Fighting attrition: How to make truck drivers stay

 It all comes down to the little things. 

It all comes down to the little things. 

The American trucking industry is in a Catch-22 situation. On one hand, there's a lot of demand for its services, on the other, there isn't enough manpower to fulfill it.

Employee recruitment drives seem to be a perennial responsibility for owners of trucking firms. If you’re a relatively mid-sized firm, you think you're facing competition from the well-capitalized biggies who offer attractive salaries and additional benefits. But guess what? Even the big monies can't seem to stop drivers from jumping ship to another company. 

Irrespective of whether they work in a fancy cubicle or a monster truck  - people don't stay for the money. Here are six things that they actually stay for:

Effective communication

In the name of communications, here's what most companies do everyday: Hand out trip sheets and talk to drivers only incase of any road mishaps. . It's not that companies don't want to talk to their drivers, but there just isn't any time or means to do it effectively. But the truth is, like all employees, drivers need to know that they matter to your organisation. At the end of a long day, they want their work to be acknowledged, want feedback from their peers and higher ups, and want encouragement. 

A few other things that you should think about are: Are your managers trained to actually be managers, or are they just dispatchers barking orders at the drivers? Do you have a separate driver newsletter, award ceremonies, or company- or terminal-wide award ceremonies? Your efforts to make drivers feel special could be keeping them apart from the people they need to interact with to feel like, and work as part of, a team.

Personalised training

Experience is the greatest teacher, or so they say. Nothing can replace the presence of a mentor or a trainer who understands your drivers' attitude, and tells them how to deal with on-road incidents - be it with enforcement agencies, or traffic jams, or just simply fatigue. But having a trainer that continually just wants to train them, has little effect. 

While the management wants to train their drivers to be compliant, safe and healthy,  drivers just want to do their job, earn their pay check, and be done for the day. 

So, the best way to train drivers is not by subjecting them to material that they have no use for. The best way is to identify what they don't know, share relevant information in a timely manner, and supplement it what they already know: This makes them more informed, more aware and more likely to be compliant with FMCSA rules. 

Awareness about driver's health

Most truck drivers are forced to eat food on the interstate: eating at deli’s and truck stops where the food has poor nutritional value. According to the CDC, over 30% of truck drivers are obese with a BMI above 30% with 17% of these drivers can be diagnosed with morbid obesity with a BMI of over 40%. The industry has the worst obesity statistics compared to any other industry in the United States. Companies that educate their drivers about a healthy diet and provide the means for them to eat a healthier meal on a regular basis usually have high driver retention rates. It shows them that even though they're thousands of miles away from the HQ, their manages still care about their well-being. 

In addition to this, one can include more rest stops per trip, a meal allowance, wellness retreats, counseling sessions and other health-oriented benefits to the salary package of a driver.

Empathy for their schedules

It is estimated that over 27% of truck drivers sleep less than six hours a day. While that's normal for most of us, it can be very dangerous for those driving on the  interstates. Giving  drivers assurances of day-time only driving can go a long way towards avoiding accidents.

Companies that guarantee anywhere between 7-9 hours to unwind and get a full night’s rest are known to retain more staff than those that carry big orders and provide a higher salary and benefits package.

If that's not possible, then driving awareness by holding seminars about sleep patterns, a need for adequate sleep - can help avoid late-night collisions or fatigue-based accidents. Fewer accidents would translate to fewer voluntary quits. 

Sustaining equal employment opportunities

Just about 6% of truckers are women in the United States. If the ATA is looking at adding 100,000 truckers every year just to replace the retiring truckers, then we need to hire more women. While there is enough intent from all quarters, there is little action: 

We need to solve problems on two front: The first is to encourage them to consider a career in trucking, and the second is to create a safe workspace that lets them sustain in that job.  

For the latter, the operations management protocols for truck companies need to be more inclusive: Adding restrooms, assigning same-gender instructors for long-haul trucking, assigning safe resting places during training are first steps towards ensuring a safe workspace. Setting up systems and processes to accommodate the other gender, including sexual harassment in courses taken in trucking schools is a crucial step towards getting women employees to stay on their job. 

Sketching a career path

Truck drivers need to be focused on the road for over 4,400 hours per year. Without a sense of career progression, drivers are going to be staring at endless stretches of roads, while hitting a dead end in their minds. The lack of purpose soon translates into lack of perspective and demotivates them. Having a path of advancement becomes very important, so they know that they’re working towards a better tomorrow.  

It is also worth noting that truckers who move into management later in their careers are able to manoeuvre logistical problems easily. Introducing management training programs for truckers or distance education programs for truckers can show employees that they can do more than just drive. This dream of a more prestigious role can keep them focused and grounded.

Motivating truck drivers to stick with one company is a huge hurdle, especially since freight forwarding services in the United States are at an all-time high. The door-step delivery mentality has increased the potential for growth within the industry by tenfold. This is a larger problem which can be solved when the ATA, big trucking companies and the truck driver’s union band together to build a more sustainable environment for truck drivers to work in.

We have a platform which supplements the ongoing efforts by ATA to engage drivers with relative ease. Noticeboard can:

  • Send personalised communication to hundreds of drivers all at once – be it for sharing company updates, quarterly appraisal or performance scorecards.
  • Target trainings to those who need it, track lesson completion, publish quizzes and share scorecards.
  • Send out regular reminders for them to eat healthy and take breaks when they’re feeling down.
  • Identify home-time preferences well-in advance with custom surveys.
  • Sensitize existing workforce on working with women staff.
  • Foster a sense of competition and career progression by recognizing top performers – no matter where they are.

To ensure a feasible and sustainable (important!) model that engages drivers and reduces turnover, talk to Noticeboard