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.