Younger truck driver Photo: Aaron Marsh

Early engagement, certain interactions could be key factors in driver retention: Study

How well a trucking company or fleet manages the onboarding process and some specific employee interactions that truck drivers have may be important factors in whether those drivers will quit and work elsewhere, according to a study from an employee feedback and training solutions provider.

Stay Metrics looked at its data from employee surveys that have included 62,000 drivers at more than 100 trucking companies. The company compared the data with a model of employee turnover drawn from research.

More than seven out of 10 drivers who leave a company will do so in their first year of employment, Stay Metrics finds. And more than a third—35%—of drivers who quit will make that decision in the first three months.

That was a sharper exit than a four-month critical turnover period than the research model suggested, Stay Metrics noted.

High rates of driver turnover may be leading trucking companies to breeze through the hiring process, since they're looking to bring on new employees faster. But recruiting the right people and giving them the appropriate information from the start could help keep drivers happy and reduce their likelihood of leaving, according to Tim Hindes, CEO and a co-founder of Stay Metrics.

The study debunked some common assumptions. While some may think millennials are more likely to bounce from job to job, for instance, Stay Metrics determined that millennials are no more likely to leave during their first year than Baby Boomers are.

But experience, on the other hand, does show a correlation. Drivers with at least one year of experience are likelier to leave within that first year of employment, according to Stay Metrics. Perhaps they have a clearer idea of the job and what they expect from it, and can tell if their experience at the company is falling short.

Even so, once those more experienced drivers reach the one-year mark with the company, they're more likely to stay on than new drivers are, according to the study.

The most significant finding is that a driver's relationship and interaction with his or her recruiter and dispatcher are key indicators of whether the driver will quit or not. That is, if a driver is grumbling about or neglected by those fleet employees, the company stands a better chance of losing that driver.

The Stay Metrics study suggests that better communication between the driver and the recruiter and dispatcher "is a fix, but not the cure." "High-quality recruiter/ dispatcher communication reduces early-stage turnover," the study authors wrote.

Being more deliberate in your hiring process and using employee feedback surveys such as those that Stay Metrics provides can be a help, according to the study.

"The report highlights the value of recruiting with driver retention in mind and using survey data at critical periods of the employment lifecycle to reduce driver turnover," Hindes noted. "Carriers can use this data to understand the importance of good relationships between drivers and their recruiters and dispatchers."

That said, the fleet or trucking company's objective shouldn't necessarily be to be the "nice guy" with new driver employees. Hindes noted that it's more important to communicate the company's expectations of drivers truthfully and precisely—and what they in turn can expect from the company.

"Carriers that are good at communicating exactly what a driver's experience will be like gain a reputation for 'truth-telling,'" Hindes said. He emphasized that relationships are essential and suggested getting a driver mentoring program in place.

"If the carrier can successfully use this data [from employee feedback] and an evidence-based engagement program to create a driver-centric culture, it will create magnetism," Hindes contended.

 

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