5 reasons drivers will work for you, and how to keep them

Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) retention coach Ray Haight offered insights Feb. 17 on why drivers choose to work for a carrier, and why they leave.

It starts at the top, he pointed out, asking if business owners are “bosses” or “leaders.” A leader will empower others to make decisions and affect change within the company, where a boss feels the need to control all aspects of the busines.

“Leaders create leaders,” Haight said. “A boss will have a much tougher time curtailing driver turnover.”

Haight described five reasons drivers choose to work for a particular trucking company and why they may also decide to leave.

Money talks

Often, said Haight, fleets feel drivers leave because of inadequate pay. But in a tight margin business, higher rates are not always feasible. But Haight said the rate per mile is rarely the reason drivers leave.

When you pull back the curtain, he said, drivers rarely leave because of the rate per mile. Instead, it’s because they aren’t getting enough miles or their time is being wasted due to poor load planning or excessive detention time by shippers and receivers. These are issues that can be addressed without increasing the rate per mile.

Seasoned drivers, meanwhile, may leave because they are being paid the exact same rate as an inexperienced new hire. Haight encouraged fleets to find ways to reward those longer tenured drivers.

(Photo: iStock)

Promote your safety record

Drivers want to work for a safe company, Haight said, but few fleets use their excellent safety ratings as a recruitment and retention tool.

“You can’t go buy a good safety record,” he said. “You have to earn it. If you have a decent safety record, flaunt it.”

He said compensation and safety are a fleet’s 1-2 punch combination when attracting and keeping talent. He cited Bison Transport as a company that has effectively parlayed its safety record into a brand.

He also remembered his time managing a fleet that had won several safety awards. It ran ads, not to recruit, but to promote those achievements. Drivers began calling to see if they were hiring.

“It was the best recruiting ad we had all year,” he said. “People want to work for safe companies.”

Get into the home

Carriers should find ways to include drivers’ families in the business. This could mean hosting coloring contests for kids, or offering tuition reimbursement programs or scholarships. He said one company he works with not only rewards the driver of the month, but also sends flowers to their spouse.

Fleets should also work with drivers to ensure they succeed. This could mean working out a budget with them and their spouse, so they know how much they need to earn to cover mortgage and car payments, and other living expenses.

“Create a success plan,” he said. “Do they have an aspiration to own a house? Let’s make a provision for that. They have a picture of success in their mind – what does that look like?”

One carrier Haight works with will call a driver anytime they miss their monthly mileage targets. Sometimes its as simple as having taken a few days off, but the fleet wants to ensure it wasn’t the cause of the earnings shortfall.

“Drivers sure appreciate the phone call,” Haight said.

Ray Haight (Photo: Supplied)

Recognition pays

Simple recognition of a job well done will go a long way to keeping drivers happy, Haight said.

“Drivers are not used to getting that. You’ll shock them,” he said. “These are small things but they’re very important. We need to recognize our people and we need to do it genuinely. So much good stuff is going on in your business, pay attention to those things and put them out through your communication channels.”

Seek professionals

There are three types of drivers, Haight said. The “truck stop cowboys” who drive fast, have way too many chicken lights and love the image of the trucker. Then there are those he describes as “lost and forlorn” – drivers who just happened into the gig and are riding it out while they decide what their true calling is.

Then there is the “professional driver.” Those are who you want to seek out and support, Haight said.

“If we believe we want professional drivers, what do we do to support them?”

He said they need to be given opportunities. Ensure company job postings outside driving are shared with them and they’re encouraged to apply. Support them if they want to further their education. Building a fleet of professional drivers will attract other professionals, he added.

“Professionals want to be around professionals. The good ones want to be around other good ones,” he said of drivers.

Basically, he added, drivers, like all people, stay in situations they like and leave those they don’t.

“You don’t do it by telling a driver to pick up at A, deliver to B, and come back and do it again. You have to offer more,” he said.

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • u missed sum… dealing with good dispatchers is a must and retaining the good drivers depends on that…. driving sub standard equipment is a big deal breaker as well….. and in ont were governed at 105 haveing that is a plus and also depending on the loads u pull under powered trucks for the job ur supposed to do is not very enticing either… last companys that promise u stuff to get u to come on then 3 months into the gig and nothin is how it seems well that will ruin there reputation as well

  • The best way to keep drivers. Its pretty simple.
    Wages are important but the perks off staying with said company is
    The perks. After x amount of years you get extra vacation. then after x amount of years you get a better company match.
    Its stuff like that makes huge differnce

  • I think honesty toward the driver is everything. Also flood the driver with information and always include that things are subject to change but let the driver be part of the plan so they can plan. The other thing is to put yourself in their shoes too. Example. you ask a driver to sit and wait for 2 days to get a load and don’t want to pay anything. Now ask your dispatcher to go out in the parking lot and sit in there car for 2 days and not go home for free. It really puts things in perspective. I always say you must look at the big picture and compensate according to the situation and always be straight with your drivers. This has been the secret to my success in driver retention.

  • These comments, put of what’s written and commented on regarding your article Ray are pretty much some of the most important ones among others.

    A leader will empower others to make decisions and affect change within the company, where a boss feels the need to control all aspects of the business.

    Dealing with good dispatchers is a must and retaining the good drivers depends on that…. driving sub standard equipment is a big deal breaker as well….. and in ont were governed at 105 haveing that is a plus and also depending on the loads u pull under powered trucks for the job ur supposed to do is not very enticing either… last companys that promise u stuff to get u to come on then 3 months into the gig and nothin is how it seems well that will ruin there reputation as well.

    The other thing is to put yourself in their shoes too. Example. you ask a driver to sit and wait for 2 days to get a load and don’t want to pay anything. Now ask your dispatcher to go out in the parking lot and sit in there car for 2 days and not go home for free. It really puts things in perspective.

    Instead, it’s because they aren’t getting enough miles or their time is being wasted due to poor load planning or excessive detention time by shippers and receivers. 

    With company drivers the waiting time, miles and dispatchers is foremost as well as equipment.
    With O/O’ s waiting time due to unscrupulous shippers and receivers is a main one, treating O/O’s basically as what they are independent business people trying to make a dollar, not ” you gotta take the bad with the good” that comment from one about sittin waiting either for a load or waiting to load without compensation is one I put to a dispatcher once. Theres a few deliveries and pickups I know about where appointments are made but one in particular at shipper you arrive at or before you’re appointment, and your there minimum 4 hours and up to 6 hours loading and this is a normal everyday occurance.
    Another few appointments are made you have a 3 hour window 1 hour before and 1 hour after to check in, and your often still there waiting to unload longer than 3 hours with no compensation.
    So why do these companies get away with it now especially with elogs than accurately indicate how long a truck has been at its destination and this is now documented via telematics.
    I thought once elogs came in detention time might be able to be levied with more assertiveness because it can be proven and shown via todays technology but seemingly as of today no ones doing much about it.
    It also was said when elogs were implemented that productivity wouldn’t be affected. Well that’s total B.S. because if you run out of hours while waiting at a shipper or receiver or have to shutdown early in any given shift to find a a suitable parking spot that’s time in that shift/day you never get back!!!

  • I worked with Ray Haight when he owned Southwestern, always felt he was a good manager
    and people I worked with enjoyed being there. Business side didn’t work out for him back then but its always a learning curve.

  • I agree that recognition for work well done is key. I would take all loads offered. Even crappy ones. But sometime down the road I would get a cherry run because I helped them out. I have an issue with the automated transmissions. I was proud of the fact that I could take a 13 speed manual transmission and outperform the automated trannies on fuel economy in our fleet. Then my company ran out of 13 speed trucks and replaced them with automated transmission trucks. I drove an automated truck for two years. Then one day I had enough of over revving, not shifting at low rpm’s and the truck jumping and jerking starting from a stop. I quit trucking. It would appear fleets need drivers and warm bodies will do. I considered myself a Professional Driver with skills.

  • I worked for Laidlaw back in the ’80s, with Grant Marlatt as my dispatcher. He was excellent, always working with me and keeping me busy. Then we went with central dispatch out of Toronto and eventually I ended up with Tom Etherington as my main dispatcher. He always kept me busy, ran me where I wanted to run In 2009 I went with Hyndman Transport because I wanted to run west and theyregularly ran me from Toronto to Burnaby, BC, then south into the US and back home. It was great, but then they got bought out by Celadon. The e-logs did it for me, so I moved on with Landstar Ranger who were absolutely excellent. but it was more work because I had to dispatch myself and find (choose) my own loads. After a couple of years, I sold my truck and retired. About a year later I came out of retirement and drove company truck for Genuine Transport. Dave Cowan dispatched me and I could not have picked a better dispatcher (and I’ve had several), plus the equipment was flawless. But I think the key is in the dispatch seat. The dispatcher will make you or break you.