7 Ways to Retain Your Best Drivers

an empty hangar from a fleet that couldn't retain their truck drivers

Driver turnover is high – really high. According to an American Trucking Association report from 2014, turnover is around 96 percent. Based on those numbers, nearly every driver you’ll hire will be gone within a year. Sounds depressing, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. If you put a few practices into place – very few of which cost a lot of money – you can retain your best drivers. Doing so can increase profits and reduce costs, especially the cost of training so many new drivers.

Think About Pay

You may not be able to afford an across-the-board pay increase, but what about incentivizing actions that save the company money? Bonuses for on-time deliveries, improved safety, reduced violations, fewer maintenance issues, and other improvements not only improve driving behavior, they also help your company save money. It’s likely you’ll save more money than you’ll spend on bonuses.

Respect Schedules and Home Time

The job is the job, and sometimes hauls are rough. We get it. But drivers still deserve stability and a home life. Try to honor scheduling requests for special occasions so drivers can get home for their kid’s birthday, a graduation party, or some other special event. Do your best to create schedules ahead of time and keep them as consistent as possible. This allows drivers to have a life outside of work and helps them plan how they can spend time with their families.

Respect Your Drivers

You already know that great drivers aren’t a dime a dozen. The U.S. will face a massive driver shortage by 2020. Show your drivers you respect them as a professional and an individual, and they’ll stick with you. Ask them what they need to make their work life better and what problems they see out on the road. Then do your best to address those problems and show that you not only listen, but that you care enough to do something about them.

Communicate With Your Drivers

It’s not easy to talk one-on-one with all your drivers when they’re constantly out on the road, but make an effort. Use a weekly email newsletter to let them know what’s going on in the company. Make time to talk to drivers when they get back to the shop. Develop relationships with your drivers and encourage them to ask questions. When they do ask for information, answer as completely as you can and always be honest with them.

Show Your Appreciation

People work harder when they know their effort is appreciated. You can do small things like thanking them for their work. Celebrate anniversaries, miles driven, and successes publicly at events. Provide things like lunch once a month or once a quarter at a company-wide event. Thank someone who went above and beyond to get the job done as well as the driver who has shown a lot of improvement. Use your email newsletter for this, do it at company-wide meetings, and thank your drivers when you talk one-on-one.

Resolve Issues

When a driver has a problem, they should be able to come to you. If you can, resolve the issue – maybe it’s the schedule, maybe there’s a problem with another driver. When you can’t resolve it, listen to your driver but be honest about what you can and can’t do. Sometimes simply being heard is enough to help someone feel better. Sometimes a newer driver needs perspective on the realities of the job in order to understand why their issue can’t be resolved. Whatever it may be, listen, communicate, and do your best for your drivers.

Consider a Mentorship Program

Moving up in the fleet can be difficult when you’ve got more good drivers than you have available positions, schedules, or pay to offer. Give your new drivers better training and show your best drivers they’re needed with a mentorship program. This will help you keep the new people while also giving your established drivers a way to branch out and grow as an employee.

Driver turnover is expensive and bad for business. When you find good drivers, keep them as long as you can. You might not be able to afford the highest pay or the biggest bonuses, but when you treat people right, they’ll stick with you.

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