5 Driver Retention Strategies & Program Ideas
It is no question we are living in turbulent times - an age of uncertainty and economic instability that is challenging the workforce in general in unexpected ways. when it comes to fleet operations, recruiting great drivers is tough. These days, retaining them is even harder. With an annual driver turnover of nearly 100 percent a shortage of truck drivers, and the COVID-19 outbreak, companies in the trucking industry are scrambling to keep their fleets moving.
What Does Driver Retention Mean?
So, let's start with the basics. What exactly is driver retention in trucking? Simply put, truck driver retention means keeping drivers happy enough to stay with a company long term. Just like any of your other employees, drivers need a safe and fulfilling work environment for them to stay with your company.
Many commercial drivers change employers for better compensation, perks, or hours. But beyond continuously raising wages, how can carriers retain top drivers?
Employee engagement is the answer. Engaged drivers are better, safer employees - and more likely to stick around. Gallup cites 25 percent lower turnover among engaged employees, with a 70 percent decrease in employee safety incidents among highly engaged departments.
What Are Driver Retention Programs?
The best way to engage drivers is with thoughtful and rewarding driver retention programs. These programs should be specifically designed to incentivize and reward employees, and most importantly, keep true to promises. The last thing you want to do is 'bait and switch' drivers, whether intentionally or unintentionally, by promising the world only to fall short of ex[ectations.
Those that are able to implement rock solid driver retention programs will reap the rewards of a happier, motivated, and product fleet. With that in mind, here are five driver retention ideas to keep them moving your fleet.
5 Strategies for How to Retain Drivers
1. Connect safety with culture to boost driver retention
Building a safety culture that engages drivers on their daily routes is a great place to start your driver retention program. Emphasize how their actions matter. Make it clear that safety is your top priority, and invest in compliance and coaching rather than paying regulatory fines. Connecting the dots between drivers’ safe behavior and the fleet’s reputation and bottom line can help.
At Waste Connections, for example, the safety culture touches every crevice of the company, with safety rodeos and personal notes from fleet leaders. The company uses the Lytx Driver Safety Program to identify risky behaviors and coach drivers. The result? Drivers improve their skills and behavior—and earn a coveted invitation to popular "safety rodeos." The company even involves drivers’ spouses and children in their safety efforts, including a program aimed at teen drivers.
2. Celebrate performance
Driver retention starts with acknowledging a job well done. According to FreightWaves magazine, the average cost of driver turnover is $11,500 per driver. But did you know that drivers who feel appreciated and rewarded are more likely to stick around? So don’t be afraid to set metrics or milestones for drivers and offer meaningful incentives. To motivate and incentivize drivers, you can tie performance to data-driven, objective measures such as:
- consecutive collision-free days
- coaching effectiveness scores
- safe miles driven
- number of positive customer reviews
Another option is to reward drivers for improving unsafe habits:
- reducing distracted driving
- idling less
- minimizing downtime
- reducing following distance
Consider a “driver of the month” or year program to recognize top performers. And make sure positive customer feedback makes it to drivers (and their managers).
3. Ask for—and act on—driver feedback
Like employees everywhere, drivers want their voices heard. But communication from the road is trickier than around an office. Consider overcoming this challenge by establishing clear communication channels for drivers to share their ideas and feedback and encouraging a dialogue during coaching sessions. When you engage drivers as partners in problem-solving, it can make them feel like active contributors to the company.
Share how you’re applying their feedback—and better yet, the impact of changes they inspired. Larger fleets can even consider creating a committee that discusses and prioritizes peer input. Efforts like these can improve driver retention in the long run.
4. Build a true team
Revamp your onboarding program to connect new drivers with your values, policies and expectations. Take the time to nurture new relationships or ask drivers about their career goals and desires. Consider integrating new drivers with existing teams, and pair each new driver with a peer who has some tenure. Create groups of drivers with similar roles (e.g., cargo types, geography, etc.) so they can swap experiences. When setting performance goals, blend individual and team metrics to inspire some friendly competition.
5. Embrace technology to help you connect with your drivers
New rules such as the ELD mandate require drivers to keep closer tabs on their hours than ever before. Don’t let drivers get stuck with outdated methods. Invest in technology that makes drivers’ daily routines easier, safer, and more productive. For example, Lytx Compliance Services® can help track drivers’ hours of service and CSA scores, while fleet tracking solutions can identify trends that can lead to more efficient routing, saving fleets time and resources. Smarter routing and scheduling can bring drivers home sooner with more efficient trips, too. Drivers who get home more often are more satisfied, so using a fleet tracking system that blends GPS and mapping data can help in driver retention.
Technology can also help drivers feel more supported. The Lytx Driver Safety Program, for example, gives drivers the opportunity to improve their skills through coaching sessions while retaining their jobs over the long run. The program cultivates the driver-coach relationship and helps build trust on both sides. And when drivers feel their fleet has their back, they’re more apt to stay.
Investing in engagement can be more cost-effective than recruiting new drivers. Ready to start improving your own driver retention rate? Check out our article on Seven Steps to Incentivizing Your Fleet to Drive Safely.
Want to see how video technology can help improve driver retention in your fleet? Schedule a demo.