Top 3 retention strategies at MATS

The WorkHound team attends the Mid-America Truck Show (MATS), the largest trucking show in North America, every year to meet one-on-one with industry experts.

While much of the focus of the convention is on recruiting, we do things a bit differently and saw this as an opportunity to dig into the proactive approach and understand how experts are shifting focus to retention.

Experts from 35+ trucking companies shared innovative driver retention ideas with the WorkHound team, and interestingly enough, the full spectrum of strategies in 2019 boiled down to only three key themes.

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1. Set Realistic Expectations

We all know the feeling of being courted by a salesman who goes dark once the sale is closed. Imagine that feeling while taking on a new career. No matter your role in the driver recruiting process set the driver up for success by properly setting expectations and communicating ever more once they sign on the dotted line.

Expectation setting is a two-way street. The carrier will have the opportunity to communicate thoroughly about the work they’re offering, and the driver can come clean with the experience they’ve been sold. Time and time again, driver feedback via WorkHound cracks open a misalignment between overpromising and underdelivering on experience.

Read about our 2018 driver feedback trends here.

Show respect to drivers by getting on the same page from the get-go and continuing to course correct as necessary with regular, consistent communication.

2. Culture & Communication

When a driver signs on at your company, they’re not only lending their skills, they’re sharing a large portion of their life. Culture is important and industry leaders are working harder than ever to understand how to offer a better culture.

For many, culture has started with work-life balance. Companies are finding ways to offer more time at home while also taking the time to get to know drivers’ families once they’ve committed to a carrier. This can also open doors for family members to find professional opportunities within the company.

Carriers are also offering cross-functional roles to drivers. Opportunities like this mean that drivers split their time between driving and taking on work of other disciplines to prevent burnout. This also helps drivers get face time with other representatives of the company, whether drivers or office workers so that they can feel the camaraderie of their company’s entire driving force. Getting to know workers of other departments also develops empathy across the company.

This effort to develop empathy can also be tackled with an outreach cadence by contacting drivers for personal touchpoints at 30, 60, 90 days and six months. This can be used for tracking how the drivers’ experience is going and having transparent conversations about their expectations.

Additionally, set the precedent that carriers want honest and open feedback. Weekly, WorkHound sends out text messages to drivers to ask for their anonymous feedback for their carrier. What we’ve found is that carriers that offer the opportunity to leave feedback in this way without the fear of repercussions are able to grow trust with their workers, tackle the hard issues, and intervene when a driver waves the red flag that it’s time to move on.

3. Reward Hard Work

While we’re big fans of proactive efforts in retaining workers (especially because we all know the cost to replace a driver is upwards $5000), we’re excited to see when the reactive efforts are meant for rewarding hard workers.

A referral program is becoming a popular way to grow a professional driver force but in an effort to avoid “bonus-hopping,” companies are spreading out reward funds over the course of several months or even a year.

When drivers leave positive feedback via WorkHound, carriers are encouraged to reach out to that driver to thank them for their feedback, and ask if they’d like share their experience with fellow drivers. While we know all recruiters are working hard, a happy driver truly is the best recruiter.

One company at MATS shared that they are offering a $12,000 signing bonus, but drivers must stay a full year to qualify with the thought being that once a driver makes it to certain milestone days, the likelihood they’ll remain on the team continues to increase.

Beyond the recruiting process, carriers are also beginning to take a stand for drivers on pay. Outside of traditional driver pay policies, drivers are being offered guaranteed compensation pay to account for the times when freight isn’t running on time or situations outside of a driver’s control that prevent them from receiving the mileage pay they’re hoping to earn.

Carriers are also holding shippers and receivers accountable by billing for wait times to keep drivers running and happy, rather than at the mercy of a shipment that’s running behind schedule.

Last, but not least, make sure drivers receive pay adjustments to raise with the cost of living. A pay raise can go a long way and with recruiting costs skyrocketing to $5000 or more per driver, a raise could be the grand solution to fewer empty seats in the long run.

For ideas and takeaways from 2018 MATS, read our take here.

Special thanks to these companies for sharing actionable wisdom:

Vascor Transport, U.S. Bulk, Old Dominion, Valley Transportation Service, Inc., Diamond Transportation System, Usher Transport, Inc., Beacon Roof, Red Classic, Rush Trucking, Unimark, Anderson Transportation Systems, Leggett & Platt, Super T Transport