When it comes to the driver shortage, retention trumps recruitment by far. That's the contention put forth in the latest white paper penned by Duff Swain, president of Columbus, OH-based Trincon Group, a consulting firm that specializes in long-haul trucking.
Titled “Driver Retention: Before They Can Sail, Companies Must Stop the Leaks,” the paper lays out just what fleets need to do to stop the hemorrhaging of their driver ranks.
“There's a hole in our collective boat and we're doing little more than bailing,” writes Swain. “The trucking industry continues to fight record turnover rates, leaving companies scrambling to cover lost productivity while they recruit and re-train new drivers as fast as they leave. For larger carriers, it has become a revolving door effect.”
Swain contends the major reason there is a driver shortage is because “the industry has not defined a long-term solution or strategy to solve the problem, forcing individual companies to find their own solutions based on available resources. Those companies that find solutions will be the winners. Those that don't will fail or go out of business.”
He argues forcefully that driver retention is the real issue. “The industry has proven that it can recruit. Sadly, it has been recruiting and supporting a 100% or more annualized turnover rate for years. Clearly, the issue is keeping the drivers we recruit.”
That doesn't mean it's an easy task. Swain views recruitment as a multipart process. “Ideally, “he says, “it begins with recruitment and moves forward through qualifying, screening and orienting a new employee, followed by a transition into the job, period reviews, accountability and recognition.”
He says the fleets that have changed these elements, even if part by part rather than in a wholesale move, are those that have indeed achieved low driver turnover by industry standards.
“It is not impossible to find companies with 35 to 50% turnover compared to industry averages of around 100%,” Swain argues. “It's no secret that small companies often boast of remarkably low turnover rates because of their ability to establish personal relationships with drivers.
“The drivers feel like they are an important part of the team even though there is no formal retention process in place,” he continues. “Unfortunately, many of these same companies lose touch with their drivers as their fleets grow, which usually signals an increase in turnover.”
But, Swain states, this doesn't have to happen. “All companies — small, medium and large — can institute sound programs and human resource processes that can grow with the company.
“High-quality employees in any job environment are concerned about their future,” Swain points out. “Quality drivers are no different. Change, however, must start with the company and not the employee. Employees follow the moves or environment that exists within a company. It is important to consider the driver position as a highly paid role that requires a high quality applicant.
“This may constitute a radical change in mindset with many companies,” he continues. “…The fact is quality people are available, but they have become conditioned to be treated the same as poor quality people who are not given a chance to demonstrate their competence and reliability.”
Swain goes on to explain the reasons top-notch drivers leave and, most important of all, to detail what exactly may be done to staunch the flow — fleet by fleet.
To read Swain's entire paper, go to his firm's website, www.trincongroup.com.