Finding and retaining quality truck drivers is an ongoing, industry-wide challenge. Not only are business timelines affected by driver shortages, but trucking companies are faced with high costs to recruit, train and replace staff.
At 84 percent, driver turnover rates are still "significantly higher than most other sectors of the U.S. workforce," according to the American Transportation Research Institute's (ATRI) 2016 Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry survey, which cited driver retention as one of the top 10 industry concerns.
Here are half a dozen strategies that may help retain drivers and attract new talent.
1. Broaden Your Search
With the average age of truck drivers at 49— notably older than the age of the average U.S. worker at 42— tenured drivers are cycling out of the workforce as they reach retirement age. To keep up with consumer demand, trucking companies need to target a wider demographic.
“We're very lucky to see more women joining the industry, both in terms of dispatch and office work as well as getting behind the wheel," said Jake Tully, public relations officer at TruckDrivingJobs.com. Tully also notes that more young workers who are entering the workforce see trucking as a practical career.
“Companies are seeing an influx of younger drivers by way of providing great pay for what may be someone's first real job, as well as the opportunity to get a hands-on occupation right out of college or some level of schooling," Tully said.
2. Update Your Truck Line
Joe White, the owner of CostDown Consulting, a Georgia firm specializing in driver retention services, noted that many top companies are running trucks that are only two to three years old.
Consider whether a newer fleet could pay off for your company through better fuel economy and less maintenance or repair-based downtime.
Tully notes that “many companies are making the job more comfortable by offering cabs with HD televisions, NFL Sunday packages and XM Radio."
3. Pay Competitively
Trucks.com, a resource dedicated to the trucking industry, said the median annual pay for truckers is $54, 000, depending on their employer and type of hauling.
If your pay rates aren't at least average, your business could quickly get passed over by savvy job seekers who are familiar with going pay rates. Even current employees may be tempted to jump ship if another company offers them a signing bonus, which could be worth up to $2,000.
4. Keep Their Safety a Priority
Work-related injuries, and even death, are a reality that drivers face every day. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cited 745 heavy truck and tractor-trailer driver deaths in 2015.
“We never try to convince a driver to move a shipment for us if there might be dangerous conditions and we do not force them to meet unsafe time requirements," said Cindie King, president of trucking firm Black Dog Logistics Inc.
King added that finding a safe place for drivers to pull over and rest is also a challenge that her company sought to address.
“We have started asking our customers about their facilities and if a driver can park overnight on their premises," said King. “When we tell [drivers] that our shipper will let them stay overnight, it offers a bit of comfort."
5. Accommodate Personal Schedules
Scheduling is another factor that can be a pain-point for some drivers. While it may be challenging for you to provide the personal scheduling flexibility that a typical 9-to-5 job would provide, there are still ways to keep your drivers satisfied.
“Drivers and trucking companies are often at the mercy of their customers' schedule," said Max Farrell, CEO and co-founder of WorkHound, a software platform built to help trucking companies keep drivers and improve the truck driver experience. But many companies could do a better job supporting their drivers' family and vacation schedules.
“Some carriers will offer 'home-time guarantees' with a promise to get a driver home when needed, or [the carrier] will pay $100 per day for the delay," Farrell said. “I've also seen '5-on-5-off' [schedules] where drivers get a mix of weekends and weekdays regularly."
6. Communicate Regularly
Stay in close contact with your drivers. Listen and respond positively when they express concerns or needs.
“Most drivers aren't looking to be coddled or expecting a great deal of acknowledgement. It's more that they expect some level of respect and some incentives for working what is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in the country," Tully said.
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