10 Ways to Attract and Retain Drivers

With the arrival of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, the trucking industry became the backbone of American commerce. Ever since, trucking companies have searched for ways to get the best, most experienced drivers to haul freight. The search continues today — but it requires incredible effort as career truck drivers are disappearing faster than ever.

We all know of the immense driver shortage facing our industry. Whether we’re short 50,000 drivers or 80,000 drivers or even more, it’s time we move on and connect with the wants and needs of the modern American truck driver. Just as importantly, we need to retain them. Some experts claim truck driver turnover rates are as high as 95 percent.

I’ve included ten things to consider when trying to attract and retain truck drivers:

  1. Competitive pay. Truck driver wages have steadily declined for about 40 years. In fact, a Business Insider analysis revealed that median wages have decreased 21% on average in that time — with some areas experiencing a 50% drop.

The industry is adjusting with higher salaries, referral bonuses, signing bonuses and scaled bonuses tied to longevity and performance. But it isn’t enough, as evidenced by the increasingly bleak projections that the driver shortage could expand by 300% within the next eight years.

We’re going to have to continue to improve salaries for truck drivers. After all, as we all know, a good, experienced, loyal driver is worth every bit of it.

  1. Weekly home time.“Truck driver” has come to define more than a job — all too often, it describes the way a person lives. The hours can be long, with lengthy stints on the road away from home.

It’s time companies realize the immense burden placed on our nation’s drivers. As we strive to connect with a younger base of drivers, we have to amend our expectations to give them the balance they seek between work and home life. Their contemporaries are making similar money without the hardships of being away from friends and family for days or even weeks at a time.

We can help our drivers with shorter or local runs for those seeking it. And we can find ways to schedule regular downtime back at home to encourage the sort of work/life balance that enhances loyalty and longevity among truck drivers.

  1. Downtime pay.For many truck drivers, the worst part of the job isn’t spent behind the wheel — it’s waiting to get behind the wheel. There are opportunities to ease truck driver frustrations while they wait for their next shift or for their truck to be unloaded. Many companies have expanded downtime pay for truck drivers to ensure they’re happy and engaged wherever they are and whatever they’re doing.
  2. Pre-plan routes and schedules. Uncertainty leads to unintended consequences. Even though many truck drivers enjoy the freedom of being on the open road, they expect to be able to plan for it. That’s why it’s imperative for companies to strategically pre-plan routes and rigs with drivers to keep everything moving.

Truck drivers like to be on the move, making more money working instead of waiting. It seems like a simple concept, but one that can be difficult to pull off if you don’t have the right people and technology in place at the corporate office to effectively plan and allocate resources.

  1. Bring a friend to work. Truck drivers make a lot of concessions and sacrifices, including the amount of time they spend away from friends and family. Fortunately, some companies have realized that they can offer a bit of home companionship for drivers by letting them bring pets along for the ride.

Many drivers have had to concede pet ownership because of their schedules. Others have had to spend money for pet care when they’re working. A pet in the cab of the truck can ease feelings of loneliness and ease concerns on longer hauls. Some companies are expanding policies to include friends, family and other riders to make things easier on today’s drivers seeking balance between work and home.

  1. Open door policy. Every company assigns drivers by a truck number. The best companies and fleet managers call those drivers by their name. It’s a simple concept for dealing with the complex challenge of retaining drivers.

Truck drivers want autonomy, but they also need to know they’re supported by the employer. Create an open-door environment, so your drivers can share their questions, concerns and suggestions. Soon, you’ll realize you have fewer problems and more satisfied drivers.

  1. Family atmosphere. Many trucking companies begin as family-run businesses. So why do so many not feel like it’s still run that way? Or, that the family is inclusive to only a select few?

The more you work with somebody, the more you learn about them — and from them. The more you have invested in their success. Just like you want your friends and family to succeed, you should want the best for your drivers. By treating them like a family member and friend, you can gain their respect, loyalty and confidence. In the cut-throat world of truck driving where turnover rates are escalating exponentially, you can always count on your “friends and family” to stem the tide.

  1. New technology and equipment. We’re all seeking the next generation of truck drivers, so it’s important to remember what we’re up against. Today, people are more technologically savvy. They want information readily available at a moment’s notice. And, they expect automation to make their lives and jobs easier.

Some companies are updating fleets with automatic transmission, stability control, adaptive cruise control, communication systems and more. For example, newer trucks with next-generation integrated systems for cameras, radars, brakes can improve performance and safety for drivers. More data and information is readily available, so you and your drivers can make more informed decisions more quickly.

  1. Benefits package. As our nation faces escalating healthcare costs and the steady beat of inflation hikes, prospective employees are savvier about what kind of benefits package a company can offer. Truck-driving companies have to think about more than base pay, or even bonuses. They have to consider the litany of challenges facing every driver.

Whether it’s healthcare expenses, personal time away from work, retirement planning or other issue, today’s truck drivers expect companies to offer competitive packages— similar to the ones their friends in other industries receive.

  1. Route preference. With the driver shortage, most truck drivers get to pick where they work — and that should include when they’re behind the wheel, too.

It’s important to treat and respect every truck driver as an individual. Give them input in the types of hauls they accept. Some drivers may prefer longer over-the-road trips where they can experience freedom and enjoy the sights and sounds of new cities and regions. Other drivers may want shorter, more regional routes, because they want to spend more time with friends and family. Either way, by working together to ensure they have a voice in the type of work they perform, you’re likely to gain loyalty with that driver moving forward.

Looking for more information on what companies are doing to attract drivers, click here or here.

 

Collins White. President of Logistics. AMX.