Limiting Truck Driver Turnover

April 2019

Uptime is critical to any business’ success. That’s why finding and retaining reliable drivers is a key focus of today’s trucking industry. Recent trends indicate that large fleets are failing to retain drivers at sustainable rates. The American Trucking Association underscored the dilemma in 2018, stating that, “The annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers – fleets with more than $30 million in annual revenue – jumped six points to 94% in quarter one.” They further noted that the trend continued to rise in quarter two.

Why should this matter? It doesn’t unless you want your business to make money. Industry experts peg the average cost of truck driver turnover at $11,500 per driver, which includes lost revenue due to a truck sitting idle plus the cost of recruitment and the training of a replacement driver. With turnover rates on the rise, what can be done to break the cycle and staunch the associated flood of lost revenue?

To stabilize the problem, one must first fully understand the underlying facets. Fleets around the world are hunting for strategies to keep drivers from fleeing to their competitors. We take a look at exactly what factors are driving this trend and how companies can manage the threat.

Why are so many truck drivers playing the field?

A survey conducted by Driver iQ pinpointed the top causes of driver turnover:

  1. Total Compensation
  2. Time Away From Home
  3. Lack of Communications
  4. Unpredictability of Paycheck Each Week
  5. Issues Resolving Problems

On the surface, the solution seems simple: solve these issues, and the problem goes away. But it’s not that easy, especially when we look at compensation.

Total Compensation

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, truck driver wages have not kept pace with inflation for decades. The Bureau’s study used driver income data from 1980 as a starting point and adjusted it for inflation to today’s rates. If augmented accordingly, they argue, rates would now be $111,000 per year, a level far above today’s average salary.

Unfortunately, such an enormous one-time increase in every driver’s annual income could be devastating to the trucking industry. A more modest, gradual approach can be assumed to allow freight rates to acclimate to corresponding consumer prices.

The effects of raised compensation have already shown to counteract driver turnover. While turnover rates rose in the first two quarters of 2018, they dropped 11 points for the third quarter. Raising compensation was a direct response to an industry-wide salary increase in an effort to retain drivers.

Total Compensation packages may also include:

  • Health care benefits
  • 401K plans
  • Paid deadhead miles
  • Paid detention time, layovers and drops
  • Incentive bonuses for such things as safety, productivity, fuel savings, on-time deliveries, referring drivers
  • Meaningful vacation time

Home Time

While being on the road for long stretches of time is essential to a career in trucking, balance can be found for drivers seeking home time too.

Research has shown that truck drivers are better able to maintain a home life when the company offers clear communication and expectations from day one and special allowances when more home time is needed.

Communication

Truck drivers are your lifeline to business success. They feel respected and more willing to stay when communication is prioritized.

The following tips can increase communication levels.

  • Maintain open lines of communication with all your drivers
  • Make sure they know and understand their job description expectations
  • Inform and advise rather than command
  • Applaud successes big and small
  • Ask for their feedback

Unpredictability of Paycheck

This is a hardship for drivers when they never know how much money to plan for. When paid by the mile and never getting the same amount of miles each week as with Open Board dispatch it may cause feelings of being mistreated.

Some suggestions are:

  • Putting drivers on regular runs each week.
  • Trying to distribute miles as equitably as possible.
  • Some fleets offer guaranteed minimum weekly miles.
  • Some fleets offer a weekly salary.

Resolving Problems

When a driver is on the road, few things fester more in his or her mind than an unresolved issue. It just won’t go away, and it grows until it can affect the ability to drive safely.

It can also cause unhealthy stress until suddenly the grass looks greener and you lose a driver.
Let your drivers know that you care about them by working with them to solve their problems promptly.