Higher Employee Engagement Leads to Lower Driver Turnover

Tough regulations, increasing traffic congestion, fraudulent schemes, and unsafe driving conditions can complicate life in the transportation industry. But almost nothing poses more of a challenge for fleets than high driver turnover.

The trucking turnover rate stands at 94 percent, six percentage points higher than last quarter. Fortunately, there are ways fleets can improve truck driver retention.  But before we explore solutions, let’s look at the problem.

Getting to the Root of the Driver Turnover Problem

For years, truck driver turnover has hovered between 90 percent and 100 percent, and it’s costing fleets a pretty penny. Freight Waves magazine puts the average cost of driver turnover at $11,500 per driver. Keeping in mind turnover rates and the size of the truckload industry, the magazine estimates that total turnover costs to the truckload industry in 2018 hover at about $8.8 billion annually.

Add related costs like lost productivity and diminished employee morale and the impacts of driver turnover are compounded all the more. A study of 69 route drivers by Thomas Schoenfelder, Ph.D., and Ricardo Roman of Caliper Corporation, for example, states that though it’s often been assumed that pay and benefits factor into high driver turnover rates most, things like person-job fit, work-related stress and dispatcher effectiveness actually play a larger role.

Improving Driver Engagement Can Reduce Driver Turnover and Boost Safety

In its research, Caliper Corporation found that engaged employees in general are up to 87 percent less likely to leave a company than those who are disengaged. And Brent Lee of C.A. Short Company, which helps businesses drive employee engagement, said in high-turnover industries such as trucking, creating a “culture of engagement” lowers turnover by about 25 percent. It can also help lower absenteeism and boost productivity and efficiency.

So what are the best ways to engage drivers and reduce driver turnover in your own fleet? Here are some suggestions:

Offer Ongoing Education and Training

A 2016 survey of 6,200 truck drivers at two large U.S. fleets showed that when truck drivers believed that their employer prioritized safety, drivers felt more valued, were more likely to be satisfied and engaged at work, and were more likely to stay in their jobs. The study, published in Applied Ergonomics, highlighted the positive impacts of safety culture beyond just reducing collisions. Results showed that truck drivers’ perception of the corporate safety culture directly impacted their job satisfaction, engagement, and even the company’s driver turnover rate.

Driving commercial vehicles isn’t the safest line of work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, waste hauling alone ranks No. 5 in the  list of most dangerous jobs, and truck driving ranks No. 7. It helps to “create a safer working environment for your drivers by offering ongoing education and training,” writes Brent Lee of C.A. Short Company. “Safety pamphlets and training videos don’t cut it. If you want to create the safest work environment possible, you need to continually train your team.” Video telematics programs that encourage driver coaching to improve unsafe behaviors are one example of continuous training that can lead to safer driving behaviors and lower driver turnover.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

When you let drivers know what changes are happening at the company and include them in the conversation, they will likely be more receptive to the changes and more apt to keep an open mind.

“Discuss what’s occurring, and seek their feedback,” Lee wrote. Whether it’s in relation to new safety technologies you’d like to install or personnel policies you’d like to implement, your drivers will thank you for considering their needs first. “Chances are, they’ll provide a unique perspective and can help improve the process,” Lee wrote. “Even if you disagree with their comments or suggestions, it’s important they know their opinions have value and they feel part of the team.”

Clarify Your Drivers’ Responsibilities

In Caliper’s survey of route drivers, results showed that one of the most engaging aspects of a driver’s job was role clarity. In other words, participants understood what was expected of them and were provided the tools necessary to perform the job at a high level. When drivers understand their goals and are positioned well to achieve them, engagement can rise.

Be Upfront During the Interview Process

“When hiring a new driver, make sure you are honest and clearly outline what is expected of them,” Lee wrote. “If you know a driver will likely be locked into a difficult route or will be working undesirable hours, let them know. Some trucking companies try to sugarcoat their requirements and expectations in the beginning, and this only leads to frustration and increased turnover down the road.”

For even more ways your organization can boost employee engagement, be sure to check out our Driver Incentives ebook.

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