, valued and invested in the fleet’s overall success.

Be Positive: Show enthusiasm for your team and mission. Nothing is more poisonous to company and fleet morale than silence, so if you’re lucky enough to have an excellent team, let them know it. Avoid harsh reactions to mistakes and be an advocate for your drivers. Methods to encourage empowerment on teams begin with the management level. Think of yourself as the spoke of the wheel — if you’re wired and inspired then everyone you’re connected to will benefit from that energy.

Adam Kahn, president of the commercial fleet team at technology provider Netradyne, is a strategic customer-focused executive with more than 20 years of transportation industry experience.

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