Anyone surprised that the latest figures out of the US that suggest that retention rates are on the rise once more with both small and big carriers hovering around the 100% mark. I believe that in Canada we are at lesser turnover rates but still close enough that we are in the same shape, probably 20% less that the US so lets say that were hovering around the 80% average turnover rate, its déjà vu all over again, for what seems the tenth time?
These numbers are of course once again ridiculously high and heading higher, and other than headlines in trade magazines I don’t see all that much being done about it. Every other headline on both sides of the border suggests that drivers are our number one issue in the industry. Bringing new drivers into the industry is hard; the average age of the existing drivers is much greater than other sectors of the economy and a significant threat to the industry etc. Is the perfect storm (Driver Shortage) that we have been hearing about for so long actually right around the corner, who knows?
Certainly the governments on both sides of the border are complacent to say the least they almost seem oblivious to the situation, which in turn encourages it. In the US you’ve got many lobby groups lead by the powerful CRASH and Public Citizen, two railway funded groups with a war chest that exceeds 50 million dollars lobbying against any change that might make trucking even a little bit more efficient. Their role in the process is to gum up every piece of legislation that even hints that it might bring efficiency or common sense to the trucking industry, on either side of the border.
The new HOS rules are a great example of their power, the system is now designed to limit available driving time and of course try and treat everyone like they are working at a 9 – 5 bankers job. They don’t care to understand that this is not a normal working environment and that trying to apply that paradigm will accomplish nothing but the additional clogging of an already clogged highway system. These groups are there as an obstacle to the industry, they fund senators and congressmen with mounds of cash to ensure they go along with their bidding. And they do this in spite of the stats that suggest that the industry is safer than it has ever been in its history with the rule that has been in place for the past number of years! Result is drivers leave the industry they can see that they will be out longer on the road and probably make less money because they will certainly be less productive!
No article of mine on this subject would be complete if I didn’t mention that both sides of the border continue to allow sub standard training of entry-level drivers to exist and to fund it with our tax dollars. I know I have been beating this drum forever but until this situation changes I will continue to bang that drum as loud as I can. It appears that the FMCSA owns my greatest hope for change, but even that opportunity is a little like waiting for 50 layers of paint to dry, the proposed rule has been over 6 years in the making, are you kidding me. Well at least the proposed rule has got to this stage, Canada seems to be waiting for the US to do all the heavy lifting and when their done we can simply suggest that we have to be compliant to their rule and follow like little puppies on their lead. All this of course is mute unless the rule has some teeth on training curriculum because if it comes out the to white washed by some of the lobby groups involved we’ll be no further ahead than we are now. Many people go through substandard training and are unemployable in the industry, these folks end up with no jobs and this situation is paid for by “we the taxpayers” in over 50% of the cases, this does not help the situation when it comes to attracting new entrants to the industry.
The thing to do that many trucking companies don’t seem to understand is that the situation is in their control all they have to do is design a strategy to get control over their turnover and execute. To use a baseball saying, it is time for to play some small ball. The reason for this is that it really is all the small things that add to creating a sense of community within a company that people want to stay in and tell their friends to come over and join in.
I am quite often asked for my advice concerning different aspects of trucking including this situation and quite honestly it always surprises me and it reinforces the simple fact that common sense is really not all that common. If a company wants to know what their drivers like or dislike why not ask them, if you want to know what is the primary issue between your process within the company and the drivers wouldn’t you just ask the people inside the walls, the people in the trenches?
This is a great starting point, I would ignore all the editorial that suggest that the numbers are only getting worst, if anything I would use them as a rallying cry to attack the problem. If a company simply looked at each touch point within each of their departments to see if their systems could be improved to make them more driver centric, I believe they would start to improve their turnover almost immediately. Not to say this is a quick fix because it is not, this takes time but it is all the little battles that sometimes with the war!
Any company that accepts 80 –100% turnover as normal is asking for trouble over the next number of years because the Perfect Storm will find you eventually, of this there is no doubt!
Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations. All posts by Ray Haight