The truck driver shortage is one of the biggest challenges the U.S. trucking industry currently faces. Looking ahead to the future, it’s going to get even more challenging. According to the American Trucking Association, the April 2021 shortage of 63,000 will climb well over 100,000 by 2022 and close to 180,000 by 2026.
The message is clear for fleet managers and owners: retaining top drivers is key to maintaining productivity, profitability, and competitive advantage. One way to accomplish that is by creating an effective retention strategy that engages your drivers.
Keeping Your Top Drivers for the Long Haul
There are numerous reasons for drivers leaving or not entering the market. These include the potential impact of the ELD mandate, the potential impact of regulations on lowering driver compensation, fewer millennials choosing truck driving as an occupation, and not as many people willing to take on the challenges associated with an “on the road” lifestyle.
Considering these reasons, plus rising freight demand and consumers increasingly purchasing goods online, it’s obvious why the driver need will continue to grow. Finding qualified drivers is hard. Keeping qualified drivers is even more challenging. Plus, recruiting drivers is more expensive than retaining drivers, with average hiring costs exceeding $8,000 per hire. So it’s more important than ever to keep your top drivers for as long as you can.
A retention strategy that engages drivers will help you in many ways. It will not only keep your top drivers, but it will also help you save on hiring costs and drive profitability with drivers who are enthusiastic about their work and willing to work harder to ensure your company’s success.
Improved retention doesn’t take a magic formula. Implement simple steps that motivate drivers to be the best that they can be — every day. Let’s look at three.
1. Reward a Job Well Done
Drivers who feel appreciated and are rewarded for job performance are more likely to stay on board. Setting metrics and offering incentives when they are met, such as money or gift cards, is how you can accomplish that.
To motivate and incentivize drivers, tie their performance to data-driven measures, such as safe miles driven, positive customer reviews, collision-free month, and coaching effectiveness scores. Another strategy is to reward drivers for improving unsafe habits, including idling, speeding, and following too closely.
Rewarding drivers lets them know that you notice and appreciate their efforts. It gives them a reason to perform better, which improves driver retention and improves safety by promoting and recognizing safe driving practices.
2. Get Feedback
Like any employee, drivers want their voice heard and to feel valued. To that end, establish clear communication channels for drivers to share their ideas and feedback, such as regular meetings with managers, company-wide emails, monthly coaching sessions, and anonymous surveys.
Show your drivers how you are applying their feedback and the impact they have made on your operations. When you engage drivers as partners in problem-solving, it helps them feel like they are a valued team member and an active contributor who is essential in helping you meet company goals.
Getting and responding to regular feedback from your drivers helps you identify issues and address them before they reach a breaking point. In addition, by showing drivers their opinions and experiences matter, they are much less likely to hit the road for another company.
3. Embrace Technology
With new rules and regulations such as the ELD mandate, drivers are required to keep closer tabs on their hours, more than ever before. Providing technology to make tracking hours of service more manageable and daily routines safer is an intelligent investment in keeping drivers engaged.
Fleet tracking/GPS software is worth considering for driver engagement. Smarter routing and scheduling means more efficient and safer trips. It also leads to drivers going home sooner and more often, leading to greater job satisfaction and happier drivers.
Technology can also help drivers feel that you have their back and that they are supported. For example, with in-cab video and alerts, drivers can improve their driving skills through coaching sessions, which cultivates the driver-coach relationship and builds trust on both sides.