3 Tips for Retaining Truck Drivers and Surviving the Shortage

Posted by Skye Robinson | October 26, 2015 | Newsletter

October Services truck-driverAccording to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), nearly 70% of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks. Yet there is a huge shortage of drivers available to move all that freight. The ATA estimates we’re short between 35,000 and 40,000 truck drivers in the U.S.

The shortage is the result of several factors, including demographics and regulatory, plus many would-be truck drivers are choosing not to be away from home for long periods of time. In addition, older drivers are retiring faster than younger drivers are entering the profession to take their places.

What’s a fleet manager facing a driver shortage to do? You’re not going to be able to stop the clock to keep older drivers from retiring, nor can you do anything about regulations that might deter people from pursuing careers as truck drivers.

What you can do, however, is work to keep the drivers you do have happy so they want to stick around.

Several online resources have advice to help fleet managers like you with driver retention. Some are more involved, such as increasing benefits, offering ongoing training and education, or dealing with supervisor issues. However, some are also easier (and even free) to implement, and definitely worth consideration. We’ve listed three of our favorites below:

  1. Make promises you can keep
    Studies show that truck drivers will leave a job if their expectations aren’t met. As a fleet manager, you can strive to set reasonable expectations from the start, and keep the lines of communication open in case a disconnect occurs. And this isn’t a best practice when a driver is new to your company, but as a continual practice.
  2. Create a “retention budget”
    Given the high cost of not having enough drivers, or having to recruit and train new ones, it makes sense to invest in a “retention budget” that gives you money to spend on things that can increase job satisfaction among your drivers. Create a retention budget and spend it on things like awards, bonuses, special events like tickets to a baseball game or an onsite BBQ…anything that helps your drivers to feel appreciated and valued beyond their regular paychecks.
  3. Invest in some “second paychecks”
    Speaking of paychecks, here’s an idea we recently came across outside of the trucking industry but one that applies here and doesn’t cost you a dime: Start using “second paychecks.” The second paycheck is a non-monetary one that can have as big an impact as the one with the dollar figure. A second paycheck is a kudos, like a note that says, “Good job getting that shipment delivered on time. I appreciate knowing I can count on you,” or, “Thank you for your can-do attitude. Your coworkers appreciate it and so do I.” It’s that validation not tied to money, but just as needed—and valued.

Lastly, keep things clean to improve morale
You might think it’s strange for us to talk about cleanliness when you’re stressed out over retaining truck drivers, but here’s the thing: A good morale and pride in the company go a long ways toward job satisfaction for anyone, truck drivers among them. When you keep your trucks clean inside and out, you’re telling the driver you care about their work environment and you’re telling them the brand matters and you care what people see when that driver is rolling down the road. This increases your driver’s pride in his or her position with your company, and spread among several employees, you might even see a boost in morale. Plus it simply makes for happier drivers to have a clean truck!

And a happy driver is one who will stick around. Retention achieved!

Note: For the cleanest trucks, inside and out, consider outsourcing your fleet washing to a professional.


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