Driver Retention Starts With R-E-S-P-E-C-T

High driver turnover is making the chronic truck driver shortage worse—especially for large carriers. According to the American Trucking Association, the high turnover rate at large fleets averaged 89% in 2021, while the turnover rate at smaller fleets was 77%. 

What can fleets do to encourage their drivers to stay?

Let’s start with why they leave. The number one reason a driver will leave a current job for a new role is “not being respected on the job” (cited by 22% of 500 CDL drivers surveyed in 2021 by TransForce), edging out “wanting more home time” (21% of respondents) and “wanting a better compensation package” (20%).

Amy Zimmerman, Relay’s Chief People Officer, is not surprised by this research. “Respect is paramount,” she says. “But the good news is this means a carrier can significantly reduce driver turnover simply by being intentional in showing drivers respect and appreciation.”

Being intentional means making it a core, embedded part of the workplace culture, she says. “Carriers can create positive cultures where drivers are consistently treated as the pros they are, not as inexperienced team members who need to be told exactly what to do and how to do it. Companies that partner with their drivers rather than dictate to them experience lower turnover. They know that if they aren’t showing appreciation to their drivers someone else will.”

Companies with healthy cultures provide their people with continuous feedback. “People want to be recognized for doing a good job, especially when they do something out of the ordinary,” Amy says. “Let’s say a driver drove just a bit slower and saved $50 in fuel on a long delivery. Maybe they are thanked with a $50 gift card that will mean more to them than to the company. Small gestures can show genuine gratitude that we all appreciate.”    

Drivers who have been with the carrier for years appreciate positive feedback as much as a newbie. “Long-term team members are often more patient with the occasional curveballs we all have to deal with,” she says. “But the company shouldn’t take advantage of that patience. The last thing we want is for a long-term member of the team to feel unappreciated. Don’t take them for granted. The days of people remaining blindly loyal are long gone. Instead, we should be regularly asking our veteran drivers how we can improve operationally. They know better than anyone what is working well and what isn’t.”

Further gains in driver retention can come to companies that improve the work experience by addressing issues that cause stress and frustration, often leading to turnover.

“The freight transportation industry overall has been slow to improve the work experience for drivers,” Amy says. “But again, this just means opportunity for carriers that can reduce pain points. These can include out-of-date processes that result in long wait times at the dock, excessive paperwork to complete, and an inability to find overnight parking when drivers reach their maximum hours-of-service. There are technology solutions today to each of these problems, but drivers aren’t going to wait around for companies that are slow to implement them. Like all people, drivers want to contribute with value-add work, not having to wait around when there’s a better way available.”

To learn more about how Relay can help improve your drivers’ experience with digital payment solutions and even help them find parking, click here.

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