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What causes turnover?

TORONTO, Ont. - An Ontario company is aiming to tackle the problem of driver turnover in the trucking industry by identifying the causes of turnover and helping fleets address them.


TORONTO, Ont. – An Ontario company is aiming to tackle the problem of driver turnover in the trucking industry by identifying the causes of turnover and helping fleets address them.

“We looked at a large number of employee retention research studies from around the world and in a number of different industries. We found some significant common findings that we will be applying to the North American trucking industry,” said Stirr.

“Trucking, like any industry, will have a certain amount of employee turnover that is due to uncontrollable factors. Based on all of the studies we examined, about 65% to 75% of employee turnover is caused by factors that are controllable by an organization. We anticipate finding a similar result in the trucking industry with our research.”

Stirr hopes that by identifying the early warning signs of driver turnover, fleets will be able to take proactive measures to address those issues and reduce turnover rates.

“One of the key things that all of the international studies identified is that employee turnover is not an event,” said Stirr. “It’s a process. A process that begins with some kind of tipping point that causes a newer, enthusiastic employee to begin to think that they may not be at the right company. At that point they begin the process of disengagement, and as that disengagement increases so does the likelihood of the employee leaving. Once an employee makes the decision that they are going to leave it is extremely difficult to turn back the clock. That’s why it is critical to identify the early warning factors and measure them early.”

Stirr said research has shown that as many as 75% of employees are at some stage of disengagement. The process of disengagement can range from as little as two weeks, to a year or more. However, he said there’s still hope to keep those drivers if a company recognizes the early warning signs.

Driver turnover is a costly problem for the trucking industry. Estimates suggest the hard and soft costs of turnover amount to 35% to 45% of a driver’s salary. So when a driver who earns $50,000 leaves your fleet, the total cost to the company can be as high as $22,500 when considering factors such as the cost of having that truck sit idle until a replacement driver if found.

Stirr is calling on trucking companies to sign up for the program, which costs less than $1,000 to start. Drivers will then receive an electronic assessment questionnaire with a unique coupon number that will be used to identify them. Drivers will be encouraged to fill out the online form (the results will be confidential and the driver will not be identified to his or her employer).

Stirr’s system will automatically capture data. Participating fleets will receive a standardized report showing their results, as well as industry benchmarking data, provided that enough fleets participate.

Fleets can access the data to determine what problem areas need to be addressed. They may find, for instance, that a cranky dispatcher is to blame for a large portion of the fleet’s driver turnover and they can then address the problem by replacing the problem dispatcher or investing more in communication training.

“The real purpose of what we’re doing is not to create a report with numbers on it,” said Stirr. “The goal is to identify controllable issues that are linked to turnover so our clients can take the proactive, corrective actions they need to.”

Stirr’s research is also designed to identify attitudinal trends that may be associated with high turnover rates.

“Part of our follow up program is to design online screening tools that our clients can use to help improve the hiring process,” said Stirr. “The goal is to help them avoid hiring in turnover problems.”

“Many fleets do a terrible job at the recruiting stage,” Stirr added. “It’s better to have a few trucks sit empty, screen people better and bring fewer people in.”

He urges fleets to hold people more accountable for driver turnover rather than just accepting it as a cost of doing business.

“It’s not just the nature of the business,” he stressed.

As more fleets join the program, Thomas-Ritt will develop benchmark data so carriers can measure their performance against their competitors.

Eventually, Stirr hopes to break it down by type of operation (dry van vs flatdeck, for instance) as well as by region (Canada vs the US).

“We will be offering the research on a continual basis to our trucking fleet clients, and anticipate that most will want to do the research at least twice a year, some may want to track things on a quarterly basis,” said Stirr.

Trucking companies that are interested in participating in the research should contact Stirr at 905-309-5431 or e-mail tom@tomstirr.com.


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