Trucking is one of the most difficult careers of the 21st century and continues to be one of the most important professions in America. Trucking is especially important to manufacturing and retail partnerships, which rely on it to move their products from factories to stores.
One of the biggest challenges in the trucking industry is driver retention. The rate of turnover continues to be around 90 percent, one of the highest in any industry. Truck drivers are notoriously overworked and underpaid and are often blamed for negative circumstances outside their control. Being a trucker also means working very long, monotonous hours and being far from home while doing it.
So what’s the secret? How do you get drivers in your fleet to stick around for the long haul? What are drivers looking for in an employer?
Easy: respect. As mentioned, trucking is a hard job—but it doesn’t have to be a thankless one. Drivers routinely complain about a lack of communication with their managers and a lack of understanding of what they can and can’t control. Fleet managers are often pressured to focus on numbers rather than people, which breeds an animosity that too often kills truckers’ interest in working in a particular fleet.
Tips for keeping drivers happy:
- Drivers need empathy. Trucking can take an emotional toll on the men and women who have to be away from family and friends for days and weeks on end, with nothing but open roads to occupy their thoughts. They have to maintain their vehicles through complex and expensive issues or breakdowns and often do so unsupported. Take time to ask your drivers if they need anything, and take their input on timetables seriously, as they know their regular routes and the challenges therein better than nearly anyone else will.
- Pay should make sense. It’s not as simple as miles traveled—try to take performance into consideration. Reward drivers for consistency, for good maintenance, or fuel-efficiency. Better yet, offer a guaranteed minimum number of miles each week or month for drivers who perform. Positive incentives tend to go further than negative ones.
- Make things clear upfront. New drivers are often intimidated by how much they have to learn about operating procedures, routes, and company regulations in a short time. Make sure to outline exactly what is expected of new drivers, and when, and make sure they know what your priorities are as their supervisor. That way, you can be sure that everyone is on the same page from the very beginning.
- Communicate! Find out what concerns are coming up among drivers and address them as best you can. Take on the role of an ally, rather than an overseer. Drivers’ problems are your problems too—work with drivers to solve them.
These four areas are key to the retention of happy and productive drivers.