Driver Lifestyles

Why Drivers Leave Their Carrier

Why Drivers Leave Their Carrier

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Sep 14th 2015 3:57PM

Conventional wisdom says that drivers leave a carrier because of money. That explains why you see a lot of trucking recruiters tout their sign-on bonuses, compensation plans and benefits. So, drivers are naturally going to matriculate to the highest bidder, right?

Not necessarily, says Tim Hindes, chief executive officer of Stay Metrics, a South Bend, Ind. firm that helps motor carriers capture insightful data to boost their driver engagement and retention rates.

Many drivers leave their carrier because of human factors and unmet expectations, rather than the pursuit of top dollar. "It may be poor dispatch relations or a feeling of lack of support from the carrier," says Hindes.

And while driver satisfaction surveys can be helpful, they aren't always accurate predictors for driver turnover. Hindes shares an example of how one client scored low on "quality of equipment" and "pay" in a satisfaction survey, but the exit surveys told a different story as to why drivers actually left the company. "The number one reason drivers were leaving was that they felt disrespected by the field terminal management," says Hindes. "Had that carrier focused on fixing pay, for example, they would have overlooked fixing the root issue causing the turnover."

Broken Recruiting Promises

Hindes says that there are many possible reasons why drivers leave their carrier, but there is one overarching theme that ties them all together: broken recruiting promises.

But this is more about a mismatch of expectations than a recruiter being dishonest, says Hindes.

"It's not that lying is happening across the board [by carriers]," Hindes explains. "But what we've found in our research is that the person looking to become an expediter does not know what to expect or what questions to ask. And the recruiter doesn't always anticipate what those questions are."

So, you end up with unmet expectations, and the driver gets frustrated and quits.

According to Stay Metrics' research, 54 percent of the trucking industry's turnover occurs within the first 6 months and most of that is in within the first 90 days.

This problem is especially acute in expedited trucking because of the unique challenges that come with the expedite lifestyle, such as extended wait times between loads, unpredictable schedule, and volatile cash flow.

"What we have known for years in the expediting industry is that there is a tremendous amount of fallout from the newbies," says Hindes. "They don't know what they are getting into. They're buying trucks that there is no reason for them to buy yet. And they're signing on with a carrier only to find out — oh my God — this lifestyle is not for me."

Hindes continues, "The tendency is to say, 'That carrier lied to me.' When, it's most likely a scenario in which we did not have a clear enough understanding of the expectations."

The problem that expedite rookies often have is they can't discern between what is an industry-wide problem and what is a carrier-specific issue. "Because newbies have no experience in the industry, they might assume that having to sit two days between loads is because of a problem with a carrier, not understanding that all carriers will have the same issue because dealing with wait-time is part of the expedite industry," says Hindes.

Setting Realistic Expectations

Hindes recommends that recruiters make setting realistic expectations with drivers a top priority.

"As a recruiter, you can say something like, 'We're growing and doing well. We're interested in having you driving for us. So, let us paint you a very clear picture of what life is going to be as an expediter for our company.' Paint that picture with the ugly parts too, so that drivers can make an educated decision," says Hindes.

As an owner-operator, you want the recruiter to be as candid as possible. "You want someone who says, 'You know, it's going to be good here, but we're going to tell you that there are times when you'll be sitting two to three days waiting on a load. And keep in mind that July is bad for everybody,'" says Hinds.

Lessons for Expediters

Frequently changing carriers can be expensive to both the owner-operator and the carrier. So, you want to identify reasons why you might leave a carrier -- and address those issues before you take the next step.

This means that if you're new to the expedite industry, make sure you know what to expect before signing the lease agreement. Tap into resources such as, attend trade shows like Expedite Expo, and get hands-on industry education at Expediters Online (EO) University. Network with other drivers and owner-operators, asking them about the carriers they partner with -- what they like and dislike -- so you can move forward in a relationship that is set up for success.

Or, perhaps you've been in the business for several months or a few years but experiencing frustrations. Before you leave for another carrier, make sure that the problem is specific to the company, and not an issue with the industry itself. Speak with other drivers to get a feel for whether a new carrier might be a better fit or if you should continue with your current company.

There's a lot of opportunity in expediting, but it takes a solid, long-term business relationship between driver and carrier for both parties to win.