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Some advice to companies on keeping drivers

By on July 5, 2012

How does this sound? Trucking companies have a dedicated driver recruitment department that invests a significant amount of money each month in recruiting programs to find qualified drivers. This department has a well-defined program to drill down to the type of driver who will be most successful at the company.

Once a driver is hired, the company’s training department takes over. It, too, has a comprehensive program to get the new hire acclimated to the policies, procedures, methods and equipment at his or her new company.

Next, the new driver is assigned a knowledgeable driver or fleet manager who is competent, caring and helpful, and likes drivers. As time goes on, the company keeps its promises to its new drivers, especially about such important things as compensation and home time. The result of all this: A driver who is steadfastly loyal to his company and will not leave unless there comes along one of those I’ve-got-an-offer-you-can’t-refuse job opportunities.

We all know that isn’t the case.

According to the American Trucking Associations, in 2011 the driver turnover rate for large truckload carriers averaged 83 percent. Any driver knows why those numbers are so high.

So I have an idea that will improve things for truckers. And since it costs a carrier between $5,000 and $8,000 to hire, train and get a new driver producing, it will also help improve a trucking company’s bottom line.

Companies should create a Manager of Driver Retention position. This person, who should have hands-on trucking experience plus exceptional people skills, would have the responsibility and authority to take the steps necessary to retain drivers.

The investment has been made to find and train qualified drivers, so why not bankroll a concerted effort to keep them?

What the job entails

The manager of driver retention’s first order of business is to learn the main reasons why drivers are unhappy and leaving. This is not a daunting task. Just ask drivers what is bugging them and they will tell you. I recommend anonymous surveys so drivers can detail specific concerns without fear of reprisal. Based upon my experience, major sticking points include compensation and benefits, home time, equipment, dispatchers, communications with management, and respect and honesty.

The survey findings need to be analyzed and then programs put in place to address the discovered problems and concerns.

Here’s another piece of advice for the manager of driver retention: Conduct exit interviews. These are helpful in learning the reasons why an employee leaves a company. On the few occasions when I elected to leave a trucking company, I was never asked to do an exit interview. Were you?

Here again, as with driver surveys, exit interviews are pointless if the lessons learned aren’t put into action. I would encourage the manager of driver retention to create programs and initiatives to improve working conditions for drivers. These can be such simple things as rewards for attendance, safety contests, performance contests, wellness programs, gift cards for “catching” someone doing something right, rewards for money-saving ideas and so on.

A final thought

The manager of driver retention ought to have the responsibility and authority to make sure the company’s driver or fleet managers are well-trained in their job functions and in how to effectively deal with drivers.

Why? Because these managers have a great influence on drivers.

Think what happens to a driver’s attitude and performance when his driver/fleet manager gives him a delivery time that is impossible to make without breaking HOS regulations, or doesn’t get a driver home when promised or forces a dispatch in a raggedy truck.

Having effective driver recruiting along with driver retention programs is a win-win situation for both drivers and their companies.

Such programs help make for happy and loyal drivers. The more content and faithful drivers are to their company, the less likely they are to leave.

That means a better return on investment in recruiting and retention so there will be more money available for other things, like compensation, benefits and newer equipment.

Besides, I don’t know anyone who enjoys finding another job or hiring a new employee.

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  1. Ellen Voie

    July 12, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Hi David, that was my job at Schneider National in 2006, I was the manager of recruiting and retention programs. My job was to initiate corporate level solutions to driver turnover. I worked with driver managers as well as vice presidents to ensure that drivers were treated as professionals.


  2. Dan

    July 13, 2012 at 2:14 am

    Dave: At first blush I thought this column was meant as a gag, then I figured it was being ask rhetorically—glad to read I was wrong on both counts. Ellen was right when she stated that your above suggestion for keeping drivers was her job at Schneider. I’ve known her a long time & will state the obvious fact, if all carriers, and I mean ALL carriers have someone like Ellen, or 1/2 the talent she has, working for their company in that prescribed position as Schneider did, lo those many years ago they would be amazed to “all the sudden” find at hand thousands upon thousands of dollars that…! they could actually do better by everyone working for them. But, it t’aint never going to happen. 1 simple reason out of thousands as to why: Just because owner ‘A’ was at one time a truck driver him/herself at one time, has then expanded that 1 horse operation into a few hundred or a few thousand horse operation doesn’t mean he or she knows thing one about the business! The business of managing people to be more precise. And in my 30 yrs. of being behind the wheel I have come across my fair share of companies ie owners of said companies to frankly nog give a damn if they do or not. Small, large or somewhere in between those people have stopped noticing them that brung ’em to the dance. They are greedy, pig headed & elitist. When you answer to your stock holders, drive cars that cost more than what you pay to the equalivant of 2 drivers, or even worse are driven to work by “James”….well, you know the rest. The pick’em up truck, your own CDL have all long by the road side & so has the family atmostphere that you once promised would always be there with that oh so sincre attitude of the open door policy. P.S. I once had a manager tell a bunch of us drivers when we were inquiring about a boost in pay that he could get trained chimps to do our work & banana’s not coinage would make them happy & they wouldn’t come back looking for more to do the same job. Neat, huh? P.P.S. Now you have one perspective & know too why OOIDA is going after the companies who screw their Lease/Operators. We’re just 1 step above trained chimps so why the hell not! Dan

  3. Kurt Keilhofer

    July 14, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Instead of the financial burden of salary and benefits for another employee to fill this position, and the resulting bureaucracy, perhaps companies need to establish a financial penalty for themselves to insure something as simple as an exit interview is done.Perhaps through the bank that the payroll check is issued there was established a termination bond, which the employee would receive after a final paycheck if the exit interview was not completed. Companies have the ability to find out what their problems are, hiring another staff member, and adding to the overhead, will not change a corporate culture. But a financial penalty might.

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