How to Retain High-Quality Truck Drivers

Driver retention


Trucking companies spend a lot of time and energy on recruiting drivers. During a driver shortage, compounded by issues of high turnover, this makes sense. But what if managers and recruiters are focusing on the wrong problem?

Yes, you need to fill your seats with truck drivers, but what if you could slow down the constant churn and retain more drivers?

More importantly, what if your focus on retention could help you keep your best drivers? What would that be worth to you? Probably a great deal.

So how do you accomplish this? Focus on what your drivers want and need from you and reward your best drivers with incentives that encourage them to stay.

Here’s how:

Explore Different Payment Methods for Truck Drivers

Rates of pay and uncertainties around how much they’ll make and when they’ll receive it are some of the biggest concerns for drivers. Some of this can be resolved by raising rates of pay. In other cases, it may simply be an issue of setting and communicating realistic expectations for drivers around compensation so that there are no misunderstandings or surprises for them later on.

Yet another approach, which many trucking companies are trying, is to move away from per-mile compensation in favor of hourly pay. You could also include incentives such as weekend driving pay increases or shift premiums.

Whichever solution you choose, this issue is a biggie and, with so many trucking companies competing for drivers, it’s a problem you can’t afford to ignore.

Offer Bonuses and Benefits that Truck Drivers Want

Certainly, good pay will attract and help keep truck drivers on the job. There are also other forms of compensation that can be equally attractive and useful for developing loyalty and increasing driver retention.

Start by reviewing your health and insurance plans to ensure they are attractive and offer good value to your drivers. Does your plan provide the coverage your truck drivers need or want? Truckers want to provide for their families, just as anyone else does. By helping them do this, you can eliminate some of their worries so they can focus on driving.

Once you’ve addressed their fundamental needs, you’re ready to target your retention efforts at rewarding your best drivers. You could offer incentives for good driving in the form of bonuses for fuel efficiency and safety to reward high-quality truck drivers.

Doing this will help you build a culture around high performance and safety rather than speed and volume, something most drivers will appreciate.

Consider providing a bonus based on years of service to reward a driver’s loyalty to the company. After all, if truck drivers can be enticed away by a signing bonus, perhaps they’ll be inclined to stay for a retention bonus!

Of course, money isn’t everything. Some drivers would be just as happy to spend more time at home. Why not provide time off when they reach milestones in driving?

Whichever mix of incentives you put in place, be clear about what you’re offering and how it can be earned. And remember, your reason for offering an incentive is to reward, not punish.

Encourage Truck Drivers to Feel They Belong

The first 90 days of a new driver’s time is critical. It’s this period where you can win or lose drivers, so make the most of it. Be welcoming, communicative and offer new truck drivers the encouragement and support they need to succeed with you.

In many cases, employees feel more comfortable speaking with peers rather than managers. Implementing a mentorship program is an excellent way of introducing new drivers to your team. This can be especially helpful when they have questions about day-to-day tasks.

Mentorship can be equally valuable to the person doing the mentoring. First, you’ll be signalling to tenured drivers that you respect and appreciate their skills and experience. And you’ll also be offering them a chance to connect with other team members and possibly learn something from them as well.

Beyond the first 90 days, you’ll want to maintain prolonged contact with your drivers to demonstrate that you’re invested in their success.

And it’s not just millennials who respond to feedback. Studies show that companies providing regular feedback have 14.9% lower turnover rates than companies that don’t. So, make time to reach out to your drivers. Let them know how they’re doing and how they can improve.

Take the time as well to find out what matters most to them: why did they join? What are they happy about, what aspects of the job would they like to see improved, what keeps them with you, what makes them leave, and do they refer other truck drivers?

By giving them a sense of belonging and ownership within the company, your high-quality drivers will have more reason to stay.

Invest in Both Your Equipment and Your Truck Drivers

You’ll never go wrong when you look after your equipment and your drivers. Concentrate on improving your equipment to offer drivers a quality experience that supports their ability to do the job well and motivates them to stay with you.

In addition to equipment, you should be investing in your drivers. You can provide your truck drivers with ongoing training, such as through online learning platforms.

And focusing on driver health and wellness through programs that help them maintain a better quality of life while on the road will go a long way to improving your retention rates.

Focusing on Retention Can Improve Your Recruiting Costs

Recruiting and retention shouldn’t be treated as separate functions in your company. If truck carriers want to keep their best drivers, they need to take some of their focus off of recruiting and put it where it belongs: retention. As scary as this sounds, it may require managers to direct some of their recruiting budget to retention. It may take time to see the results from this, but eventually, you may find your recruiting and onboarding costs will go down.

When that begins to happen, you’ll be happy to realize that instead of hiring to replace, you’re hiring to retain.