December 21, 2015 1:15 AM, EST

Survey Data Helpful Tool in Driver Retention

John Sommers II for TT
This story appears in the Dec. 21 &amp 28 print edition of Transport Topics.

Trucking firms may find clues on how to improve the way they recruit and retain drivers by relying on the findings of comprehensive surveys and feedback from drivers, according to analysts with Stay Metrics, an Indiana-based consulting firm.

In a Dec. 14 conference, Stay Metrics’ researchers said high driver turnover rates could be improved through better understanding of surveys and other metrics that measure employee satisfaction. A key step in implementing such data in the workforce is for senior management to embrace it.

“The more the shortage is prominent, the more aggressively you have to recruit. The more aggressively you have to recruit, you often get people in the hopper who are quick to leave. Therefore, you need to replace even more people,” said Timothy Judge, Stay Metrics’ director of research. He added: “We use analytics and understanding to attack” driver turnover industrywide.

The conference call was hosted by Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.’s transportation and logistics consulting unit.

Safety, productivity, on-time pickup and delivery performance are metrics available to determine recognition, bonuses and prizes in the workplace, Stay Metrics’ researchers said. Regularly surveying drivers should become standard during the hiring and training process to better understand why drivers leave a firm. Such analytics also may be used to predict whether certain carriers would be a good fit for a driver, they added. A thorough analysis of the data gathered would help management improve overall retention, as well.

Because a driver’s personality can predict turnover and safety performance, management should respond to drivers’ concerns regarding dispatchers, the researchers said. Employers also should adopt loyalty programs for drivers to show a driver-focused culture.

According to American Trucking Associations, next year’s shortage of drivers could rise 55% to 73,500. At 49, the average linehaul driver is seven years older than the U.S. working population.

“While turnover is not at historic highs, it is still high enough to merit concern. Fleets need to hire 89,000 drivers a year to keep pace with retirements and projected growth, so ensuring an adequate pool of qualified drivers is critical,” Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, said in October shortly after ATA unveiled a report on driver shortage.

Stay Metrics’ analysts noted high turnovers prompt some firms to look to recruiters who may not be familiar with their needs and who bring in unqualified candidates.

But the industry should be careful in expecting autonomous trucks to address the shortage of drivers. As Stifel summarized in the report: “With autonomous trucks likely to incur headwinds from governmental regulatory authorities over safety concerns, a well-implemented data analytics-focused program might well be the near- to medium-term answer to successfully coping with the driver shortage.”