People tend to think that drivers are leaving the transportation industry in droves when they see the industry’s turnover rates, but that’s not entirely accurate. Shocking statistics have shown turnover at over 90% annually for some companies, but only about 1% of drivers left the industry between 2019 and 2021, according to BLS data. The reality is that drivers are hopping between companies most frequently due to things like poaching and enticements. This has gotten a lot of employers thinking very seriously about new ways to improve retention and stop their competitors from luring away workers.
Transportation companies have been launching several strategies lately to improve the driver experience. Let’s take a dive into some of 2022’s retention efforts.
As simple as it sounds, a major new trend happening right now among trucking firms is the gathering of feedback. Companies have been listening to their drivers and measuring their levels of engagement and job satisfaction. Then, they’re implementing changes based on what their employees report. Some are also choosing to empower committees to process this information and formulate changes.
This is a highly effective strategy for retention efforts, regardless of industry. It gives employees a sense of ownership and stake in the game. They also feel like their voices are heard, which makes people feel valued and helps improve retention. Employee feedback also exposes problem areas within companies that could be addressed before they become major issues.
Wages and bonuses have increased significantly for truck drivers over the past several years as companies increasingly engage in a bidding war for workers.
In March of 2022, authors with the American Trucking Associations said, “We’re witnessing unprecedented pay increases across the industry, with weekly driver earnings surging at a rate more than 5x their historical average – up more than 25% for long-haul, truckload drivers since the beginning of 2019. Fleets are also offering sizable, five-figure sign-on bonuses and full benefits as they all compete for the same limited pool of drivers.”
Increased wages are obviously an important part of any employee retention effort, but it should be noted that it’s also contributing to turnover as employees discover better offers elsewhere. It’s somewhat of a double-edged sword, but a necessary step.
Detention in the transportation industry is not the same thing as getting in trouble in class back in high school, although in some ways it probably feels the same. In this context, detention refers to the hours a driver has to spend waiting during loading periods. It’s one of the biggest issues that trucking employees would like to resolve. Often, this time is unpaid, which is a de facto cost to the driver.
Drivers are happier when they’re rolling and making money, not sitting around earning nothing for their time. That’s why companies have been piloting several strategies to reduce the impact on employees. Some carriers are now charging detention fees for hours of prolonged detention. Others are forming new partnerships and deploying tools that can provide predictive analysis of wait times and delays.
A key point for retention is to promote these efforts among drivers. Showcasing that companies care about this too and are trying to help will go a long way toward increasing employee job satisfaction.
Health and Home
Companies that take an active interest in the health and wellness of their employees have been known to have lower levels of turnover. This topic has become even more important in the transportation sector though, because of the industry’s unique health challenges. More than 8 in 10 drivers are overweight and their life expectancy is 16 years below average, according to FreightWaves. This has a lot of drivers looking for companies that take steps to improve the health of their workers.
Additionally, and perhaps directly correlated with wellness, drivers are seeking more time at home. Work-life balance is just as important for transportation employees as it is in other industries. This has a lot of companies looking into ways to become more flexible and provide more time at home. Family time has a big impact on happiness and job satisfaction, which are powerfully linked to retention.
Doing What They Can
Turnover is indeed very high in trucking, but companies are doing what they can to keep workers from leaving for other prospects. The key takeaway from all this activity is that employers are opening up more avenues to deliver on the types of things their drivers want. Companies are listening and drivers are being heard, and that’s one of the most important ways to keep employees happy and on the roster.