Even though truck drivers are essential to U.S. economic stability and growth, they are commonly an under-appreciated group that doesn’t get the respect they deserve. Think what would happen if truck drivers decided not to show up for work. Grocery shelves would be empty, raw materials wouldn’t be supplied to manufacturers, new products wouldn’t be developed, gas stations would have no fuel, and hospitals would be lacking the medical supplies and pharmaceuticals needed to treat patients. These are just a few of the “doomsday” scenarios that would become a reality. Nothing moves without truck drivers. Practically everything we use or consume at some point is transported on a truck.
Keeping Drivers In Tune Keeps Them On Board
As essential as truck drivers are to ensuring life as we know it, trucking companies/fleets have difficulty finding, hiring, and keeping drivers— and it’s nothing new. The driver shortage was first documented in a 2005 report by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and continues to be widespread today. If the current driver shortage conditions continue, by 2026-2028, the U.S. may lack 160,000 truck drivers, which is not good news for supply chain movement.
Finding drivers is hard. Keeping them for the long term is even more challenging. With a trucking company/fleet’s success dependent on driver job satisfaction, fleet managers must do everything in their power to boost satisfaction so qualified drivers stay on board.
To that end, let’s take a look at five common reasons that drivers leave a fleet. Insight into why they leave creates opportunities for improvement and helps fleet managers create a culture where drivers feel appreciated, respected, and want to stay.
1. Not Making Enough Money
Drivers not only expect higher pay but they are also looking for more miles. This is because compensation for truck drivers is based on cents per mile (CPM). The current truck driver shortage is driving higher pay, however, pay alone is not enough to keep drivers on board. Instead, consider a benefits package that offers healthcare — including vision and dental —as well as retirement plans, driver loyalty programs, and a signing bonus to help attract and retain the best talent.
2. Away From Home Too Much
Long days and weeks away from home can be taxing on drivers both mentally and physically. Next to compensation, wanting more time at home was a close second (41%) to why drivers leave, according to a recent survey by HireRight.
When hiring a new driver, know their location. If they live far away from routes, they are likely not going to be as happy on the job as they would if they lived closer. Aim to get drivers home every week or offer week-long reprieves from the road. Then, the odds of retaining drivers become much more favorable.
3. Failure to Communicate
Like all employees, truck drivers want to feel like they are a valued team member whose ideas and opinions are respected. This can be achieved by taking the time to talk with drivers regarding any issues they may have and increasing opportunities for discussion with initiatives such as semi-annual reviews, newsletters, and weekly check-in calls or meetings. In addition, drivers typically communicate with their fleet manager more than any other company employee, so cultivating a respectful relationship with drivers is key to driver retention success.
An open line of communication can also increase driver productivity since drivers who feel appreciated and valued are motivated to work harder. They are also likely to talk positively about their company with other drivers they meet on the road, which is a plus for driver recruitment.
4. Outdated Technology and Vehicles that Don’t Accommodate Everyone
Trucking is not an easy profession. Unhandy equipment and outdated technology make drivers’ jobs even harder. In addition, obsolete technology can hurt driver morale and driver income from delays such as handling paperwork. For example, many drivers have to rely on pen and paper to record critical data points and load information because the mobile technology they’re using is outdated and doesn’t allow them to access and view historical data.
When specifying truck specs, take into consideration women drivers, specifically those specs considered “female-friendly”. These include automatic transmission, adjusted height/placement of cab grab handles, more accessible access to oil and coolant, and adjustable foot pedal height. With women making up only 6.6% of truckers, women are an essential, untapped labor source who are equally as competent behind the wheel as men.
5. Safety Could Be Better
Commercial truck driving is one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S. To help drivers do their job efficiently, they expect their employer to have a culture of safety. Ramping up driving training and coaching, rewarding drivers for their performance, and keeping up with regular vehicle maintenance schedules should be a top priority.
Adopting safety technology such as in-cab cameras and collision mitigation systems should also be considered. They can help drivers instill good habits, lower the number of accidents and their severity, and reduce downtime — all of which boost driver morale, which increases retention.