Finding good employees is hard for any company, let alone a small fleet owner or large trucking company. Employee engagement has become the latest buzzword, but for good reason – it matters.

An employee that is fully involved and enthusiastic about his or her work is said to be “engaged.” Engaged employees are more likely to care about the future of their employer and are willing to work harder to make the business succeed. Surprisingly better engagement leads to lower driver turnover than salary and bonus programs.

You’ve probably heard of the rumored driver shortage. The American Trucking Association has estimated a shortage between 35,000 and 40,000 drivers. Baby boomer drivers are retiring at a faster rate than new drivers entering the profession.

For smaller fleets the news gets worse. Turnover rates hover around 95% because larger fleets are attracting drivers away with higher pay, bonuses, and better health and retirement benefits. It’s hard to be the boss.

While you can’t prevent every employee from changing employers, there are ways that you can increase employee engagement and reduce your turnover rate.

Respect Your Drivers

You’ve probably heard the cliché; “treat others as you want to be treated.” It’s true. Strategic Programs, an employee retention consultant company, says that the second most common reason drivers leave a company is because they feel that the company doesn’t value or respect them.

Also Read: Mentoring as a Valuable Mentoring Approach

Many companies employ owner-operators. Owner-operators aren’t paid like employees or even communicated to like one. Even their job titles are different. Many companies refer to drivers as drivers and not as team members or associates that is commonly used for non-driving staff. Consider what you call and how you communicate to your drivers.

Start Engagement from Day One

You might not realize it, but retention and engagement begins during the recruiting process. Once you hire a new driver, it is important to begin the onboarding process right. A majority of driver turnover occurs in the first few months of employment. First impressions are important as many new hires decide within the first 72 hours whether they will be with you for the long haul.

The most successful trucking companies build trust with the drivers at their orientation. Provide a warm welcome. Have the top management meet with the new drivers and connect with them over coffee or lunch. Make sure the employee handbook is up-to-date and reflects a “driver-centric” approach.

Making Connections

A 2015 HireRight benchmarking survey discovered that the two best retention methods include longer orientation/training periods and appointing a driver liaison or mentor. Creating a mentorship program not only benefits the new hires, but the veteran drivers as well. A mentoring program can help develop a feeling of welcoming and support. Some companies who use mentorship programs even pay their mentor drivers for their time giving those drivers an extra sense of purpose and value in the company.

Communication Matters

Communication is tough in a company where most of its employees are away from their home base. Driving can be an isolating career choice, but it doesn’t have to be that way. A simple employee newsletter or survey can make a driver feel more engaged. Even social media is a great way to communicate with drivers if you’re willing to step into the 21st century.

Surveys are a great way for drivers to give feedback to their company and make them feel like their voice matters. Make open communication a company policy. Employees feel valued when their feedback is heard and acted on.

Professional Growth

It’s the American dream to move up the career ladder. No one wants to be stuck on the ground. Engaged employees are those that feel they have the potential to improve themselves and have the company recognize those advances. It’s completely natural to want a better position over time. By allowing drivers to gain seniority and to bid for more desirable routes or become a mentor or trainer will make them feel more engaged. Not to mention that the most satisfied and happiest drivers are your best recruiters.

In a competitive business environment it is important to have engaged employees, especially with a driver shortage. You can’t afford to lose good drivers. By creating a more “driver-centric” work environment, you’ll create happier and more engaged employees.    

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Comments (2)

Sean Bryant

Sean is a graduate of the University of Iowa where he received a Bachelor's of Arts degree in economics. After beginning his career in banking, he found his love for marketing. Before arriving at ATBS in 2014 he spent time working for two different technology startups as well as his own freelance marketing company.

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No mention of the potential in newly out of school drivers, or foreign drivers.

November 19, 2015 17:26:25 PM

Wise words of wisdom Sean. Hopefully companies are working on these items.

November 17, 2015 14:08:52 PM