The driver shortage has been a persistent issue in the trucking industry for many years now. According to a 2021 report by the chief economist at the American Trucking Association (ATA), the industry was short 60,800 drivers in 2018. And projections are that by 2023 that figure will grow to 105,000 drivers nationally. 

While there are many contributing factors, ATA suggests that the biggest are the industry’s issues with recruitment and retention. For decades now, the average annual turnover rate for long-haul truckers at big trucking companies has been greater than 90 percent. This means that if a fleet has 10 truckers, within one year nine will have quit. 

What drives employee retention? And how can you improve your recruitment efforts to attract the right drivers? Every fleet is unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are some proven recruitment and retention that can reduce your annual turnover rate. Here are a few tips to help you combat the driver shortage.

Tips to Combat the Driver Shortage 

Set expectations

Retention efforts should begin during the recruitment and on-boarding process. Starting with the job description and then during orientation, it’s imperative to set clear expectations. This means being upfront about what the job actually entails and what drivers’ lives will be like on a daily basis. Discuss important issues, like home time, miles per week, and compensation. To make sure everyone is on the same page, ask drivers to sign a short agreement that spells everything out. 

By honestly communicating working conditions, your fleet will gain a reputation for truth-telling. You’ll also decrease your turnover rate because you’ll attract drivers who are a good fit with your fleet’s unique culture. The more respect and clarity you bring to your driver relationships, the faster you’ll build driver loyalty.

Create a feedback loop

It’s important to meet with drivers regularly to ask if they’re satisfied with how things are going. Ideally, managers should have daily contact with local drivers and speak with remote drivers at least once per week. By keeping the lines of communication open, you help drivers feel like their opinions count. Plus, you can have an opportunity to make mid-course corrections before drivers quit. Keep in mind, however, that if you don’t implement changes it’s almost worse than if you asked for feedback in the first place. 

To ensure feedback initiatives increase driver retention, create a feedback loop. There are four basic steps in a feedback loop:

  • Gather feedback. Open a dialogue with individual drivers and ask tough questions. Structured surveys are also useful.
  • Analyze information. Identify trends or themes in feedback. Are there issues that keep popping up?
  • Put insights into action. Address issues immediately. If drivers don’t see action, they’ll stop investing in your fleet.
  • Tell drivers about changes. Keep drivers informed about actions so that drivers know their feedback was taken seriously. This way, they’ll be helpful the next time you ask.

Utilize incentives

Recruiting and training new drivers is costly. Why not create an incentives budget and spend that money on a driver retention program instead? Giving incentives to top performing drivers—or those who are most improved—demonstrates that your fleet appreciates and values drivers’ efforts. In many ways, incentives also function like a driver retention bonus, encouraging drivers to stay motivated, competitive, and engaged. Highlighting your fleet’s driver incentives can also be an effective driver recruiting technique. 

Here are some ideas: 

  • Cash bonuses 
  • Gift cards to popular restaurants and stores
  • Special privileges, like flexible work hours and special assignments to favorite routes
  • Points to be saved and exchanged for larger ticket rewards, like sporting event tickets, home appliances, or electronics equipment

Provide good working conditions

Research shows that when companies focus on boosting employee job satisfaction and happiness, both employees and companies benefit. Happy employees are 20 percent more productive, and they take 15 fewer sick days. Providing good working conditions starts by encouraging drivers to prioritize their health and safety, as well as the safety of other motorists. If drivers feel tired or impaired, you should encourage them to take breaks outside of mandatory rest periods. You can also provide them one-on-one coaching. 

One of the easiest ways to provide feedback and encouragement is by introducing a fleet safety system. Advanced telematics solutions feature dual-facing internal and external AI-powered dash cams. This footage can be used for individualized training. Some solutions, like Netradyne, even provide in-cab alerts to help drivers avoid distracted driving and unsafe driving practices.

Reward positive behavior

Rewarding drivers for practicing safe driving, maintaining their vehicles, and keeping their driving records clean may cost your fleet money. However, they are a worthy investment that prevents fines, protects your CSA score, and keeps drivers motivated and loyal. Also, positive recognition works extremely well. Keep in mind that rewards or recognition are most impactful when they’re delivered promptly. Here are some rewards ideas: 

  • An extra bonus or gift card
  • Public recognition in a company newsletter or by management at a company event
  • Invite-only lunches with leadership 
  • Pins, plaques, and jackets customized with the fleet’s name and logo
  • Personalized trophies or plaques

Maintain relationships when drivers leave 

Like most professions, drivers are always looking for the highest pay, the most benefits, and the best places to work. In the trucking industry, drivers often think that the grass is always greener. Having one of your drivers quit to work for the competition isn’t a great outcome. But don’t take it personally or let it affect your relationship with them. Drivers who quit may later discover that their new working conditions aren’t what they expected and that they had a better deal working for you. And when they do come back asking for their old job, they’ll be even more loyal than before.

Final Thoughts

Fleets that want to combat the driver shortage shouldn’t only ask how to recruit drivers, they should also ask how to reduce driver turnover. This requires a multi-pronged approach, focusing on both recruiting and retention strategies.. Netradyne’s driving safety solution tracks road data to give drivers unmatched visibility into their performance so they can qualify for your incentives and rewards programs, as well as receive individualized coaching. Learn how.

Read the New Guide to Driver Coaching to improve your coaching skills and learn something new!

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