Photo: Joint Base Charleston
Truck Drivers Joint Base Charleston

Secrets to curbing driver turnover

April 30, 2020
What leads to driver turnover and what Best Fleets to Drive For are doing to address the issue.

Problem. Solution.

The problem is driver turnover. And, as a problem, it’s very complex since there are a lot of factors that go into determining “true” driver turnover. In my last column, I showcased many of the factors that go into determining driver turnover.

So, what’s the solution? How do you get your driver turnover rate below the industry average of close to 100% in the large truckload segment and about 75% for smaller carriers? My suggestion: follow the bouncing ball in all areas of why, and when, a driver leaves.

Here’s why. Over the course of the Best Fleets program, year-after-year, we see top performers identify what appears to drive turnover within their fleet and use it as an opportunity to improve company culture or specific programs to improve retention.

Driver turnover tends to be at its peak within the first 90 days of when a driver is hired. Even more so within the first 30 days. More often than not, we find that it has more to do with who the fleet is hiring, rather than a sign of bad company culture.

If a company has a broken hiring process and employs people who soon realize they aren’t happy with the job or it wasn’t what they expected, they likely won’t stick around long. There will always be a few people who slip through the screening process, to then turn around and quit, but if it becomes a trend, something needs to change.

Over the years, we’ve seen Best Fleets address this by improving communication across different departments so that everyone is on the same page on what the company needs from its drivers. From operations, safety, to recruiting, we’ve seen these departments work together to develop job descriptions and refine the screening process, so that recruiters have a better idea on which candidates to target.

We’ve noticed a number of Best Fleets create profiles, listing characteristics of successful drivers to assist recruiters in their efforts to find strong applicants. By improving the hiring process, we’ve seen many fleets reduce their turnover rate during the first month.

So, what about those drivers who’ve made it through the first month, but shortly thereafter, decide to throw in the towel? From what we’ve seen, that’s typically a sign that a fleet’s onboarding process may need to be improved.

Issues regarding how fleets go about onboarding drivers happen for a number of reasons, but we’ve seen commonalities in how fleets address those issues. During a driver’s first 90 days with a company, they’re interacting with different parts of the business and corporate community. Those interactions help shape their perception of the company and their prospects for a future there. If those interactions aren’t good ones, or if the company isn’t making a concerted effort to bring drivers into their culture, drivers will stay detached and may drift back to a previous employer or find greener grass elsewhere.

We’ve seen Best Fleets put in substantial effort towards their post-orientation activities and regularly check up with new drivers to make sure everything is going fine. When all departments are engaged with drivers to answer questions, help them adjust and get ‘up to speed,’ the more likely they are to feel comfortable with the company.

To go a step further, we’ve seen executives of fleets get involved with outreach as well. By engaging with drivers and building relationships right off the bat, top level managers can leave a lasting impact that supports the company’s efforts in maintaining a culture where drivers want to be.

The first 90 days of a driver’s employment with a company are the most crucial, as we see turnover after that timeframe drop substantially. That being said, fleets who have their recruiting and onboarding process in check will still see some turnover.

Sometimes drivers will leave for reasons as simple as a change in lifestyle. For example, if a driver has kids and takes a local delivery job that will allow them to be at home more, they’re leaving the over-the-road segment all together. That’s not a knock on the company or programs in place.

The turnover we’ve seen through the Best Fleets program that fleets can address typically pertains to how drivers value the work they’re doing. Oftentimes, we find drivers will leave for new opportunities if they’re bored with their route, feel they have lack of opportunity for growth within the company or are frustrated with a specific mix of shippers and lanes they deal with.  

Large fleets tend to have an easier time finding solutions for a driver that becomes “bored” because they often have more divisions to place drivers in to “break things up.” The change of scenery, freight they’re hauling, and possible different truck they may drive can go a long way for boosting driver moral.

We’ve also seen many Best Fleets, large and small, transition drivers into roles that get them more heavily involved with the business. Some examples include creating shipper scorecards and rating systems for drivers to use so they can provide feedback on the experience. If a driver finds a shipper to be especially difficult to work with, a change may be in order and accommodated. Additionally, we’ve seen drivers give input on their experience with truck stops and fueling locations which can be used when updating company policies.

The fleets that understand that experienced drivers are more valuable to the company than simply delivering freight are the ones that typically have an easier time retaining veteran drivers. Fleets that use their drivers’ industry knowledge to mentor other drivers or provide input to the company to improve operations, maximize the value of their drivers. Not only that, but drivers feel a greater sense of self-worth with the company. It’s a win-win and it’s no secret that Best Fleets have been getting the most out of their drivers for a while now.

Ultimately, finding solutions that enhance company culture is something that requires company-wide buy-in. Building the kind of collaborative, continuously improving culture that keeps drivers engaged isn’t something that can be executed solely by mid-level management. It needs full support by the executive team.

Bottom line: There will always be turnover, but by identifying and hiring drivers that will likely be a good fit for the company, combined with creating a culture where your drivers want to work for you, is your way to see improvements in your retention numbers. 

About the Author

Mark Murrell

Mark Murrell is president of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry. 

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of FleetOwner, create an account today!

Sponsored Recommendations

Report: The 2024 State of Heavy-Duty Repair

From capitalizing on the latest revenue trends to implementing strategic financial planning—this report serves as a roadmap for navigating the challenges and opportunities of ...

Fleet Industry Benchmarks: How does your fleet stack up?

Discover how your fleet compares to industry benchmarks and gain insights from a 2024 Benchmarking Report on maintenance spend, turnaround time, and more. Join us to identify ...

Build a Tolling Program to Manage Toll Fees and Risks

Fleets looking to effectively manage their operational costs should consider their tolling costs. Download the PrePass whitepaper, “Build a Tolling Program to Manage Toll Fees...

Reducing CSA Violations & Increasing Safety With Advanced Trailer Telematics

Keep the roads safer with advanced trailer telematics. In this whitepaper, see how you can gain insights that lead to increased safety and reduced roadside incidents—keeping drivers...