Proper utilization of data, personal touch vital in retaining drivers

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Use all the technology available, do not compromise on company culture and safety, create personal relationships, and deliver on promises made during the recruiting process if you want to retain drivers, company executives emphasized.

About 70% of driver exits are voluntary and spotting those who are at risk of leaving is key to retaining them, says Hayden Cardiff, founder and CEO of Idelic, during a webinar organized by the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA).

Reduced levels of productivity, increased incidents regarding safety, late pickups or deliveries are all risk factors, says Amber Edmondson, President and CEO of Trailiner Crop. A driver may want to quit when he or she feels like a commodity, there is perception of being overworked or underworked or home time requests are not being heeded.

The care factor helps in retention. (Photo: iStock)

The ‘care factor’ is vital to a company, says Woodson Witt, vice-president of safety and human resources, Modern Transportation Services. Employees need to be engaged. When people think of leaving, they do not pay attention to safety and just go through the motions, he says. Managers must be perceptive to see something is wrong.

Human connections drive the driver experience, says Cardiff. Utilizing data to help dispatchers and fleet managers have personalized conversations with drivers also helps, Edmondson added.

The pandemic has been useful is boosting online tools to interact with distant terminals, says Witt. Drivers who have never met company executives can now interact via townhall and safety meetings, posing questions and airing the problems they face.

Online platforms help drivers provide anonymous feedback and connect with colleagues and share information, Edmondson says. Cardiff added that the trend of using technology to boost human connections at the far outreaches of fleet operations will continue. Most driver turnover takes place in the first 90 days, so engagement with drivers, especially during the onboarding process, and regularly checking in on them is important, Cardiff says.

The industry is about building relationships and Witt’s company keeps happiness scores on drivers. The first person the driver meets during onboarding is the recruiter they spoke to, thus providing a personal touch.

Cardiff emphasized on delivering on promises made when recruiting the driver. Acquire personal information and use it during the next conversation. Leverage technology to bring up a family member’s name or discuss a recent trade by the employee’s favourite team, he added.

Make the last 30 seconds of a call with a driver positive and use a single technology platform to manage the employee, Witt says. Highlight what the driver has done well and thank them, Edmondson added.

Data can be used to save jobs and lives, so drivers must feel they are being looked after and not watched over, Cardiff says. Show video drivers video from forward-facing or in-cab cameras and ELD alerts due to over speeding or following too closely, and get them to understand the safety issue, Edmondson says. Her company rewards a driver each month for positive things caught on camera.

Using risk scores for drivers using data creates a crystal ball effect, offering trends for managers to utilize while watching out for risks, Witt says. A company’s culture of safety is important, and drivers will care about what managers care about. ‘Gamify’ the data and put out driver risk scores in terminals, he added.

When risks are identified, give a driver every opportunity to change his or her behaviour before letting go of them. Witt says. Do not cross the line on safety and leverage technology to help retain employees, he adds.

Retention bonuses, rewards for milestone years, rewarding people for the dedication and efforts go a long way in keeping drivers loyal to a company, the panel concluded.

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Leo Barros is the associate editor of Today’s Trucking. He has been a journalist for more than two decades, holds a CDL and has worked as a longhaul truck driver. Reach him at

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