Why Driver Retention Rates Matter

Trucking companies are often recognized for relatively high employee turnover rates compared to organizations in other industries. There are a number of factors that contribute to driver retention rates, including the economic variables that affect the supply and demand for drivers. Another notable contributor to driver turnover is the extent to which a carrier hires inexperienced drivers. Newly-licensed commercial truck drivers often lack the focus and commitment it takes to be a safe and efficient driver, and are therefore let go within the year.

These factors might be common in the transportation industry, and they don’t necessarily reflect poor management, but employee turnover, or churn, can be kept as low as possible.

More on why retaining talent is critical to the success of a transport company:

First, a golden rule: it costs more to hire a new employee than it does to retain one. A company’s reputation aside, high turnover rates indeed have an effect on the bottom line. Replacing drivers means having to invest in onboarding someone new – something that requires management’s valuable resources. Attracting, screening, and training new employees comes with a considerable cost. Even the keenest of new drivers are bound to make a few more mistakes than existing employees; mistakes that will cost the company, even with insurance.

Second, existing employees are simply more productive than new ones. Seasoned drivers are better at planning their routes, solving problems, and managing time more efficiently. The best drivers at transport companies often are able to jump in and help out warehouse teams and others due to their established working relationships and experience over the years – making every process that much more efficient. New drivers, on the other hand, simply need more time to get used to their new employer before they can be as productive as their veteran colleagues.

Third, new drivers don’t typically have the same relationships with customers. Over the years, drivers and customers build a rapport. This friendly and trusting rapport between the drivers of a transport company and the customers has a positive impact on the company’s overall good relationship with the client. Friendliness and familiarity go a long way in businesses of all kinds.

Finally, high retention rates often make for a healthier work environment and happier employees. Even though truck driving is a solitary job, there is still some camaraderie among drivers who’ve been working at the same company for a long time. Dispatchers, admin support, warehouse teams, and drivers must all work together to varying degrees, and people who’ve worked together for years are typically more effective than those who have to constantly work with strangers. A healthy company culture – the way people work together, share space, and the overall dynamic among employees  – can’t easily be built when people are dropping out in droves.

So, what can transport companies do to retain their truck drivers?

To start, management should look to find the right employee, and not to simply fill the vacancy. Truck driving isn’t for everyone, so if a candidate is new to trucking, it’s important they know what they’re in for. Screen applicants determine if they have the right attitude for the job and the company, not just the right qualifications – skills can be learned, but an attitude can’t always be changed.

Trucking companies must also see employee retention as an ongoing process, not something that simply happens once the driver is hired. Consider holding periodic conversations to find out what’s working for the drivers, and what’s not. It sounds obvious, but listening to grievances and suggestions and then responding to them is something that has a massive impact on employee satisfaction. Show your drivers that you appreciate not only their good work, but their opinions as well!

Companies can also attract potentially long-term talent by asking their existing employees to refer friends, as well as by building a solid online presence that communicates the company’s commitment to a good working environment. Sites like Glassdoor.ca also provide the possibility for employees to leave honest reviews – an opportunity for candidates to get an idea of a company’s strengths and weaknesses.

It’s impossible to eliminate all employee turnover, but transport companies that are committed to retaining their best employees are the ones that understand the value of a great team. Take the time to pinpoint the reasons for driver turnover, and consider putting a plan into action with these insights – take care of your best talent, and they’ll take care of you!