Independence and respect – they’re among the top retention factors that keep drivers loyal to their fleets. At least that’s what an EpicVue survey found.
EpicVue, which provides in-cab satellite TV packaged for the trucking industry, interviewed 270 truck drivers at truck stops in the greater Salt Lake City, UT, area to find out what leads to loyalty. Drivers ranged in age from their early 20s to over 50, had an average tenure with a company of 5.73 years and on average spent 2.61 weeks away from home at a time.
The company’s CEO Lance Platt conducted the survey after the American Trucking Assns. asked him to speak at this year’s Management Conference & Exhibition (MCE). Platt, who has a Ph.D. in business organization and management, said he felt compelled to research driver loyalty for his seminar.
“There’s not a fleet out there today that can’t tell you what they’re driver turnover is,” Platt told Fleet Owner. “But when I asked everyone in the room at MCE to tell me what their driver retention was, no one could really answer that.”
EpicVue’s study began by asking fleets what percentage of their drivers have been with them under a year, 1-5 years, 5-10 years, and over 10 years. The company looked at driver satisfaction by asking drivers how much they trust the company, whether they feel the company cares about their opinions, whether they feel the company communicates honestly, and if they would refer a friend to the company.
The findings indicate that 26% of what drivers enjoy most about their job is independence, Platt said. He added that 37% cited a respectful, friendly, understanding and kind environment as a key retention factor. In terms of practices that create loyalty, one third, or 25%, cited companies that listen to suggestions, followed by incentives and benefits.
“The survey results provide a picture of how comfortable drivers feel at a company, which reflects how much they feel they’re respected and valued by the organization,” Platt said. “Every fleet claims they treat drivers like family and have great relationships as a result, but the answers to these questions often tell a different story.”
For this project, Platt coordinated with Mark Murrell, vice president of sales and marketing for Carriers Edge, which partners with the Truckload Carriers Association to conduct the annual Best Fleets to Drive For Survey and Contest.
What makes fleets successful
Based on the Best Fleets program, Murrell pulled data for what he noticed that stands out about the fleets that successfully retain their drivers. The number one factor he’s seen – make drivers feel like they’re part of something.
“This could be particularly difficult in transportation because drivers are so disconnected from the office,” Murrell explained, noting most communicate via satellite. “Companies that have success have been able to bridge that difference and make drivers feel like part of the team.”
“When we share all the data from the program, we talk about drivers being treated like family – being a name, not a number,” he added.
Murrell said the fleets who have the highest overall satisfaction rates and long-term employees excel at making their drivers feel like they have some autonomy and that their opinions matter. He mentioned Motor Carrier Service based in Ohio as one of those fleets.
MCS, he said, puts together a driver scorecard, but first asks drivers for input before releasing its finalized version. As the company goes through its annual renewals, he added, managers work with drivers to continue to revise and improve on things that are or aren’t working within the company.
Another fleet that’s successful at retaining its drivers is Washington-based Interstate Distributor, Murrell said. The company reports that 55% of its drivers have been employed for more than five years. Murrell noted that it’s because the company focuses a great deal on ethics and leadership training so there is consistency throughout the entire organization.
Fremont Contract Carriers in Nebraska, Murrell said, has taken on a different approach. The company surveys its drivers multiple times a year to collect ideas and also implements its drivers’ ideas.
“They just keep getting better and better,” Murrell said of FCC. “They’re one of the few fleets that has won our award multiple times.”
Another fleet Murrell has worked with did something as simple as provide its drivers with company emails.
“They often don’t know why they’re great,” Murrell explained. “They say, ‘We treat our drivers with respect and like they’re a name, not a number.’ They’ve done these things for years, and it doesn’t really occur to them that it’s unheard of other places in the industry.”