The trucking industry is notoriously one of the hardest in which to fill positions. Most professional truck drivers have little attachment to the firms for which they work—and companies see a steady rotation of drivers coming in and out of their doors as a result. Does this sound familiar to you? Do you have a hard time retaining staff? If so, it’s time that changed. By treating your truckers with respect, you can keep them happy and reduce turnover for your business in the process. Here’s how:
1. Communicate Clearly and Honestly: Unmet expectations could lead to job dissatisfaction in any profession—whether you’re talking about education, manufacturing, retail, or trucking. That’s why nothing sets you up to disappoint your employees faster than misrepresenting what you offer, expect, and provide. From that first recruitment pitch to those regular employee evaluations, communicate clearly and honestly with your staff members.
2. Be Affirming: Legendary businessman Charles Schwab said it well: “I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who did not put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism.” Any driver would rather work for a manager who notices hard work than one who doesn’t, so look for behavior that you can praise. Be a voice of encouragement rather than one of negativity. When you let your drivers know you’re paying attention to their successes, you give them motivation to keep achieving.
3. Listen to Their Concerns: When a driver has a problem, he or she needs to know you will listen to it. Maybe there’s a problem with a vehicle. Maybe a specific route is less efficient than it used to be. Whatever the case, your drivers are on the field and have knowledge you don’t—so make sure they’re comfortable coming to you with concerns. Meet with them often; ask them to talk to you. This is not only good for improving their job experience, but also for giving you valuable intel into your business.
4. Don’t Micromanage: Most truck drivers know how to do their jobs, so give them some space to do it, and you’ll earn their respect. Don’t create constant interruptions with your paperwork and inquiries; rather, reduce paperwork, and focus on equipping your drivers to do their driving. Make sure they have all the tools and resources to get their driving done efficiently, from working vehicles to functional GPS systems.
5. Track Carefully: You can give your drivers autonomy while still tracking their driving behavior—it all comes back to automated tracking. Set up metrics to watch how your drivers are performing, so you can identify the top members of your team and reward them. Some factors you may want to measure include miles per gallon, hard braking events, hours-of-service violations, idling, and more.
6. Help Them Feel Less Alone: Not only should you listen to your drivers, but you also should look for ways to alleviate the age-old trucker dilemma of being lonely on the road. Road life is hard, and that’s why many drivers leave or switch companies so frequently. Look for ways to help your team members deal with the stresses of constant travel, such as with cell phones. This allows your workers to stay in touch with friends and family both on and off the road. Mobile devices make it easier for drivers to stay in touch with you on the road, too. They also provide a way to access email and can double as data-trackers for your management team.
7. Offer Job Perks and Incentives: It only makes sense to provide incentives as motivations for your staff members. Beyond cell phones, you might offer signup bonuses, referral bonuses, a strong benefits package, or something else to sweeten the deal for loyal drivers.
What have you seen to be true in retaining drivers? Could the steps outlined in this post be the key to reducing turnover and improving business?
Robert J. Hall is president of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS vehicle tracking systems and software for small and midsized companies.