5 Unique Tips for Driver Retention

The ability to retain truck drivers is a major source of competitive advantage in the trucking industry. If you are bad at driver retention then you are stuck competing in a market with a severe shortage and high hiring costs.

Common advice for driver retention includes things like increasing pay, treating drivers with respect, and collecting driver feedback. However, there are plenty of other ways to make your company stand out as a place drivers want to be. Here are 5 unique tips for driver retention.

  1. Encourage Drivers to Drive With Pets 
  2. Provide Top-Notch Amenities 
  3. Party Party Party and Party Some More
  4. Promote from Within
  5. Social Media Spotlight Posts

Encourage Drivers to Drive With Pets

For decades truck drivers have been sneaking their pets on board with them to take on the road. Drivers had to sneak their pets onto the truck because in the past companies forbid any furry friends on the road.

Long voyages on the road can lead to drivers feeling alone and depressed. Across America, 1.5% of people suffer from depression, among truck drivers that number rises to 13.6%. Feelings of loneliness and depression lead to job dissatisfaction and ultimately leaving the industry.

Encouraging truck drivers to drive with pets is one of the best ways to help keep your drivers happy. Your drivers will never have to be alone on the road and pets are known mood enhancers.

Deploying a pet-friendly policy may be the reason why a driver sticks with your company instead of accepting a higher-paying position with someone else. Truck drivers who love driving with their pets will want to stick with carriers that support their pets.

The driver recruiting manager demonstrates the retention strategy plan.

Provide Top-Notch Amenities

While sitting in a conference room discussing retention strategies, it can be easy to overlook the amenities. However, to truck drivers, the amenities are crucial to a comfortable OTR trip.

Amenities include things such as a microwave and refrigerator, a comfortable mattress, room for storage, temperature control, and anything else that makes living in the truck more pleasant.

The truck cabin is not the trucker’s home, but amenities can make the truck feel as home-like as possible.

Keeping your drivers comfortable on the road is a great incentive for drivers to stay with your company. Even if they start looking at positions with other companies, your drivers will look at the amenities provided by your competition. If you offer nicer amenities than the competition, then that is a heavy incentive to stay with your company.

Party Party Party and Party Some More 

Who doesn’t love to party? A company culture that prioritizes celebrating accomplishments, milestones, and great performances is a culture that people want to be a part of.

If you are only celebrating the bare minimum (major holidays, driver appreciation week, etc.) then you do not prioritize celebration. Drivers may be influenced to leave for a company that “has more fun” than your company.

Also, celebrating your drivers is going to make them feel like they are appreciated. Appreciation is one of the cornerstones of driver retention.

Promote From Within

Not all truck drivers want to be drivers for their entire career. Some drivers have aspirations of accomplishing other things within the trucking industry.

You need to identify the drivers working for you that are eyeing other positions outside of “driver”. Give these drivers a chance to be promoted to the position they desire.

Promoting drivers from within your company sends a message to all of your drivers that they can grow with you. Plus, promoting drivers to managerial positions helps your management team be more empathetic towards the challenges of being a truck driver.

This dedication to letting your drivers grow and increased levels of empathy will help your company retain your drivers.

A team of workers on a gray background. The concept of personnel selection and management within the team. Dismissal and hiring people to work. Human Resource Management. Headhunting. Talented worker

Social Media Spotlight Posts

Like I mentioned earlier, drivers want to be appreciated by their employers. Company parties are one way to internally appreciate your drivers. Social media is a way to show your appreciation externally.

Spotlight posts let you share with your network outside of your company how much you appreciate your drivers. Plus, the driver that the spotlight is on gets a chance to show their network that they are a high achiever.

Check out the 7 Tricks to Social Media Marketing for Trucking Companies to learn more about social media spotlight posts.

All of these tips are to be used as supplementary strategies to boost your main retention efforts. Plenty of other trucking companies know the key components of retention. This means you need to go above and beyond to gain an advantage. Use these 5 unique tips for driver retention and differentiate yourself from the competition.

How to Hire for Long Term Retention

Retaining truck drivers does not start once a driver is officially an employee. It starts before you hire them. Follow this guide to hire for long term retention.

Hiring any able-bodied driver is counterproductive and may cost your company money. It costs on average $8,000 to hire a new driver, hiring people who you do not envision being with your company long term is expensive.

Culture-Driven Hiring

Have your company establish what personality traits best thrive within the company’s culture. Defining an organizational culture takes many forms. Some companies choose to bring in outside consulting and others conduct staff-driven discussions.

Once you have decided the culture, you need to go out of your way to hire drivers that are cultural fits. A study from the University Iowa found that employees who fit the company culture have greater job satisfaction, are more likely to remain with the organization, and perform at a higher level.

Establish your culture, communicate that with everyone you interview, and hire the drivers that match the culture. Doing this will get your company high performing drivers that stay long term.

Asking the Right Questions 

Get past surface level questions. Ask questions that demonstrate the candidates abilities and who they are as a person.

The mistake that many companies make is rushing the interview process. They will gauge an applicant based on a brief phone call and a background check.

When you are interviewing potential drivers take the time to probe and dig deeper. The conversation should not stop at the applicant’s first answer. Ask follow up questions that get to the root of the applicant’s answer.

Here are some questions from the Harvard Business Review that assess culture fit:

  • What type of culture do you thrive in? (Does the response reflect your organizational culture?)
  • What’s your ideal workplace?
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Tell me about a time when you worked with/for an organization where you felt you were not a strong culture fit. Why was it a bad fit?

Image depicts "retention" on a road to symbolize truck drivers

Paint Your Company in the Correct Light

The natural response for many driver recruiters is to paint their company in the best light. However, this is actually counterproductive.

Driver candidates need to have a realistic understanding of what they are signing up for. They need to know about the job, organization, culture, management, and their peers.

Recruiters also need to be proactive in disclosing the less appealing aspects of the position. The drivers need to know about the long hours and difficult routes they are signing up for.

A famous example of using the difficulties of a position to recruit is Ernest Shackleton’s ad in the paper. In the ad he said:

Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.

Shackleton’s crew was not taken off guard by the harsh conditions because they knew what they were signing up for from the beginning.

Over-promising how great your company is to the driver will ultimately lead them to feeling misled. Drives that feel misled are more likely to leave.

Having retention in mind from the very beginning of the hiring process will pay dividends in the long run. The drivers you hire will be more satisfied, less likely to leave, and perform better. To do this implement culture driven hiring, ask the right questions, and accurately portray your company.

The Three Pillars to Driver Retention

Effective driver retention is key to operating a successful transportation company. The average cost to hire a truck driver is just under $8,000. Being able to keep drivers on staff and not leaving at the first opportunity will save your company thousands of dollars. There are plenty of articles that discuss different strategies to retain drivers, but driver retention truly boils down to three areas. I refer to these areas as the Three Pillars to Driver Retention. Think of a structure built on three pillars, it will stand strong in any circumstance. Knock down one of the pillars and the structure will still stand, however it will not be as strong. The same idea applies to driver retention. To be as effective as possible your company needs to excel at all three pillars, but if you can offer two of the three then your retention efforts will suffice. Only performing one pillar will result in a complete collapse. The Three Pillars to Driver Retention are: pay/ incentive programs, respect, and proper management.

Pay Your Drivers!!!!

According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook the median pay in 2018 for truck drivers was $43,680, or $21.00 per hour. $43,680 needs to be the minimum you are offering your drivers. If you think that you are saving the company money by lowering the drivers’ CPM, think again. Drivers are not afraid to leave your company for another that is hiring with higher pay. Every driver that leaves your company is another eight grand your company needs to spend to replace them.

If your company is small then it may not be able to afford to pay truckers top dollar. One way you can work around this is by offering high performance bonuses. Offer money to drivers who average a certain MPH, or who routinely arrive on time to drop off locations. All that matters with the performance bonuses is that the action needed to receive the bonus can be easily tracked by the company and the driver. Clear incentive programs will ensure the drivers are engaged and motivated to perform. The better your drivers perform, the more cash your company will bring in. This will allow you to afford paying the drivers the bonuses offered. It is critical that you never short change a driver on a bonus they have earned. Doing so will eliminate any trust built between the driver and company. Also, that driver will go on to tell all of their driver friends that your company does not value its drivers.

Treat Drivers Like Family, Not Employees

On the road, drivers are constantly dealing with unpleasant situations. Cars get annoyed any time a truck is in front of them. Unloading the truck can be a long process that the driver does not get paid for (if they are paid based on miles driven). Drivers will spend weeks away from their loved ones at a time. The last thing the driver wants to deal with is an ungrateful company. Your company needs to go out of its way to make the driver feel wanted.

“Employees who feel valued are more likely to be engaged in their work and feel satisfied and motivated.” – Christy Matta, M.A

Show the drivers you appreciate them by hosting driver appreciation celebrations, inform them about available opportunities within the company, take the time to ask how their family is doing. Imagine your child (substitute any family member if you do not have kids) works as a driver, how would you want them to be treated? The answer to that question is how you need to treat your drivers.

Employ Excellent Fleet Managers

The trucker – fleet manager relationship is a valuable one. A fleet manager that is bad at their job will raise frustration levels among all of the drivers. Experiencing delays due to the fleet manager’s mistakes will frustrate the drivers because it is costing them money. In addition to being skilled in the logistics of running a fleet, the fleet manager needs to be able to manage people. Like most people, drivers do not enjoy being bossed around and feeling like their concerns are not being listened to. A fleet manager should avoid telling the drivers what to do, but instead take the time to explain why the rules are in place and get the driver to follow the rules on their own accord. Also, the fleet manager needs to take the time to listen to the drivers. Drivers will often bring up valid issues or ideas that they experience while out on the road. Listening to the drivers will also make them feel like they are a part of the team.

Drivers are well aware that there is a shortage. If they do not like something about the current company they drive for it is not difficult to find a new employer. Failing to utilize at least two of the three pillars will cause your drivers to leave you for a company that does. To retain your drivers you must offer competitive pay and benefits, treat your drivers with the utmost respect, and employ skilled fleet managers.