The issue of driver retention is an ongoing challenge in the transportation industry. Not only has it become harder to find qualified drivers, but recruiting, vetting, and training them is more time-consuming and expensive than ever.
According to FreightWaves, the average cost of driver turnover works out to roughly $11,000 per driver. That doesn’t even include an average onboarding cost of up to $9,000 per individual. Considering that over 50% of new drivers will leave a carrier within the first six months, it becomes clear just how important it is to develop a loyal and happy driver workforce.
It’s not just about dollars and cents.
While pay is obviously an important consideration for drivers, it's not the only one. Other factors also play a role in determining turnover, such as a company's culture, focus on safety, and commitment to communication. In this post, we examine a few tactics that can help keep your drivers from looking elsewhere.
Ingrain safety into your company culture.
Beyond the obvious benefit of reducing incidents and injuries, a company’s commitment to safety can have an enormous impact on employee turnover. And not just for drivers. Associates want to feel safe at work – particularly in comparatively high-risk industries like transportation. A safety-first culture makes employees feel as though they’re cared for. It makes them more comfortable on the job. The opposite is also increasingly true – if workers don’t feel as though safety is a priority, they’re not likely to stay long; since 2010, instances of an employee leaving a position due to an unsafe environment have increased by nearly 1,000%.
The fact is that companies with safety-first cultures see higher retention rates. So make it clear that safety is your company's top priority. At the same time, focus on education and coaching to help give employees the tools they need to stay safe. You can also consider linking a driver's safe behavior behind the wheel to the company's overall strength and reputation – to create a feeling of ownership and responsibility among drivers.
It’s no surprise that drivers who feel appreciated and rewarded are less inclined to look elsewhere. In addition to offering competitive pay, consider attaching meaningful incentives to any number of performance-based metrics. Such as:
Recognizing safe miles driven
Recording the number of safe miles a driver logs is a simple way to document rewardable performance. Create a board at work and update it weekly with individuals’ safe miles driven.
Positive customer reviews
There are several metrics by which customers might rate a driver in a review, including punctuality, safety, communication, attitude, and more. By rewarding well-reviewed drivers, you reinforce the importance of certain behaviors across your entire team.
Establishing a rewards program gives drivers a tangible benefit for good performance. At Averitt, we make a point to thank our team for their hard work through our Red Thinkin’ Rewards program. Associates can earn Red Thinkin' Rewards points for the things they do every day; achieving a safety milestone, meeting key performance indicator (KPI) goals, or celebrating a work anniversary. They can then redeem these points for everything from vacation packages to electronics, jewelry, and more.
Offer competitive benefits packages.
Offering competitive pay is only the beginning. To keep drivers happy, it’s important to think long-term. That means providing the kind of incentives that matter to them. By offering a benefits package that aligns with their lifestyle needs, you reinforce the message that they’re a valuable part of the team.
Health and dental insurance
Truck driving comes with a unique set of physical demands – whether from extended sitting, lifting, or simply working irregular hours. All these factors can impact a driver's health – a fact they understand quite well. So a comprehensive health insurance package is an attractive and important perk when it comes to retaining drivers.
Having a formalized system that allows them to set aside retirement savings is another attractive policy to drivers. Whether you choose a defined contribution plan like a 401(k) or a Traditional or Roth IRA, helping drivers prepare for their post-career life can help build loyalty. At Averitt, we set up a retirement account for every associate to help them plan for their future.
Whether they take the form of paid time off, gym memberships, discount programs, or other amenities, benefits that show how much you value a driver’s work-life balance can go a long way toward keeping them happy.
Implementing a successful profit sharing program is an excellent demonstration of how much you value the people throughout your organization – drivers included. At Averitt, our associates are enrolled in a company-wide profit sharing plan that makes monthly deposits into their retirement accounts. This helps remind associates about the role they each play in the overall success of the company – by avoiding accidents and injuries, reducing costs, and eliminating waste, they get to share in both the effort and the reward.
Keeping lines of communication open.
Communication is an invaluable tool in maintaining driver retention. When employees know their thoughts and suggestions will be heard and valued, they feel more like an appreciated member of an organization instead of a cog in a machine. A driver council can be invaluable in creating these open lines of communication. Not only do they create a sounding board for driver-related issues, but they can also lead to company-wide policy improvements.
At Averitt, we have a diverse, rotating council of 16 drivers that provides representation for our fleet. Our drivers know that they’re free to ask questions and express their concerns with these council members and that their thoughts will be taken seriously. Over the years, our council has helped steer us through matters large and small – tackling everything from compensation to amenities and uniforms – providing another visible example of how much we value our drivers.
There’s no single fix.
Drivers are the backbone of any transportation company. And the cost of losing a driver is far higher than the investment to retain them. Money alone isn't enough – drivers want to know they are heard and valued. By taking the time and effort to ensure you're communicating openly, and by providing the kind of perks and amenities that show you appreciate the unique demands of their job, you can help ensure that once a driver does sign on, they’ll remain for the long haul.