Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) retention coach Ray Haight offered insights Feb. 17 on why drivers choose to work for a carrier, and why they leave.
It starts at the top, he pointed out, asking if business owners are “bosses” or “leaders.” A leader will empower others to make decisions and affect change within the company, where a boss feels the need to control all aspects of the busines.
“Leaders create leaders,” Haight said. “A boss will have a much tougher time curtailing driver turnover.”
Haight described five reasons drivers choose to work for a particular trucking company and why they may also decide to leave.
Often, said Haight, fleets feel drivers leave because of inadequate pay. But in a tight margin business, higher rates are not always feasible. But Haight said the rate per mile is rarely the reason drivers leave.
When you pull back the curtain, he said, drivers rarely leave because of the rate per mile. Instead, it’s because they aren’t getting enough miles or their time is being wasted due to poor load planning or excessive detention time by shippers and receivers. These are issues that can be addressed without increasing the rate per mile.
Seasoned drivers, meanwhile, may leave because they are being paid the exact same rate as an inexperienced new hire. Haight encouraged fleets to find ways to reward those longer tenured drivers.
Promote your safety record
Drivers want to work for a safe company, Haight said, but few fleets use their excellent safety ratings as a recruitment and retention tool.
“You can’t go buy a good safety record,” he said. “You have to earn it. If you have a decent safety record, flaunt it.”
He said compensation and safety are a fleet’s 1-2 punch combination when attracting and keeping talent. He cited Bison Transport as a company that has effectively parlayed its safety record into a brand.
He also remembered his time managing a fleet that had won several safety awards. It ran ads, not to recruit, but to promote those achievements. Drivers began calling to see if they were hiring.
“It was the best recruiting ad we had all year,” he said. “People want to work for safe companies.”
Get into the home
Carriers should find ways to include drivers’ families in the business. This could mean hosting coloring contests for kids, or offering tuition reimbursement programs or scholarships. He said one company he works with not only rewards the driver of the month, but also sends flowers to their spouse.
Fleets should also work with drivers to ensure they succeed. This could mean working out a budget with them and their spouse, so they know how much they need to earn to cover mortgage and car payments, and other living expenses.
“Create a success plan,” he said. “Do they have an aspiration to own a house? Let’s make a provision for that. They have a picture of success in their mind – what does that look like?”
One carrier Haight works with will call a driver anytime they miss their monthly mileage targets. Sometimes its as simple as having taken a few days off, but the fleet wants to ensure it wasn’t the cause of the earnings shortfall.
“Drivers sure appreciate the phone call,” Haight said.
Simple recognition of a job well done will go a long way to keeping drivers happy, Haight said.
“Drivers are not used to getting that. You’ll shock them,” he said. “These are small things but they’re very important. We need to recognize our people and we need to do it genuinely. So much good stuff is going on in your business, pay attention to those things and put them out through your communication channels.”
There are three types of drivers, Haight said. The “truck stop cowboys” who drive fast, have way too many chicken lights and love the image of the trucker. Then there are those he describes as “lost and forlorn” – drivers who just happened into the gig and are riding it out while they decide what their true calling is.
Then there is the “professional driver.” Those are who you want to seek out and support, Haight said.
“If we believe we want professional drivers, what do we do to support them?”
He said they need to be given opportunities. Ensure company job postings outside driving are shared with them and they’re encouraged to apply. Support them if they want to further their education. Building a fleet of professional drivers will attract other professionals, he added.
“Professionals want to be around professionals. The good ones want to be around other good ones,” he said of drivers.
Basically, he added, drivers, like all people, stay in situations they like and leave those they don’t.
“You don’t do it by telling a driver to pick up at A, deliver to B, and come back and do it again. You have to offer more,” he said.