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Want to keep your drivers? Listen to them, advises panel

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – If you want to recruit and retain the best commercial drivers in North America, you better start listening to them.

That was the message given by HR experts in the trucking industry during a panel discussion at this year’s Surface Transportation Summit on Oct. 11.

“Drivers are leaving carriers for other driving jobs,” stressed Tracy Clayson, managing partner of In Transit Personnel. “So the opportunity to retain drivers is there, it’s just understanding what’s happening that disconnecting them.”

Often, Clayson said what makes drivers feel disconnected to the company they are working for is the fact they’re not being heard and what she calls “broken promises.”

“If he was promised to be home every night, or a certain number of miles…and then he doesn’t get that, he has a lot of time to think about the broken promises,” she said.

They best thing to do to retain the drivers, according to Clayson, is to make sure expectations are set from the get-go.

“Orientation is key,” she stressed. “How we hire, give them orientation, how we explain how the processes go is key…we need to really communicate what the job of a truck driver really is because sometimes there are other things involved other than putting your hands on the steering wheel.”

Tim Hindes, CEO of Stay Metrics agreed, saying to ensure the job and expectations are understood by both the employee and employer, it is crucial your fleet does regular driver surveys.

“It’s important to get driver feedback,” he said. “After seven and 45 days – those are critical times for you to get feedback. The seven-day survey that we do…what we want to know is what are those driver’s expectations? It’s important when recruiting is to ask what the driver is looking for, because if you tell them your expectations first, guess what? He’s going to paraphrase it right back. You want to ask him, what was it about the last carrier you didn’t like? Plant a seed that you’re different. The seven-day survey should focus on expectations.”

Without knowing how your new recruit is doing in those first fragile days of employment, you are setting yourself up for turnover, he said.

“The best way to improve driver turnover is getting driver feedback,” he said. “In the U.S., 33% of new drivers will leave in the first 90 days. So you have to ask them, how was orientation? Did you feel engaged? Did you feel like a part of the team?”

Hindes also said your fleet should be rolling out thorough annual driver satisfaction surveys.

“We suggest a deep survey,” he said. “We have one that’s 110 questions. And if the survey is built right, those drivers will complete it. In these surveys you want to focus on pay, respect, and home time.”

He also stressed the importance of exit interviews and said fleets should be getting a third party to do so.

“With exit interviews…don’t do them on your own,” he advised. “Use a third party because (ex-drivers) will tell a third party things they won’t tell a carrier.”

And a final tip given by Hindes to keep your drivers is a simple one. Start a recognition program. Because, he said, as much as drivers like to be heard, they like to be rewarded, too.

“Recognition and rewards programs are a best practice,” he said. “Drivers that engage in a loyalty program are 38% more likely to stay.”

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2 Comments » for Want to keep your drivers? Listen to them, advises panel
  1. David Filbey-Haywood says:

    In the past, after the teamsters lost control of trucking in Ontario, drivers just got treated as manual workers who could be used and abused. Whatever one says about de-regulation and unionized workers, although I was never much of a “union man”, I think drivers got treated better when I was driving as a teamster in the 70s. But now with stricter and more complicated regulations a driver is becoming a skilled worker who needs to be appreciated and supported. And that will happen or companies will have no drivers !

    I smiled at promises not being kept ; when I returned to driving for a while 12 years ago I was promised I would be home at least every second day but crossing the border on a return into Canada, backing into a warehouse for a delivery the next morning, sleeping in the sleeper, unloading in the morning and then being sent back into the U.S. with another load did not constitute in my mind “being home” !!

  2. Robert Allard says:

    This is totally right, during orientation it is all explained of what the company expect from a driver and the way they deal with time off.
    Although after this so call orientation is done the people behind the desks are not acquainted with the company expectation regarding the OTR so rivers and dispatch become almost stranger to another one, if a driver would have opportunity to meet with his dispatch my best bet the driver at least knows by face if remembered , it make the dealing about the next assignment would be more acceptable.
    The other mater would be pushed to the max by dispatch or the transport company to put a lot of pressure on the use the ELOG to the max and perhaps avoiding entries so there is ways to gain time to keep driving and it is all fix behind the scene.Not to forget this ELOG is not perfect so it could be manipulated.
    Another way to keep your drivers would be as honest as it could be and promote family life, because face it the long haul driver single with girl friend or the family man with childrens always miss on everything happening at home it is not easy to keep that in mind but to come to a happy medium would be to have better way of planing loads, location of equipment available , driver logged hours and finally working closely with customers. The one area where it is so mixed up is The Reefer division and the transport of perishable versus transit time and delivery expectations.
    I just terminated my time in this very demanding not yet recognized as a very specialized trade it is very unfortunate that government all they are good at; Is putting out more regulations.Retirement is good at this time.

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