[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]
In a year where so much has changed, 2020 has shown some small glimmers of hope regarding driver turnover. According to American Trucking Associations, driver turnover hit a low of about 82% when freight slowed, but that’s still tough for business when the cost to replace a driver averages between $5,000-$8,000.
Companies leading in loyalty have learned that one of the first steps in effecting change in turnover is finding out why it’s happening in the first place. Changing policies and procedures because you think they’ll make a difference is sort of like a doctor prescribing a medication before they’ve ever seen the patient. Assumptions are expensive: You’ve got to ask drivers what’s going on before making decisions about how to keep them.
And it’s not enough to ask for feedback once or twice. Feedback has to be collected routinely to properly understand driver priorities. What worked last year might not work this year, and 2020 has proven why it’s so important to stay agile.
Even when everything felt stagnant and unchanging, drivers had the ability — and with considerable immediacy — to find a new job as soon as they experienced frustrations with an existing employer.
But data also shows us that turnover happens as a result of the straw that breaks the camel’s back, rather than a surprising turn of events.
To be clear, what we now know is this: Turnover for truck drivers, like other careers, is a slow burn, rather than a spontaneous combustion. It’s a buildup of events, rather than an impulsive decision.
So, what can we do to change turnover rates?
Put Feedback to Work
While drivers provided specific feedback on some new topics this year — in part due to the pandemic — there are some steps that fleets can follow to disrupt turnover even during a historic year:
- Make sure feedback is being collected all the time. Especially in the trucking industry, a driver can be frustrated one day, and have a new job the next.
Offering an anonymous feedback channel allows drivers to feel comfortable asking for help and knowing the best avenue to share frustrations when easy-to-solve problems come up, like confusion about benefits or pay, or equipment issues, etc.
This can make all the difference for your carrier’s reputation, especially online, which is where most feedback will go if drivers can’t easily navigate the communication chain.
- Respond to feedback. It’s good to ask for feedback. It’s better to do something about it. But the best strategy is about building the confidence of your driver population by making changes at their suggestion and letting them know their feedback is responsible for it.
- Share status updates. If you’re updating a sick leave policy based on feedback from multiple drivers, be sure to tell them that you’re working on it. If you don’t, they could believe that the feedback they shared went unheard. Even a simple fleetwide communication to say, “We heard what you shared about X, and we’re working to update the policy to better meet your needs,” can go a long way in building trust and transparency, ultimately improving loyalty to your company.
At the end of the day, drivers are people, and we all just want to be heard. As you’re thinking about maximizing retention, consider the voice of those most impacted: the drivers. If their voices are heard and valued, that may ultimately stop them from seeking greener pastures.
Max Farrell is co-founder and CEO of WorkHound.
Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing: