When It Comes to Driver Retention, It’s Not All About Pay

When a professional driver is looking for a new employment opportunity, there’s no doubt that he or she takes a good look at the pay being offered. After all, compensation is a driving force in how most of us choose a job.

But once a driver signs on with a trucking carrier, retaining the driver is about a lot more than compensation. There are a few key reasons for that, including recent changes related to driver retention pay in the industry.

“In 2021, many carriers in the industry adjusted driver pay to a level where drivers can afford a decent quality of life,” says Katie Love, Marketing Manager at WorkHound. “But interestingly enough, many drivers are now making an income that’s higher than the cost of living, and yet, turnover remains really high. Because trucking companies are offering a consistent market wage, the pay is just table stakes.”

With higher starting compensation now becoming the norm across the industry, companies have to do more once a driver joins the ranks in order to keep that driver happy. But where do you even begin?

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Giving Drivers a Reason to Stay

While the trucking industry’s persistent turnover problem makes it seem as if drivers are looking for reasons to leave, the reality is that they’re looking for reasons to stay in many cases. Drivers want to feel invested in their company,” Love says. “They want to be engaged with their companies, and we know that companies want to be engaged with their drivers.”

That mutual engagement requires some trust-building exercises — and we aren’t talking about “trust falls” or similar activities. Instead, it’s all about building in processes and small measures that demonstrate to your drivers that they are valued.

“Companies invest in their drivers as people, and then drivers invest in their companies,” Love says. “They want to be seen as the professionals that they are. That’s having a carrier who values your perspective. That’s being seen as equal with other members of the team in other departments. That’s being treated as trusted advisors and colleagues. And all of this must happen ASAP when drivers sign on the dotted line to drive for you.

Seeing Drivers as People

That heading may seem a little funny, because of course drivers are people, right? But this may be the single biggest lesson we can share about how companies can build trust and develop relationships with their drivers.

All too often, professional drivers are seen for the work they do — not necessarily for the people they are and the qualities that make them unique. Retaining your employees starts with truly seeing and embracing them as human beings.

Start with the big picture: Many trucking carriers identify drivers with a number. Disregarding (or even doing away with) the number and referencing all drivers by their first names can be an important first step.

Then use the resources at your disposal to keep track of important details about your drivers and their lives. Have a CRM or an ATS for recruiting? Utilize it as a repository for the humanizing aspects of drivers, like birthdays, spouse names, kids’ ages, and so on. 

Gather and remember that information to make connections. Acknowledge your drivers’ birthdays and anniversaries with a handwritten note or a call from the CEO or another leader. Driver managers can also use the details as “talking points” of sorts in regular conversations with drivers, using them as a jumping-off point into creating deeper relationships.

Take the time to ask about your drivers’ long-term goals and to invest in them. Doing so is a key way to show your employees that they’re valued beyond their current roles.

“Drivers are often stuck in a line and can do the same job forever,” Love says. “Finding ways to help develop those jobs into bigger opportunities is important, whether it’s allowing drivers to take on more miles, run a different route, move into a driver-trainer position to provide mentorship to new-hires, or it’s possible they want to grow into a job in the office. Talk with your drivers to understand what their career goals are.”

The Data Behind This Approach

The art (and science) of retaining drivers isn’t as cut and dry as the analytics and telematics used to manage other aspects of trucking and logistics. But there’s still a good bit of data out there to back up a human-centered approach to retention.

As we gather feedback from drivers for our clients, we also analyze and evaluate that information. 

“WorkHound helps our clients not just by solving individual issues mentioned in the platform, but also by collecting and organizing feedback by category and sentiment,” Love says. “Getting a clear picture of what’s going on at both the individual and team-wide levels really helps businesses improve culture at a foundational level, and that’s something we’re very proud of.”

Getting to know your drivers as human beings is a key part of showing them they’re valued. Learn more about the industry-wide trends in anonymous worker feedback to understand how to do better for your drivers in 2022.