CEO and founder of HNI, Mike Natalizio, has developed and improved risk management solutions for transportation companies and organizations since 1985. Natalizio is the founder of The Risk Clarity Formula™, a tool used by HNI to help their customers identify risk susceptibility, create and help implement the solutions to these risks in order for executives to grow their business, expand their wealth, and reach their goals for the future.
Transportation companies who have controlled their driver turnover (one of the biggest wicked problems in the industry) recognize that closing the back door is as important as opening the front door. If you are going to be successful in retaining drivers, then you need to understand the reasons drivers are leaving their jobs, both at your company and at your competitors’ companies.
The usual excuses when a driverquits
Drivers know why they leave a job, but they might not come out and tell you. Let’s consider the usual reasons cited or suspected when there is high driver turnover.
Pay is bait. Without a competitive pay package you will not attract drivers, but pay is rarely the primary reason a driver leaves. In fact, once a driver starts working for you, there is a good chance that he or she never looks at their pay check. Most have their checks direct deposited and don’t look at the actual amount (they just know if it is or isn’t enough to cover their bills.)
When this is brought up, is it really miles or is it proper use of the driver’s time? When a driver says “I’m not getting enough miles” what is he/she really saying? Most companies adjust pay to miles. If they haul more short haul freight, they will pay more per mile and more for stops, whereas if their freight is more long haul the mileage /stop rates will be lower. Is it lack of miles or downtime that is the actual issue when a driver says he / she is not getting enough miles?
Usually an over the road driver is not happy working short haul and vice versa. The issue with home time more often than not is just whether the driver receives what you promised they would receive when you recruited them. What does “you’ll be home weekly mean?” Is there agreement about this?
Equipment is important, however, most carriers have good equipment. This isn’t a common reason drivers cite for leaving a company.
The real reasons behind driver turnover
Although the above list of reasons may be what drivers claim as their reasons for quitting, we’ve found that these are rarely the most important issues. We've found there are three major reasons for driver turnover:
1. They don’t have the have the skills or training to do the job
If you don’t have the knowledge you need to do a job, you’re obviously not going to be able to perform it correctly and efficiently. Drivers with insufficient skills and training will perform poorly and most likely react negatively to the job.
How well do you educate, train, and retrain drivers? This is where things like orientation, employee meeting, and one-on-one performance evaluations come in. Giving the driver the training they need to succeed at the job is essential to their job satisfaction. Implementing a driver scorecard or another performance management tool can be helpful in calling out areas for improvement for individual drivers.
While some companies may hesitate to do this for fear that the drivers will leave anyway and take those valuable skills elsewhere, the risk of them leaving if you don’t train them to do their job well is even greater.
2. They don’t feel good about their job
Psychologically all of us as humans need to feels a sense of personal accomplishment, learning, and self improvement – but oftentimes the only time companies give feedback to their drivers is when they have something negative to say. Spending time giving positive and focused feedback is essential. Small things like giving public recognition for milestones can mean a lot to drivers.
Above all, make sure everyone in the company respects and appreciates the vital function that drivers perform. This goes beyond lip service and relates to the way every single person in the company interacts with your drivers.
3. They feel stuck with nowhere to advance
According to the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, 83% of drivers indicated that career advancement was “somewhat” to “very important” to them…but 54% of drivers perceived opportunities of advancement in their company as “poor” or “very poor.”
Drivers need to have the opportunity to “move up” in an organization. This could be advancement within the fleet, into the office or owning their own unit. If this is not available in their current job, then there is no motivation to stay.
By addressing these three issues, you can begin to reduce driver turnover. And by retaining more drivers, recruiting them becomes much easier.