One of the battles that truckers continue to wage is the hiring of drivers. Driving a truck is a tough job that the next generation clearly doesn’t want.
Personally, I’d take a good driver over a good customer any day of the week. Customers will come and go based on a change in wind direction. A good driver can pay dividends for decades, and helps stop customers from blowing away.
The conversation about drivers usually seems to revolve around recruiting, but once you learn how to keep drivers, you won’t have to worry as much about finding new ones.
Without stating the obvious (the value of fair pay, honesty, good equipment, etc.), here are some of things today’s successful fleets are doing to retain the drivers who answer want ads.
First 365 days
Controlling early-stage turnover is your best opportunity to retain drivers.
In an analysis of more than 22,000 drivers, Stay Metrics concluded that if 100 drivers started work next Monday, 33 would be gone within 90 days, and 22 more would leave within 180 days.
That’s 55% bidding au revoir in the first six months.
A retention strategy starts from Day 1. Some companies meet with new recruits every 30 days for the first year. Others use mentor programs by partnering senior drivers with newbies. The most important thing is to recognize the math — and what drives bums away from your seats before you even get to know the driver’s name.
Give drivers a say
Unlike other front-line employees, most drivers perform the same job their entire career. Not only does this make them trucking experts, it presents an opportunity to give them a voice in how you do business.
Formally pick drivers’ brains and learn from their experience. Driver surveys, councils, and a “don’t shoot the messenger” culture are good places to start. Respect goes a long way toward retention. It’s time to punt the impersonal Suggestion Box and show you really care.
Make sure they’re wired
Drivers who are engaged, entertained, and educated while away from home are more likely to stick around.
Engage them by encouraging the use of social media to share stories and pictures with their online community of coworkers, family, and friends.
Educate them using webinars, online tutorials, and video sessions with company trainers.
Entertain them during downtime by loading cabs with the latest bells and whistles. You can choose to spend your cash on “luxuries” like access to the NHL Network or on more want ads. It’s your call.
Keep ’em healthy
Investing in a driver’s health will improve their odds of living longer, which is good for your business. It’s also the right thing to do! Give your drivers access to health clubs at home and on the road. Many fleets have helped truckers get off the butts with stop-smoking bonuses. A heathy driver is a happy driver.
Respect their clan
Personally, I believe the worst part of being a truck driver is the time away from family. It would have killed me to be sitting in a truck stop while my kids were playing sports.
Respecting families and making sure they’re cared for while mom or dad is at work two time zones away is vital for retention. Don’t nickel and dime driver benefits. Make sure their plan includes dental care, eye care, and prescriptions. Respect and celebrate your drivers’ unique cultural traditions. And if a driver needs an extra day at home to see the school play, let everyone know that’s a valid reason for time off.
A driver is a precious asset that only grows more valuable with time. Recruiting efforts only bring drivers to your door. A retention strategy gives drivers a reason to stay and contribute to the success of your business.
Mike McCarron is the president of Left Lane Associates, a firm that specializes in growth strategies, both organic and through mergers and acquisitions. A 33-year industry veteran, Mike founded MSM Transportation, which he sold in 2012. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-844-311-7335, or @AceMcC on Twitter.
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