How to Retain High-Quality Drivers

WorkHound partnered with Roadrunner Freight on a July 1 webinar to discuss the company’s evolving culture and retaining high-quality drivers. With anonymous driver feedback in the mix, Roadrunner Freight has improved retention and driver satisfaction. To watch the replay, click here.

As part of a massive company-wide culture overhaul, Roadrunner Freight began prioritizing retaining high-quality drivers by asking for anonymous feedback since April 2019. Adopting the mantra within their new tagline, “SHIP IT LIKE YOU OWN IT,” has led to increased service and quality to customers.

“SHIP IT LIKE YOU OWN IT” isn’t just about the drivers. It’s meant for the entire organization,” said Brad Sowa, Director of Recruiting at Roadrunner Freight. “The way we look at it is everyone has a part in shipping our customers’ goods from (Point) A to B. And we have to believe that everyone has a responsibility to customers, both internally and externally.”

In initiating this company-wide focus, the Roadrunner Freight team set out to source a service that could help reduce turnover, eliminate the guesswork, and establish a feedback culture within the company. The Roadrunner Freight cost-to-replace drivers is roughly $5000, and more for a high-quality driver.

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Oftentimes high turnover can be met with inefficient and costly assumptions, and so Roadrunner Freight has been using anonymous driver feedback for:

  • Operational intelligence to make impactful change
  • Instant, anonymous driver feedback
  • An alternative channel for driver communication
  • Intervention when a driver indicates they’re ready to leave

To achieve these goals Roadrunner Freight Independent Contractors are sent an open-ended text message weekly asking how things are going.

Drivers first confirm they aren’t operating any machinery, this is important for both WorkHound, Roadrunner Freight, and the safety of our roadways. And then they are asked to rate the company on a scale of 1-10. Finally, drivers can share exactly what’s on their mind, anonymously. This all takes less than 90 seconds.

Once their feedback is submitted, then it’s sent directly to Roadrunner for members of the team to read, unfiltered, and this helps their team understand current driver priorities.

“The word “unfiltered” sticks out,” said Sowa. “We’ve seen just about everything, and that’s the benefit of the tool, because it is unfiltered. When the feedback is blunt we can say, ‘okay, this person is passionate about this’ and that’s what we want. We want passionate people who are willing to help us fix it.”

Anonymity offers security for drivers to leave higher quality feedback. Without it, there is a real fear of retaliation.

While there are several ways to take action on this feedback, our focus here will be on two features that Brad and his team are using regularly to resolve driver communications, even when they are anonymous.

These features offer:

  • The ability to send a request for drivers to reveal their identity
  • The ability to send drivers a one-time notification when carriers need to share direct information in response to feedback


The ability to ask workers to reveal their identity was initiated so that companies, like Roadrunner Freight, can address worker issues. Most often, professional drivers would rather get their problems fixed than go sit through orientation somewhere else.

Dashboard users in the operations or recruiting or HR departments can click a button on the dashboard labeled “Request” and the drivers instantly receive a text message asking if they’ll reveal.

“When we read the feedback, we provide it to the appropriate owner to intervene or congratulate a team member when we get positive feedback,” said Sowa. “We really try to get feedback directly to the owner of the responsibility.”

Measuring the specific efforts put into action in response to driver feedback is important to both WorkHound and Roadrunner Freight. Sometimes turnover is just a result of the straw that broke the camel’s back and so we want to be proactive as often as possible.

So when a driver decides to reveal, a timer starts and if the driver stays an additional 30 days, it’s counted as a successful retention opportunity. Roadrunner Freight has experienced 328 retention opportunities and nearly 95% of drivers stayed at least 30 days after their issue was addressed.

While the request feature is often used for intervention, it’s also a great chance to capitalize on wins and ask the driver to have a positive conversation over the phone.

Comments that are considered “wins” are categorized in the “Praise” theme. The “Praise” theme helps companies identify opportunities to double-down on what’s going right.

For example, here’s a real comment from an anonymous driver on the Roadrunner Freight dashboard: “I would like to say. Over the past few weeks I have had multiple truck problems. 24/7 and roadsquad have gone above and beyond to assist me in a timely fashion. Through great communication I have been kept informed every step of the way. Thank you for the help in my times of need”

Because of a collection of comments like this one, the Roadrunner Freight team is now informed that expedient, thoughtful, and thorough communication is an area that is excelling in this driver’s specific location.

One-Time Notification

Through WorkHound experience and research, oftentimes a driver’s identity isn’t necessary for resolving concerns. The ability to leave a one-time notification to get drivers the information they’re looking for has been a game-changer in retaining high-quality drivers.

A button on the dashboard labeled “Notify” allows users to enter a custom message to send to the driver so that they can provide important resolution, like specific information or company resources, or a phone number to call if they need urgent assistance, but have chosen not to reveal.

“Not every single comment needs large-scale involvement. Sometimes just an acknowledgment is all that’s needed,” said Sowa. “The most impactful portion of this feature is that its custom and the reason that’s important is that it’s helpful to give a personal message. Drivers want to know that someone is actually doing something with their feedback.”

This feature has helped Sowa and his team affect real change for drivers on an interpersonal level thanks to the ability to share specific, individualized responses.

The Impact of Instant Communication

These intentional steps to amplify the voice of drivers on the frontline have resulted in company-wide, tangible change. As a direct result of feedback from Independent Contractors, Roadrunner Freight has made the following changes:

  • Increase of direct email communication to the Independent Contractor Fleet from Roadrunner Freight
  • Started a monthly Independent Contractor newsletter in October of 2019
  • Improved settlement timing allowing for Independent Contractors to turn in trips later in the process and be settled the same week
  • Match Independent Contractors fuel purchases to their specific trip to match cost to revenue for their business
  • Improved cleanliness and organization at our facilities as a result of direct feedback
  • Use One-Time Notification feature to reinforce driver confidence on feedback and directly share helpful resources
  • Independent Contractors have committed to “SHIP IT LIKE YOU OWN IT,” leading to increased service and quality to customers
  • Consistently achieved 93% or above on-time service in top 100 lanes over the last 6 months
  • Contractor participation in team member recognition by submitting photos of properly loaded trailers

Actions like ones on this expansive list have demonstrated the importance of driver feedback over the last year as feedback on the WorkHound dashboard has evolved to a more positive outlook while retaining high-quality drivers. Measurably, Roadrunner Freight has experienced the following successes in their evolution to becoming a feedback culture:


  • YTD: Added over 100 Independent Contractors
  • Rolling 12 month turnover has dropped to 75% from over 140% at this time last year
  • Turnover in the last 90 days is at 55%

In reflection over the last year of insights, Sowa says that feedback has been a catalyst for the evolution in culture changes that have driven retention for high-quality drivers.

“We have to acknowledge the high turnover we had when we began this program,” said Sowa. “For us to recognize where we want to go culturally, we have to understand where we’re coming from and we’re not afraid to show it. We clearly know where we’ve been and we refuse to go back there.”

You can watch the full webinar, including additional Q&A, here. Interested in retaining high-quality drivers? Talk with an expert to learn more.