The delusion of driver turnover

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Question: how do we deal with the mass delusion that driver turnover is inevitable? When nothing could be further from the truth. Driver turnover is a manageable business challenge like any other. The only thing standing in our way of achieving low driver turnover is the BS that we keep telling ourselves in a long misinformation feedback loop. This fallacy manages to keep us from tackling this problem with the focus that is needed to achieve the desired outcome.

Not sure how this type of thing happens, not that I am in any way immune I was a partner and the president and COO of a company that went from a turnover that was almost non-existent to one that had 120% in a matter of just a couple years. Some time back I ran into a quote that seems to fit the situation it reads “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken” not sure who owns the quote a search on the internet is not conclusive. Makes me wonder what situation the author was facing when this explanation for their predicament first entered their mind. Quite likely not trucking but it does fit perfectly for the current state of things. So if your company is the victim of its chains of habit that seem to heavy to be broken where do you start, let me walk you through what worked for the good folks whom I had the pleasure of working with and me. By the way, this is also working with the many companies I am currently working with, references available on demand, and an unabashed solicitation here.

Starts with the acknowledgment that turnover is man-made and not inevitable, as I have already pointed out. Moves from there to the leaders in the company committing to be accountable to the effort and each other to make the changes necessary to transits the company culture to infuse a focus on a reduction to driver turnover. During my workshops, I usually suggest that these folks draft a mission statement that they all sign, it is a commitment to each other. Sounds easy and it is, the problematic part is allowing a peer, in this case, another senior manager to correct you if they happen to see you acting in a manner that is contrary to the mission statement that everyone committed to. Unfortunately, people’s egos come in to play, and they are seldom as pliable as they should be.

Next step is what I call the sales pitch; companies need to explain to their employees why a dramatic reduction in the companies’ turnover is critical to its future. They also need to discuss why it is beneficial to the individual’s future at the company. Lower turnover means things such as a safer trucking company a more profitable company a more fun culture to work in to name just the start of the good things that come from low turnover. In my experience, people get so entrenched in the daily whirlwind of their routines that they get blinders on and don’t see what a little change in how they do things could be of great benefit. To dive a little deeper but not to granularly let’s look department by department.

Sales, with lower turnover there is fewer service failures, your not regularly training drivers as to your customer needs. Fewer service failures mean less time begging forgiveness from customers means you can likely pursue a more significant opportunity with your current customer base.

Safety gains by not having to create new driver files all the time, a considerable time saver. Safety personnel will have fewer accident and incidents to track and files to open, why because a stable workforce can be trained to a higher standard. You can’t train a workforce with any effect that has high turnover; you’re always starting over. Side note companies with lower turnover have fewer accidents and pay less insurance than a carrier with high turnover. There is a direct correlation to lower insurance cost and best in class operating margins.

Administration gains with a low turnover environment, which comes from not having to educate the workforce as to the company’s information flow and paperwork all the time. The company also gains here with its aged accounts receivable, and billing gets out quicker with fewer errors, and the money comes in faster when it becomes repetitive and consistent, and people know the process, stability in your workforce results in this.

Maintenance becomes less of an expense when your workforce stabilizes, a four-year life cycle in a company truck with high turnover could have 4-6-8 different drivers in them. Compare that to a company with lower turnover, say under 20%, this company not only have fewer maintenance issues it also has an asset that the used truck market covets, it also has a higher residual value.

Operations, saved the best for last, for a dispatcher to be acclimating the majority of its drivers on an annual basis has to be very distracting and grossly inefficient. How much more time would the individual have in a low turnover environment to concentrate on whatever their KPI’s are. Might be empty miles, revenue per mile, or revenue per day. Consider a one-percentage-point gain in efficiency here; the numbers a staggering at that amount now stretch it to 3-5% gain.

Next month I will discuss the platform for change how do we ensure there is consistency in how we act individually when we take this challenge of, what are the guidelines?

All of the above constitutes part of what I call the groundwork for tackling driver turnover. Overall there are seven steps to implement to get things under control, I intend on sharing the rest in sequence in my next six articles. I hope you find some value in turning your issues around. It boils down to transitioning your company from a carrier who delivers freight from point a to point b and then doing it again to a company which differentiates itself from its competition with the quality and dedication of its employees.

Given the two options, where would you like to spend your career?

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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  • Hi Ray-monetary value like other trades. Why all the dialogue and conjecture, constantly repeated by periodicals and media in general. Thanks – John W.

  • “Driver Shortage” is self inflicted by the industry. Carriers don’t give shit about their drivers. Therefore the drivers quit the industry altogether or are constantly looking for their next company to drive for.