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Reaching for driver retention solutions

Nov. 17, 2016
The trucking industry has a lot of obstacles to overcome when it comes to retaining drivers. An aging workforce, low pay for demanding jobs, and inconsistent training are just a few. Leah Shaver, chief operating officer for The National Transportation Institute (NTI), explained regulations are another big problem for the industry. Shaver shared research from NTI during Fleet Owner’s Nov. 16 webinar on improving driver retention.

The trucking industry has a lot of obstacles to overcome when it comes to retaining drivers. An aging workforce, low pay for demanding jobs, and inconsistent training are just a few.

Leah Shaver, chief operating officer for The National Transportation Institute (NTI), explained regulations are another big problem for the industry. Shaver shared research from NTI during Fleet Owner’s Nov. 16 webinar on improving driver retention.

“Regulatory drag will further reduce existing [driver] capacity,” Shaver explained. “We believe regulation is going to push us to a breaking point in the not so distant future.”

Some regulations drivers have cited as top problem areas are electronic logging devices (ELDs), speed limiters, hair testing, and certain health guidelines. Shaver said ELDs could end up affecting capacity up to 5%, but it is still too early to tell, and she noted speed limiters could also affect capacity up to another 3-5%.

“Total regulatory drag in an already overly regulated industry could affect driver capacity by up to 18%,” Shaver added.

When it comes to pay, Shaver noted it’s important for a carrier to understand where pay changes need to be put – whether they are national, regional or even down to city levels. She also explained the industry isn’t doing enough to adapt to the changing workforce and appealing to millennials.

“Drivers wants and needs are simple and clear: miles (downtime), money (guaranteed), home time (consistent/expected), respect (empathy),” she said. “These are core values that need to be employed in your company every day.”

Here are some of Shaver’s suggestions:

  • Understand company culture and recruit appropriately
  • Identify ambassadors and support groups, such as Women In Trucking
  • Offer transition training to non-traditional recruits and conduct exit interview to identify a disconnect between expectation of the job and the actual result.
  • Lead with your best – start all drivers with a dispatcher that fits this profile: strong, flexible communicator, fast, tech savvy. Have this person dispatch for two weeks. Weed out senior drivers and reassign quickly, retrain when needed. Keep fleets at manageable size to allow for coaching.
  • Manage turnover – “If we see we add value, we will want to stay,” Shaver explains. “Traditional job progression in a nontraditional environment is so important. There are ways that you could provide recognition beyond the million mile driver. What other recognition are you doing? How are you letting the driver progress?”
  • Military apprenticeship opportunities
  • Train spouses for free/train kids for low cost/free
  • Amp up referral program and bonus
  • Understand what turnover costs.
  • Improve industry image
  • Focus on driver wellness

Rob Hatchett is the vice president of marketing and recruiting at Covenant Transportation Group (CTG). He said one way the company has connected to its drivers is through a retention person, who has become the person focused on making drivers feel at home and connected.

The main thing, according to Hatchett, is to keep an open line of communication. CTG regularly communicates with its drivers via satellite messages, email, text, a phone tree with messages from the chief operating officer, and videos such as the one that will go out next week that thanks drivers and their families for their service on Thanksgiving.

“All these cost us nothing, it’s basically just the man hours,” Hatchett noted. “They need to hear it from management and the owner, not just their fleet manager all the time. The more people stay connected, the more they stay.”

CTG has also developed a mobile app to help drivers communicate and do their jobs more efficiently. Doug Schrier, vice president of continuous improvement at CTG, said the mobile app provides drivers the following:

  • Video of the week and other training videos
  • Two-way communications with their fleet manager
  • Seeing all load, maintenance, HOS, expirations and pay information
  • Providing fueling locations, trailers location and other POI’s
  • Providing interactive tools for payroll, HOS, team matching, Driver Referral etc.  
  • Document scanning and index
  • Scorecarding

“We’re providing practical tools that make their life easier,” Schrier said. “They have a really tough job out there on the road.”

Access to the full webinar, sponsored by Geotab, is now available.

About the Author

Cristina Commendatore

Cristina Commendatore was previously the Editor-in-chief of FleetOwner magazine. She reported on the transportation industry since 2015, covering topics such as business operational challenges, driver and technician shortages, truck safety, and new vehicle technologies. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut.

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