Southern Refrigerated Transport, one of the trucking subsidiaries of the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Covenant Transport, prides itself on its family atmosphere.
"We all are working toward the same thing: keeping our drivers happy," said Terri Lafayette, the recruiting director for SRT in Texarkana, Arkansas.
But with more than 900 drivers on the highway thousands of miles apart every day, SRT's "family" is usually scattered and isolated in an industry where drivers have lots of alone time to think about their job and are often prone to change jobs when they are unhappy with their current employer. According to American Trucking Associations, driver turnover in the industry among longhaul drivers is more than 100%, meaning that the typical truck driver job has a new employee at least every year.
Covenant ranks No. 43 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.
SRT was able to cut its turnover last year, however, by using a Chattanooga-based software company that helps carriers like SRT get better and faster feedback from drivers on the road. WorkHound, a software company that relocated to Chattanooga last year, helps carriers get better feedback and interaction with their drivers by offering an independent online venue for driver surveys and feedback.
The data compiled from such surveys is benchmarked and displayed to carriers on dashboards in real time and, at the driver's request, can help the carrier find out about individual needs and problems in real time for quicker solutions.
In one case, for example, a driver was ready to leave the company because he was frustrated that he thought his wife wasn't being included on his health insurance. In fact, she was already on the insurance plan. The WorkHound links helped connect the driver and his employer to resolve the concern and avoid a costly turnover and keep the driver with the firm.
"Any time a driver had an issue, the driver could call the driver relations department and get help resolving pay issues, interpersonal issues, policy questions and more," Lafayette said of the WorkHound software. "They'd then make suggestions on how the driver or the company could improve."
A case study of WorkHound's system last year found it helped cut turnover at SRT by 16%, saving the trucking company an estimated $580,000 in hiring and training costs.
WorkHound, which was started in 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa, by co-founders Max Farrell and Andrew Kirpalani, has found Chattanooga to be a more favorable location with more community support for its home office, especially after the company was aided last summer by the Dynamo business accelerator for logistics startup companies.
WorkHound recently finished a $500,000 fundraising round to grow their business even more.
"This funding is a great opportunity to put some rocket fuel behind our business and help more companies understand the importance of driver engagement and retention," Farrell said. "It's increasingly evident that turnover is an epidemic in the industry."
At SRT, Lafayette estimates it costs $4,000 to replace a typical driver.
The investment round for WorkHound's additional capital was led by Right Side Capital Management in San Francisco. Other participants were Dynamo Fund out of Chattanooga, Twelve19 Ventures out of Des Moines, Iowa, and multiple angel investors.
"WorkHound helps logistics companies connect with their front-line workers. The result is a happier, more informed, and ultimately, more productive workforce," said Ted Alling, managing director of Dynamo. "We're excited to have seen them grow through our program and help improve lives for those operating the backbone of America."
Currently, WorkHound employs four full-time team members in Chattanooga and two in Des Moines, Iowa.
While trucking remains WorkHound's main focus, other industries that encounter difficulties with retention may not be far off on the horizon.
"Our No. 1 objective is to continue building a product that trucking companies and their drivers love," Farrell said. "Retention, recruitment and engagement remain a sore spot for many industries around the country, and this funding is just another step toward helping companies keep their most valuable asset — their people."