January 2012 | Commentary | Carriers Corner

How Carriers Keep Great Drivers Behind the Wheel

Tags: Trucking

Trent Dye is director, Paramount Freight System, 800-799-5144

Motor carriers face a constant loss of qualified drivers, with some experiencing up to 150-percent turnover annually. Replacing a driver costs carriers $12,000 to $15,000 in separation, replacement, and training costs—a significant hit to their bottom line. High driver turnover also undermines carrier safety performance and customer service.

To meet shipper demand, some carriers attempt to handle high freight volumes with a reduced driver pool, which can result in accidents and low driver morale. Conflict among shippers, carriers, and receivers may also create loading and unloading delays in already tighter-than-average scheduling.

Some driver turnover is necessary, and benefits shippers and carriers. Carriers must sometimes let drivers go because their poor performance creates safety or customer service issues. This type of turnover saves shippers and carriers money in the long run, and helps support the carrier's performance standards.

Negative turnover, however, is when carriers lose drivers who are a valuable part of the organization. Many carriers make significant efforts to prevent this type of turnover by addressing common reasons drivers leave. Some of the most common causes of negative turnover are:

  • Lack of respect
  • Lack of sense of belonging
  • Time demands of the job
  • Insufficient benefits
  • Inadequate compensation

Retain, Don't Replace

No quick solution can fix all the causes of driver turnover, but carriers might benefit from spending more money on retention programs, instead of recruiting programs. Many carriers are throwing money away on recruiting and advertising, when their best recruiters are, in fact, their current drivers. A good word from one driver to another about a company is as good as gold when it comes to recruiting.

Eventually, consumers will feel the effect of increased driver turnover on the transportation industry. Shippers will be forced to expand their carrier pools and investigate other transportation modes to move their products, adding costs that will impact the bottom line. Increased transportation costs and carrier capacity shortages may ultimately force them to raise product prices.

Freight delays and disruption are also a possible consequence of the driver shortage. The resulting stockouts and late home deliveries will add to consumer dissatisfaction.

High driver turnover in an industry that already faces a shortage of qualified drivers will continue to be an issue, and it will take the entire trucking industry to combat it. The average age of U.S. truck drivers is increasing, and the lack of younger drivers entering the industry will force carriers to improve their business models to accommodate current and incoming drivers' needs, either through pay structure, haul length, or position quality.

Addressing sources of driver dissatisfaction is the best way to accommodate an increasing need for trucks to haul freight—and drivers to handle them.