Top Strategies for Attracting and Retaining Qualified Drivers

by Michele Wade, on Mar 10, 2020 10:24:00 AM

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More than 60,000 new drivers are needed, according to the American Trucking Associations. And with the driver turnover rate at approximately 87 percent, fleets are struggling to hold onto the drivers they do have. Finding and keeping drivers has never been more critical.

Increasingly, companies are seeking out non-traditional approaches for recruiting and retention. Presenters at a past Accelerate! Conference shared a variety of best practices.

Reach Out to Women

Women represent a particularly strong potential talent pool. While they make up 47 percent of the workforce, just 7.9 percent of drivers are women, according to the Women In Trucking (WIT) Index, developed in conjunction with the National Transportation Institute (NTI).

Women tend to be safer drivers than men, points out Leah Shaver, NTI’s Chief Operating Officer. They tend to take fewer risks, have fewer accidents, work more efficiently, choose a company more carefully, and stay longer.

And more promising news: 76 percent of female 18- to 26-year-olds have a favorable impression of professional driving, according to a recent nationwide study by the Adcom Group, a marketing and communications firm.

Companies are recognizing the value of women drivers. More than a quarter of fleets participating in the WIT Index reported a 28.7 percent increase in female drivers from 2017 to 2018, Shaver says.

It’s remarkable, then, that a recent customer survey by DriverIQ, a provider of back- ground screening for the trucking industry, showed that 35 percent of companies have NO programs aimed at recruiting and retaining women drivers!

Step Up Your Game

In today’s tight market, companies are looking for ways to stand out – or at least be competitive. To that end, many are increasing driver compensation. In 2018, NTI tracked more pay changes than any period in the organization’s 23-year history. Base pay rates in the high $0.40s up to mid $0.50s are not unusual at for-hire fleets, Shaver says, with team drivers earning up to $0.74 in peak markets.

Pay for private fleets is also rising. In fact, Walmart just announced that the company is raising the average salary to nearly $90,000 to attract more drivers – an unprecedented move in the industry.

Data shows that wages do indeed impact driver retention. DriverIQ’s study reveals that total compensation is the top cause for turnover, cited by nearly 60 percent of respondents, company Co-President Lana Batts says. Ultimately, driver pay needs to be at least $75,000 to reduce turnover, according to 80 percent of recruiters surveyed.

Pay alone will not solve the driver shortage, Shaver cautions. Driving jobs can be a tough sell due to long hours, time away from home, physical demands and more.

It’s not surprising, then, that quality of life is another growing area of focus. In reviewing candidates for Best Fleets to Drive For 2018, the Truckload Carriers Association and CarriersEdge noted that more companies are establishing wellness programs for drivers – offering everything from on-site fitness centers or reimbursement for gym memberships to healthy snacks and blood pressure monitoring at the terminal, CarriersEdge CEO Jane Jazrawy says. Many fleets also are offering pet and rider perks to help promote work/life balance.

To maximize recruiting and retention efforts, NTI’s Shaver recommends identifying what sets your company apart – whether that’s pay rates, home time, benefits, etc. “Benchmark your offerings. Track attributes in order to highlight what is unique about your company,” she says.

Nurture Drivers

Turnover is highest in a driver’s first six months on the job (over 50 percent) and spikes again around the three-year mark, Batts says. That makes on-going training and support critical for success.

Leading fleets are paying more attention to post-orientation ramp-up and support efforts, Jazrawy says. She sees a trend toward formalized outreach programs. Regular driver surveys, check-ins (where executives call drivers), ride-alongs, town hall meetings and round tables are becoming more common.

Coaching programs also are more prevalent. In fact, 70 percent of Best Fleets finalists offer post-orientation support on the road.

More female trainers and mentors are needed to help make connections with women drivers, Batts points out. Almost 40 percent of recruiters are women; however, just over 25 percent of companies offer female trainers for new hires, and slightly more than 10 percent offer female mentors, DriverIQ’s survey shows.

Improve the Image of Trucking

The trucking industry has an image problem, warns Hallie Fisher, Adcom Senior Vice President, Director of Trucking and Transportation. A few decades ago, in the cultural peak of trucking, the driving profession was respected and marked by freedom and adventure. Today, however, the career is viewed as dangerous, stressful and unhealthy.

“In today’s connected culture, the negative gets amplified,” she explains. “There’s a need to raise awareness on positive aspects of the profession and promote new realities of negative barriers.”

Adcom’s recent survey of 18- to 26-year-olds showed that the biggest appeal of driving today is that drivers are well paid (44 percent), but freedom and adventure are still big selling points for 32 percent of respondents. To leverage this, Fisher recommends that fleets highlight the more emotive aspects of driving – culture, pride and respect.

Move the Dialogue to Social Media

Social media can be a very effective tool for improving the image of trucking and connecting with current and prospective drivers.

Jazrawy encourages companies to crowd-source their fleets. “Facebook Live is a powerful option. Drivers love Facebook!” she emphasizes, adding that private Facebook groups give women, in particular, valuable opportunities for much-needed connection.

The next generation driver is even more likely to engage on social media, Fisher says. In fact, 38 percent of the 18- to 26-year-olds the company surveyed said that social media had shaped their view of the trucking profession. The study shows that this age group is 102 percent more likely than average consumers to be on Instagram, 119 percent more likely to use Twitter, and a whopping 224 percent more likely to use Fortnite.

“Take a hard look at where you’re sharing your message,” Fisher says. “If you’re trying to reach a younger audience and not using mo- bile/social, you’re probably not reaching them.”

While there is much work to be done, in time, incorporating best practices like these can help to improve the experience of both drivers and the companies that hire them.

This article was originally featured in Edition 1 of 2019 in our official magazine, Redefining The Road

Like this kind of content? As a member of the Women In Trucking Association, stay on top of emerging trends and business issues impacting transportation, logistics, and supply chain operations, learn the importance of gender diversity in the workplace and the need for more women drivers, and see best practices in encouraging the employment of women in the trucking industry. Learn More

Topics:LeadershipHuman ResourcesSales & MarketingRedefining The Road Magazine

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