Driver retention masterclass

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Over the past six months I have been meeting with various carriers all over North America. The purpose of my visits is to facilitate workshops for our recently released program called Driver Retention Masterclass through Vertical Alliance.

The training I do encompasses the entire gauntlet of steps that it will take to get a handle on driver turnover; from building a solid foundation of driver support at a company, up through Adam Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and what we finally call the circle of success. For those who have not been exposed to looking at driver turnover from this paradigm, it can be quite revealing.

I thoroughly enjoyed my most recent effort that took place at a carrier in the mid-west whose carrier profile would look like this: 340 trucks in the fleet of which half are owner-operator and half company owned. They are primarily in the 5-axel flatbed business but also have some tankers and a small fleet of heavy haul multi axel equipment. Their current turnover is over 110%. They need help and the nice part is that they know it and that it is all on the table, nothing is sacred. It’s perfect for me. This is a facilitators dream. What I mean by this is that they know the need and are welcoming a cultural change. They realize that what they have been doing in respect to their drivers and owner-operators is not working. They are looking for change and are willing to do whatever it takes to stop the multitude of issues that come with high turnover.

Recognizing this during early conversations with the president was easy. Having him take the plunge and entrusting me and Vertical Alliance’s new offering was a little more daunting but agree he did. He told me later that the key thing that helped his decision was the reference to cultural change. If your company has high turnover I will guarantee the culture is sour. Leadership and the people who work for you cannot lose high volumes of drivers and feel good about the company. Think of the human tragedy on a regular basis. In this case, multiple times a week, drivers are heading home to their families to tell them they are out of a job. It’s demoralizing. Somehow trucking has conned itself to becoming immune to it but it needs to get back to taking these failures personally. From the top to the bottom it’s a failure so recognize it, own it, dissect it and fix it.

Beyond the human tragedy, high turnover has many other nasty side effects. It deteriorates CSA numbers, it elevates insurance costs and it deteriorates reputations in every part of the business; with shippers and suppliers, with prospective employees inside and outside the walls, with DOT and FMCSA etc. If that’s not enough, it also will devastate a company’s profitability and that threatens sustainability.

If a company with high turnover is looking to develop a sustainable, profitable growth strategy for the future, tackling this problem will offer that future. Like many things it tends to wrap itself up in hard work. The good news is that it’s doable and there are many companies that have done it. There is a formula and it is tried and true if you have the discipline required to make it happen.

The reason I had so much fun with this carrier was that I recognized their commitment to make change. In fact, the president of the company had already decided that he needed two employees and himself to take the training. It was agreed that the two, in addition to their current duties would also carry the titles of Change Agents. These folks, at a point in the near future, will assist employees and senior managers as they maneuver through the training and implementation of the DRM (Driver Retention Masterclass).

Most of the workshops I facilitate take a full day and a half, where we spend some time on each of the 46 videos in the series and then flip through the accompanying workbook. On this occasion, I asked the president if he might be interested in putting in a little overtime on day one to get through the training material and use day two for an impromptu strategy session. He agreed to this and off to the races we went. I have to admit to being a little nervous as I hadn’t facilitated this element for some time. It turned out to be a great experience that I thoroughly enjoyed and we had a very productive meeting.

The meeting included the senior management team and the two new change agents. We briefly updated the group on the theory of Maslow hierarchy of needs and built a base to execute a solid plan of execution. I was glad at this point to hear the President explain to his senior managers that the two Change Agents, who are mid managers, report directly to him on this project which shows great support for them. We laid out the framework for a SWOT test, highlighted priorities by their ROI factor and then we discussed how they should proceed with the program.

I think the future looks bright for these folks. They made a brave decision and if there is anything I know as fact, it’s that change scares most folks. If leadership is adverse to change or doesn’t fully support it, then nothing will happen. I will report back on the progress of this effort in future articles. I’m set up to talk to them once a month which might sound a little dry to some but not to me. I have challenged these folks to reduce their turnover by 50% – from 110% to 55% in the next 12 months. With a 340-truck fleet that means 170 fewer Drivers and Owner Operators that will fail at this company in the next twelve months. If that’s not worth the effort I don’t know what is.


Safe trucking.

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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.

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  • Thanks for your insightful article and for having the courage to speak up when most don’t Ray. You’re a voice of reason at a time when the Trucking industry and the blinded executives need it most. It’s high time for Trucking companies to drop the smoke and mirrors marketing gimmicks, start listening to what the drivers and the markets are telling them and clean up the ‘old boys club’ culture that has dominated and directed the industry since the dawn of time.

  • Hi again Ray-Previously I mentioned my transportation background is similar to yours,although I differ in opinion of Professional driver shortage. Trucking culture will remain sour until a monetary gain equal to other trades in implemented. Committees and group meetings create employment for office personal [I have attended hundreds] and virtually nothing changes for the Professional drivers,backbone of the industry!

  • All the experts in the world have no idea what its like too be in a truck. You cannot expect anyone too stay if one you make life so miserable that you hate everday you behind the wheel. First sell a fun life style most of your terminals remind me of a boring non- fun area. Women hate it and the foreign workers are needing a place too prey. Look at the modern truck stop for what drivers want .if waiting for a load I want good food , entertianment , accomedation. Most offer a couch ,tv , washroom , and boring paperwork . You want office person or a women too make your man cave you have succeed. Your electomic crap in the truck is like having a boss live with you 24/7 talk about sucking the only reason you went into trucking in the first place . So you can’t figure it out ? Really? It use too be fun , Now the pay well my kid works at a donut shop with tips per hr he whips my ass. Then promises wow you can only sell so much crap before a young guy says goodbye . Figure it out and stop the lies, your killing this industry .