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Truck Topics

Retaining Drivers

By Sandy Long
Posted Jul 8th 2013 8:32AM

You own a small fleet or a trucking company and after searching high and low, you find good drivers, now the kicker is in keeping them. There are many ideas on how to retain drivers, things like bonuses, recognition, benefits and even ball caps, but what do drivers really want?

In an unscientific poll of roughly 1000 drivers on facebook, most experienced drivers responded that they wanted primarily respect from the companies they worked for. It is demoralizing for an experienced driver to be treated like the rankest amateur and if enough time passes, productivity suffers or the driver leaves.

p315-4-jpg.jpgShowing respect for a driver should start in the office by the owner or terminal manager being visible. If the driver is at the terminal or office, the driver should be asked how things are going; then really listen to their replies. If the driver has suggestions to improve productivity or on how to solve an issue, listen to what they have to say, and then consider their suggestions; after all, they are working within the system and know how it is working.

Dispatch is another section that should be showing respect to drivers. They can do this by just knowing a driver’s name and treating them respectfully on the phone or qualcomm. Shop supervisors at terminals should listen carefully to what the driver is saying about what is going on with the equipment. Too many times, the shop does not think the driver knows what they are talking about and talks down to the driver.

Tied with respect was honesty from the carrier or owner. Too many companies gild the lily when talking to prospective drivers and it will not take long for the driver to figure out they have been lied to then ‘poof’ they will be gone. There is no real reason to lie to a prospective driver, granted, perhaps some might choose not to come to work for a company, but some will choose the company too. What is better, to have a driver come to work under false pretenses and then quit, or have a driver decide up-front that the ‘fit’ with one’s company is not right? With recruitment and the hiring process costing thousands of dollars per driver, it is better to only hire drivers who are coming to the company with their eyes wide open to what to expect.

The second most noted things drivers said on the poll were adequate hometime and getting home on time. Many companies get stuck in making money mode when it comes to hometime for drivers and not much else will run a driver off quicker than inadequate hometime. Drivers feel that dispatch is home every night and on weekends, why can’t they get home regularly?

John, a driver for a mid-sized company says, “I had a high paying job with another company but they messed with my hometime. Whenever I put in for hometime every four or so weeks, the day before I was to go home, there was always a hot load that only I supposedly could cover or they would set me 2000 miles from the house. After several months of that, I tried talking to the owner, though promises were made, nothing changed. They are home every night with their families; I only wanted to go home once a month and they wouldn’t or couldn’t do that, I had to leave.”

What is adequate hometime for one might not be adequate for another; therefore, this should be discussed with the driver during the hiring process and noted. If a driver is promised at the start that they will be home every X amount of days, they expect that and will quit quickly if that promise is not upheld. Most drivers know that to be home on a specific day for perhaps a doctor’s appointment needs to be scheduled ahead of time. If a driver does everything in their power to make sure notification is given according to company policy to be home, then it behooves the company to make sure they get home on time.

Miles equals pay in the trucking industry and many drivers noted inadequate miles as a reason for leaving a company. Weston Transportation only hires experienced drivers, three years or more experience and they really like the older driver. Some of Weston’s drivers are nearing retirement and for whatever reason do not want to run as hard as they did when younger. Some only want to do one turn, out and back, some only want to do less than 2000 miles a week. Weston tailors these driver’s needs to their operation by making sure those drivers only do what they want or need to do. The drawback for the driver is that Weston will keep them in older paid off trucks, but Weston rarely needs to hire drivers.

There is a trend when drivers speak to recruiters for the recruiter to use the hardest running driver’s earnings as an example of what the prospective driver can expect if they come to work at that company. Many times what they do not say is that that example given is the highest pay rated driver at the company and not the norm. This misleads the inquiring driver into thinking that they too can make that money starting out. When the driver comes to work, they will quickly find that they are not making the money told them by the recruiter. Back to honesty, the driver will seek out employment that is more lucrative or at least a company that is honest.

One more thing, once awhile, tell the driver they did or are doing a good job. Scot Schriner, president of Weston Transportation is always telling his drivers that they did a good job and has his dispatchers do so too. “For the first time in my 30 year career as a trucker, I got told ‘good job’ by dispatch shortly after hiring on with Weston. I about fell out of my seat, but it was really nice to hear! I’ve been here two years now and will retire from this company, it is great to be appreciated.” says Tim Green.

Schriner’s thought on the matter is, “As company owners and supervisors, we are quick to point out errors or mistakes. If we do that, then conversely, we should be quick to tell someone when they do a good job. Everyone likes some positive reinforcement of good or right things they do, it encourages them to do a good job or do the right thing all the time.”

Overall, retaining drivers is simple. Give them a little respect so they do not feel like they are just meat in the seat. Be honest from the start about what they can expect so there are no surprises. Get them home when they need to be there, at regular intervals and make it so they make enough miles and money to pay their bills. Finally, once in awhile when appropriate, tell your drivers that they did a good job, they will not only appreciate you, they will stay with you longer, and it does not cost a dime to do.


  • - August 18, 2013
    Bill Chaffey-=|=-It's good advice. Although I doubt if many
    will follow it.
  • - August 18, 2013
    Bill Chaffey-=|=-It's good advice. Although I doubt if many
    will follow it.

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