Improving Driver Retention: 5 Strategies for Trucking

In an industry roundtable late last year, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg compared the trucking industry’s challenges with driver retention to a "leaky bucket."

The shortage of drivers increased to 80,000 in 2021, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA). The trade group projects that need will grow to 100,000 drivers by 2023 and could exceed 160,000 by 2028.

Fleets can pull in more recruits, including from different pools of talent, provide sign-on bonuses, and bide their time until autonomous trucks arrive on the scene. Even if these strategies pan out, the industry has the same issue on its hands: turnover for skilled drivers is high. The related costs are high too.

Carriers lose about $1,500 per day when an asset is idle. Onboarding just one driver can cost companies more than $10,000, not to mention productivity losses and the increased risk of a safety incident as a driver adjusts to new vehicle specs.

These costs pose yet another challenge to supply chains marked by disruption. And despite these setbacks, trucks are moving record volumes of freight. If companies do even more to keep their drivers satisfied, they can address a major source of their rising operational costs.

In this blog, we cover some of the challenges with driver retention and how fleets are using methods from apprenticeships to predictive maintenance to improve their bottom line and the driver experience.

5 Ways to Boost Driver Retention

Here are five proactive steps that fleets can take to improve driver satisfaction

1. Automate or Digitize Back-End Paperwork & Communication

Both fleets and drivers want drivers to be out on the road. Whether making communication with dispatchers simpler or scanning a bill of lading, digital workflow solutions eliminate processes that take up a driver’s time, money, and patience.

These digital tools also speed up the onboarding process. In-app messaging tools, real-time visibility, and constant updates allow drivers to get caught up on company practices and focus their efforts where they count most.

2. Launch an Apprenticeship Program

While more feasible for larger fleets, a driver apprenticeship program promotes long tenures and job satisfaction. With commercial driving school tuition increasing, apprentice programs provide a debt-free way for candidates to enter the industry with paid, high-quality job training.

In industries like manufacturing, onetime apprentices report higher levels of job satisfaction, more interest in their company’s success, and spending a longer time at the company than their peers.

3. Equip Vehicles with Advanced Safety Specs

As many drivers report that they don’t feel their well-being is taken into account by their employers, advanced safety features like blindspot monitoring, power steering, and adaptive cruise control can furnish drivers with an extra degree of protection and confidence. Many advanced safety specs outfitted on newer vehicles show ROI within eighteen months, helping fleets keep their trucks safely on the road.

4. Limit Slip Seating and Routine Causes of Driver Frustration

When you live in a space for a while, you make it your own. Coming back to a sleeper stocked with personal belongings is a great comfort for drivers spending weeks on the road. When drivers must swap out their things and make space for another driver, it can feel like an invasion of privacy and that their company doesn’t value them.

Slip seating aids carriers with efficient vehicle utilization, but it ultimately may upset driver satisfaction. Trucking companies have to explore the tradeoffs of slip seating where possible and prioritize the comfort and safety of their drivers on the road.

5. Keep Drivers and Trucks on the Road with Predictive Maintenance

One way to address vehicle utilization and slip seating is through predictive maintenance. Proactive visibility through a metric on trip-readiness for each vehicle enables fleets to efficiently plan routes and load assignments. By pulling data in from existing sources like telematics devices, sensors, fault code diagnostics, fluids, and work orders, predictive analytics like Uptake Fleet give enough lead time on impending vehicle conditions.

That way, drivers can take their vehicles out on the road. And they face a lower risk of roadside breakdowns or tows that leave them in harm’s way.

Greater Uptime for Driver Satisfaction

Through a combination of driver training, back-end technologies, safety specs, less slip seating, and predictive maintenance, fleets have the tools to take proactive steps to boost driver retention. In prioritizing driver satisfaction, they will improve vehicle uptime, save on maintenance, and pave the way for their fleet to become the go-to place for skilled drivers.

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