Here’s a driver retention secret - better pay rarely matters
Even before we talk of driver retention, this needs to be said upfront: The American trucking industry is one of the world’s greatest logistical powerhouses.
But, it is also a ruthless master to its most important workforce – ie, the drivers. It is one of the few industries with jobs that need a limited skill set. And yet, struggles with recruitment and attrition.
A large part of truck driver shortage is because of the nature of the industry.
If only money could solve employee problems, the trucking industry would have been the first benefactor.
The average salary of truck drivers in America is nearly $80,000 per job, a number that has been increased by 18% over the last four years. Despite this, neither the recruitment for truck driving jobs nor its turnover shows any sign of decline. Driver shortage is an acute and chronic problem in equal measures.
Here's the truth about the trucking industry, and most industries in general: Some problems need to be solved by people, processes and management.
We list some of those here:
Helping them Counter Fatigue
Step 1 of any driver retention program (drawing parallels from Maslow’s law of hierarchy) - paying attention to physical wellbeing.
Few establishments in the world would endure the strain that an American trucker takes. They are the backbone of the world’s most robust economy and embody the national work ethic. This doesn’t change the fact that they are exhausted and alone at the end of the day. The hours are long, and the roads, lonely. They suffer from sleep deprivation. A lack of mental stimulation breeds boredom, and a lack of physical exercise breeds musculoskeletal strain.
But few trucking companies have efficiently implemented an obvious solution: Integrating fatigue management to their truck driver safety course.
When done consistently, and in the right manner, it will ensure that drivers learn not just to recognize their fatigue, but also deal with it.
Focusing on Emotional Wellness
The lack of attention given to a driver’s emotional state is appalling. These drivers spend most of their time away from their family and loved ones. Life moves on, and over a period of time, they struggle to connect with those close to them. This is especially true of OTR drivers. The lack of communication often leads to depression, anxiety and even PTSD. There have been cases where the person has been tempted to abandon the truck and just walk away from it all.
One way to help them deal with it is to organise off-hours to communicate with family members. For severely disturbed drivers, the company should proactively share relevant resources, and check on them regularly.
Research shows that lower-income working-class Americans don’t seek mental-health care as much as the middle and upper classes do - all the more reason to make conversations and resources around mental health readily available.
Allowing for Rotational shifts
Most truck drivers must haul themselves around the nation for most days in a year. This is true for OTR trucking (Over-the-Road Trucking) or LTL (Less-Than-Truckload) trucking. This means missing anniversaries, birthdays and other important family-centric events.
One should proactively reach out to truckers, enquire about their home-times, and then schedule their trips . This would go a long way in gaining their trust and gratefulness.
Several industries have successfully combined a better pay scale with mandatory rotational shifts. Trucking firms need to do the same to plug the attrition in their firms.
What's do drivers share in common with their managers and other departments? A broken communication channel.
Social media is flooded with drivers complaining on pay cycles, and incentive structures. Respect is not easy to come by. Departments such as accounting and sales are regularly known to disregard them.
To correct this rot in the system, one needs to smoothen out wrinkles and set up standards of communication. Holding seminars and workshops to disseminate and establish standards is paramount.
The United States is staring at a massive driver shortage – according to the ATA. Unless there is a course correction, retention will become hard.
If you’re looking for ways to retain truck drivers, without bleeding your company’s bottom line, here are some must-do line items:
1. Train them to deal with fatigue
2. Encourage conversations on mental health within the company
3. Survey them on preferred home-times, offer alternate schedules.
4. Fix communication to improve trust and transparency.
Executing the above for a team of 20 is easy. Replicating the same for teams of large sizes is not.
At Noticeboard, we see the problems that drivers face, and have solutions to resolve the problem, AT SCALE.
We are in the business of helping companies manage their large teams of dispersed staff. We establish training outcomes, improve employee engagement, build communities and streamline everyday activities of managers.
Give your truck drivers more than money. Give them a sense of purpose, with Noticeboard.