Using Exit Interviews to Retain Truck Drivers

exit interviews

There is a misconception that exit interviews will not be useful because outgoing employees are usually disgruntled and will just say bad things about the company they are leaving. This, however, is not always the case, especially with truck drivers. For companies that do exit interviews, drivers will often divert from the actual reasons they leave to not "burn the bridge" with the carrier.  Drivers leave for a number of reasons: concerns of family, pay, equipment, personnel, lack of respect, retirement or leaving because they received a better offer at another company or in another industry. Exit interviews, are not only a respectful business practice, but can also provide vital information that can help you get a deeper understand of what triggers drivers to leave so you can work to improve the experience for the remaining drivers.

Here are 7 useful outcomes that can come from an exit interview that will help you retain your truck drivers:

  • Honest answers - Truck drivers that are leaving your company may not be honest initially, so you must emphasize that the conversation is confidential and what is shared won't affect the company's perspective of the driver. They will actually feel more respected if you are taking the time to find out  the real reasons as to what went wrong. Receiving honest answers is the most useful way to help your company make meaningful changes that will actually help retain your drivers.
  • Predict which truck drivers you need to give attention too - If you can better understand the personality type of the driver that is leaving, you will be able to recognize other drivers that may be similar to that outgoing driver. You will also know the characteristics of their job, such as OTR, dedicated, or local, which can help pinpoint which current drivers you should be spending more time on because they might have a higher chance of leaving.
  • Learn what motivates good drivers - This is especially important if you are losing a great driver. Finding out what motivates good employees to leave can be useful in retaining drivers that you already have and really don’t want to lose. Ask these outgoing drivers what made them stay as long as they did. Asking hard, specific questions (especially ones that start with "why..." and "how...") help you get detailed answers, even if it may be advice that is hard to swallow.
  • Learn what truck drivers are receiving at other companies - If you know your driver is leaving to drive for another company, ask them why. This is a good way to stay up to date on what other companies are offering and what drivers are actually looking for. Not only is this useful for recruitment, but you can use these answers to make a final attempt to counter to retain your drivers by offering an improved package.
  • Learn what characteristics of truck driver best fit your culture - Exit interviews can also help you learn more about your current drivers. If an outgoing driver is rude or seems like they weren’t a good employee you’ll know that they weren’t right for your culture anyway. On the other side, if you know that you are losing a good driver, you can pinpoint characteristics that you like in that driver, strengthen those areas within the company and focus on those while recruiting.
  • Highlight which areas you need to focus resources on - This is important for retaining, recruiting, and saving/allocating money. If you learn that something you are spending time and money on is not making a difference in keeping drivers happy, you’ll be able to change what you’re doing. Without an exit interview you won’t get honest feedback about company operations, which can lead to wasted efforts.
  • Keep in touch after they leave - Just because a driver leaves doesn't mean they won't return. Often drivers leave to chase greener pastures, only to realize how valuable working with the original company was. Many companies have success following up with departed drivers 2 weeks to 6 months after they leave and simply check in. The return rate is surprising, as drivers want to return to the company that cared. Funny how we always want what we can't have!

Why Truck Driver Wellness Affects Retention

It's no secret the trucking industry is known as one of the most unhealthy industries to work in. In 2014, a national survey announced that 39% of truck drivers were obese and an even higher percent were overweight. HealthyTrucker highlights that becoming a truck driver can be a huge lifestyle change and sometimes personal wellness gets put on the back burner during this change. It’s hard to stay healthy on the road, especially with fast food restaurants at every truck stop and no kitchen to cook a healthy meal in.  But this doesn’t mean that it's impossible for drivers at your company!

Since the results from the 2014 survey were published a few carriers such as Prime, Werner and Covenant have put together wellness programs in order to help their drivers continue to be active as much as possible while on the road. Having drivers who are in good health is essential to retaining them. First, there is a medical exam for truck drivers every two years, and if they can’t pass this test, they can’t continue to drive. Second, studies show that healthy employees perform better at work. If your drivers are unhealthy they won’t be able to work to the best of their ability which will lead to frustration, disengagement, and eventual departure.

Carriers can play a major role in helping their drivers stay healthy or change their unhealthy habits. Wellness programs, where carriers provide video workouts, healthy eating tips, stretches, and incentives for staying healthy, can really help drivers stay on track and feel empowered to stay in good health. We love a tip from truckinginfo.com that tells company managers to participate in the wellness program in order to show drivers that it’s important for everyone in the company to live a healthy lifestyle, not just the truck drivers.

Truck drivers have also taken it upon themselves to start living healthier lifestyles while on the road. Take for example, John “The Dancing Trucker” Drury. He decided to take his passion for dancing to lose over 100 pounds while still continuing to drive his truck. We interviewed John to learn more about his story and he explained how he got others involved with his goal of becoming a healthier trucker. Every time he lost 10 pounds he would go to a truck stop and invite others to dance with him. He knew this was unconventional but he said “he loves to break stereotypes and isn’t afraid to do what he loves.” We thought this was a great message because we’ve heard from truckers that they are embarrassed to do workouts at truck stops because drivers are rarely seen exercising there. John’s story emphasizes that it is possible to turn your health around out on the road and that you shouldn’t care what other people think while doing it!

Healthy living has become a major trend around the world, which has created a lot of solutions that can adjust to different needs. This means that it is an optimal time for carriers to encourage and reward a healthy lifestyle on the road because it’s not a lot of work for them. Simply providing a reason for drivers to make a change will make a big difference and quickly show results for the overall health of a company. In return this will help carriers retain more drivers who feel good about themselves, their job, and the company they drive for.


The #1 Benefit Truck Drivers Look for With a Carrier

When truck drivers are in search of a new company to drive for, pay and home time have become well known benefits that they look for. But did you know there is one more benefit that is just as essential when it comes to recruiting and retaining truck drivers?

It’s simple, it's free, and it makes a huge difference.

It’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

During conversations with truck drivers we’ve heard over and over again that they feel a lack of respect out on the road from the public, from dispatchers, and from their company. Many drivers, especially ones who are driving for carriers who employ more than 500 drivers, feel as though they are treated like a number or just someone holding a steering wheel, instead of a professional working in an important industry. All employees have an inherent need to feel valued, whether they are a cashier, a CEO, or a truck driver.

Respect isn’t a five-step plan that you can incorporate into your company overnight. You, the carrier, need to realize that your drivers are a necessity to the success of your company and treat them that way. If you can show your drivers that you value what they do for the company, they will quickly start to feel more respected. When drivers feel respected, they will respect you (the management), which creates a better experience for both parties. Forbes.com highlights the idea that respect leads to trust and trust leads to harder working employees. Having a company culture known for being respectful is a major competitive advantage in the trucking industry.

We aren’t saying that pay and home time are not important to truck drivers (because they are) but those two benefits paired with employees and managers who treat each other with mutual respect will play a major role in retaining drivers. Drivers are treated with disrespect from a multitude of people inside and outside the industry. If they know they are at least respected and appreciated by their carrier, they won’t want to leave. Thus, you will retain more truck drivers!


Stay Interviews: Expose Problems Before Losing Drivers

Exit interviews are great for learning about why drivers are leaving and using that information to make changes within the company. But what about finding out similar information from drivers before they decide to leave? The Society of Human Resource Managers shares a technique, “Stay Interviews,” that are beneficial for retaining high demand employees in industries such as technology. We thought this technique should be applied to the trucking industry in order to retain more truck drivers.

Stay interviews are casual interviews that are used to ask employees what they like and dislike about their job before it's too late. Specifically, companies should be asking questions such as, “What is one thing that you would like to see management change?” or “What changes would you like to see more of on a regular basis?” Simple questions like this can expose surprising answers that management might not realize. These questions can also generate changes to fleet operations "based on what the drivers said", as opposed to making changes because other companies in the industry are making tweaks. 

As a company, some might be hesitant to conduct stay interviews out of fear of learning what your employees might ask for or mention. Although some responses might not always be desired, valuable information will be learned and hopefully actionable in order to retain more truck drivers. An article about stay interviews on Fortune.com highlights the importance of remembering that listening to employees is helpful even if you can’t fix their problems right away.

Another response carriers don’t necessarily want to hear is that their employees want a raise (because all drivers do). Although, this will probably be heard by most drivers, a lot of them will take advantage of this stay interview and ask for something they believe will happen.

In interviews that we have conducted with truck drivers we have heard surprisingly small things that the driver would like to see change within the carrier they drive for. One response that has been heard quite a few times is that they would like the dispatcher to call them by their name instead of their driver number. This emphasizes that little things can make a big difference in the overall happiness of company drivers. Stay interviews can give drivers the ability to ask for these small changes instead of building up frustrations, which will eventually lead to turnover and another empty truck. If you provide your drivers with an opportunity to have a voice, it will lead to less turnover and happier employees.

Have any questions or comments about stay interviews? Let us know!
Keep on Truckin'! 


4 Reasons Driver Turnover Rates Have Decreased

The first quarter of 2015 closes with a surprising announcement to the trucking industry: a major decrease in driver turnover. Companies with more than $30 million in revenue are down to 84% turnover and smaller companies are down to 83%. This a 12% decrease for both! What happened in this quarter to cause such a change?

We’ve found 4 major reason why turnover has fallen:

  1. Slowdown in freight - Industry experts and economists, such as Bob Costello from the American Trucking Association, believe that a major reason for the decrease in driver turnover is due to the slowdown of freight throughout the industry. The amount of freight being transported was low in the first quarter of 2015, which led to less amount of loads for truckers. This caused drivers to be weary of leaving their carriers because they didn’t want to lose any more opportunity for hours on the road.
  2. Retention efforts - 2015 has also been a year of increased retention efforts across the industry because of the high turnover rate the past decade. In 2005 the turnover rate was around 130% and hasn’t gone below 90% until now. These high rates have led a number of companies to start implementing different retention tactics to steadily reduce their turnover rate.
  3. Increase in driver pay - Some carriers have been able to increase driver pay, which has also had a major impact on keeping drivers. Several drivers shared they received increases of 4¢-14¢ a mile. Not all companies have the ability to increase their pay rate, so drivers have a harder time leaving a company with good pay. In an article about the decline in driver turnover, JOC.com mentions Swift Transportation, as a larger carrier who continues to raise their pay for drivers. They highlight the benefit of raising driver pay; it lowers their turnover, thus they spend less money on recruiting and advertising.
  4. Recruitment and sign on bonuses - Recruitment has been a major theme in the trucking industry for years and this quarter it paid off for a lot of carriers. Sign on bonuses, where drivers had to sign a contract that forced them to work for the carrier for a certain amount of time, became a popular recruitment effort. If drivers are incentivized on a contract, it makes them think twice about leaving, which is really good for the short term turnover rates.

Will this decrease in the turnover rate last?

With freight loads increasing this quarter and sign on bonuses becoming a standard for most organizations, this low turnover rate will most likely begin to increase once again. The retention efforts and pay raises may help delay the rise back to the 97% industry average. In Transport Topics, Costello mentions that retention issues are still going to be a major problem for the industry. If companies want to keep their numbers stagnant, they will have to work extra hard on their retention efforts. Communicating with drivers about why they are staying and what could make them stay longer will be beneficial for carriers, especially while turnover rates are low.

What are you doing to lower your driver turnover rates? Tell us!
Keep on Truckin'!


Become the Harley Davidson of Trucking to Boost Driver Retention

"The only way I can tell who I'm driving for is the name on the door."

This isn't the first time we've heard this. In fact, several truck drivers we have spoke with have shared this sentiment. They have no idea what the company's culture, customs or goals are. They could care less about their fellow employees. Most importantly, they feel no connection to the company they are driving for. This is a major issue when it comes to driver retention.

Think about the motorcycle industry, who is the first company that jumps to mind? we're going to guess Harley Davidson immediately pops up (and not just because it's on the title of this blog). Harley has become more than just a company selling motorcycles, they’ve become a way of life for their customers. They have a cult-like following of people who feel so passionate about the brand that they regularly wear Harley gear, join Harley groups, get Harley tattoos and of course ride Harley bikes.

Now think about your trucking company. What if you could create this type of brand loyalty? This type of culture? What if you could have a group of drivers who would never think of driving for another company because they have so much pride in your company?

This isn’t something that can happen over night but it should be something your company is always striving for. This will help with retaining drivers, keeping trucks running, saving money and creating an all around better culture within your company. 

To build a brand that your employees will be proud of, start with these simple tips:

Emphasize pride early: From the very first interview, highlight how much pride you feel for your company. An easy way to do this is to tell a meaningful story about your experience with the company. If pride is engrained in new hire’s head from the beginning, it will be more likely to stick with them. It is a lot easier to train employees with the culture you want and have them grow with it, rather than try to force it on them later.   

Have high expectations: Don’t just hire anyone! Because of the driver shortage happening in the industry right now, it’s easy to start hiring whoever applies. You must be thoughtful about who you are hiring. You don’t want to hire an employee that isn’t motivated, doesn’t have similar values to the company, or has been hopping around to different carriers. This employee will not be loyal. Harleys aren't for every biker, the same way that your company isn't for every driver. During the interview process share that you have very high expectations for drivers. This will show new hires that they were chosen for a cultural fit and not just because your company needs more drivers.

Use top employees as advocates: You most likely have drivers who really enjoy driving for your company. Use these drivers to advocate for you to other drivers and, especially, new hires. If employees feel the pride coming from their fellow employees they will start to pick up on that vibe. The more it spreads throughout employees, the easier job you’ll have.

Hold occasional company gatherings: Getting large groups of the company together to partake in something fun and relaxing can go a long way in having loyal employees. This may sound like an expensive idea, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be as easy as cooking some burgers and hot dogs at the terminal on occasion. Some carriers even pull out lawn games to compliment the fun. Plus, if this keeps your employees happy, it will save you money in the long run.

Focus on retaining, rather than recruiting: This technique is something that Harley Davidson does with their customers. Instead of focusing all their efforts on gaining new customers they give a significant amount of attention to existing customers. If you start to shift your focus more on existing drivers, the need for recruitment will start to slow down. Drivers want to be recognized, respected, and heard; show drivers that your company is focused on these three things and they'll start to feel a sense of pride driving for you.

How does your company create a culture of pride? Let us know below.
Keep on Truckin'!


5 Ways to Make Sure New Driver Hires Stick Around

New hire tips

Truck driver retention is priority number one for many carriers, as the trucking industry has an average yearly turnover rate of 97% . This percentage includes all drivers, but new drivers (with a company for less than 90 days) are more inclined to change companies with staggering turnover rates around 300% for some carriers. 

Getting new truck driver hires right and continuing to make them welcomed with the company is essential. 

Use these 5 tips to make sure your new drivers know they made the right choice joining your company!

  1. Make Expectations Clear
    Don’t be afraid to inform new hires of what the job will really entail. Be honest about everything from expected miles, pay, home time, equipment and ways of communication.  Sugarcoating the job will only lead to eventual unhappiness. If you are clear from the beginning, employees will be more trusting and ready for what’s to come.

  2. Have a Meaningful Orientation
    There is nothing new hires hate more than spending a full day at an orientation that they’ve heard from every job. Make your orientation specific to your company. Use exciting tools or specific driver stories to make the new hire feel as though they are joining something great! Trucking has a tremendous purpose and new drivers need to be reminded of just how important of a role they play with the company. When you have to share the less-than-exciting information, make sure to tie it back to this purpose. 

  3. Don’t be Disorganized
    New hires will instantly be put off with a company that is disorganized. If you are constantly changing times, rescheduling, or acting scattered, new hires will have a hard time trusting the organization. They also might feel as though that’s part of the culture and become disorganized themselves.

  4. Have an Inviting Personnel
    When a new hire is first coming into an organization for training or orientation make sure the employees they are meeting are welcoming and excited. If a new employee feels as though they are not really wanted, they will quickly become unmotivated. This is an easy, yet effective way to make a good first impression!

  5. Give Feedback and Encourage Feedback
    Giving feedback to new employees is highly important in making sure your employees are behaving in line with company needs and culture. If you don’t give effective feedback often, employees will fall into a habit, which will be harder to change. Also, make sure you allow and encourage feedback to be given to the company so that employees are not afraid to share their feelings.

Have other tips? Have feedback about our ideas? Let us know!

Keep on Truckin'!


Earning Trust: 7 Tips to Retain Your Truck Drivers

Retaining your truck drivers is more than just an act: it's an art and a science.

We asked 150+ truck drivers from different carriers about why they are happy or unhappy with their companies. The results were eye opening. We heard a lot of complaints about companies not following through - whether it be about rewards packages or getting home at a certain time. Some issues such as type of load, may not be important to the office staff, but can be really frustrating for drivers. It’s important to remember that building trust is hard but losing trust can only take one wrong action. This is easy and important when it comes to retaining drivers. We came to the conclusion that one of the major causes of unhappiness is the lack of trust drivers feel with management and dispatchers. 

To help your team improve truck driver retention, here are seven tips on how to handle a driver when they come to management with a problem.

employee trust

Respond quickly - If the goal is to retain your truck drivers, we must realize that when one has an issue, a quick response from the office is crucial. These issues escalate and frustrate drivers when they call and are place on hold indefinitely. If a driver feels as though they have someone readily available to help them, they will be more trusting that their problems can be fixed in a timely manner.

Listen and empathize - When you connect with drivers, make the time worthwhile by actually listening to what they have to say. Small things, such as nodding your head or taking notes, can show drivers that you are paying attention. Always call drivers by name as opposed to a number. Some carriers even have systems that allow the staff to know personal details about the driver when they call in to create a stronger relationship. With that, there's more authenticity in emphasizing that you understand their problems and really want to help.

Ask questions - Truck drivers may not know how to articulate exactly how they are feeling or why they are feeling that way. Ask them questions in order to get the most detail possible. Usually we focus on questions that begin with "why" or "how", as these encourage a driver to share openly. This will help you have a better understanding of how you can fix their problem and will also make the driver feel as though you really want to understand what they are going through.

Relate to their problems - If something a driver says relates to you in anyway, tell them! If drivers can feel like they have a connection with you, they will feel more comfortable talking to you. Whether family, sports teams, hobbies or even the weather, deeper connections work. This is a really useful technique in building trust with your truck drivers quickly.

Follow through on results - After you hear from a driver, discuss with them about what you are going to do to help them. This will be the most important part of the discussion because this is what the driver is looking for. Make sure that the decision you come to is a realistic approach so that you can follow through. Don’t promise drivers something that you can’t give them, that will quickly break their trust. 

Check up after a problem is resolved - Solving a problem is half the battle. Once you’ve done your part and followed through on your discussion, call the driver and make sure that they feel as though the problem was solved. This is an easy follow up and can make a big impact on the driver. At the end of this conversation make sure to ask if there is anything else they need.

Emphasize that respect is part of the culture - Throughout this whole process be sure to highlight the importance of respect. If the culture of your company doesn’t emphasize respect, trust between truck drivers and managers will be hard to build, which will continue to cause your turnover rates to increase. Too often we hear that a lot of disrespect comes from dispatchers, which are usually the primary driver contacts. Respect is a two-way street, as both staff and drivers need to respect the roles each play to make the company thrive. Spreading a culture of respect ultimately leads to happier, hard-working employees that boost the bottom line and want to stay with the company. 

Do you have any other ways you gain employees trust? Let us know!
Keep on Truckin'!


appreciation

10 Ways to Show Drivers you Appreciate Them

Our team has been conducting multiple interviews with truck drivers over the past couple weeks in order to learn about problems with driver retention. We have found that a major reason drivers are unhappy is because they don’t feel as though they are appreciated or respected. Research shows that employees who feel a lack of appreciation lose motivation to perform well or look for a new job. This is a major issue when it comes to retaining your truck drivers. Check out these 10 easy ways to make your drivers feel more appreciated!

  1. Remember Truck Driver’s Name - Easy yet SO important. Too many truck drivers complain of being "just a number" with some carriers and is shared as one of the reasons they leave. Whether on calls or in person, say their name more than once instead of identifying by their driver number. 
  2. Hand Written Notes - Writing a note shows your drivers that you took the time to think about them and is way more personal than a quick email or text.
  3. Company Luncheons - Company wide get togethers are a great way to create a friendly culture with all employees. It also makes drivers feel as though they are part of a team. We've heard drivers rave for weeks about surprise barbecues at terminals. Plus, who doesn’t love free food?
  4. Write Letters to Families of Truck Drivers - This can go a long way because having a truck driver in your family can be really hard. If the driver’s family knows that the driver is appreciated, they’ll feel more at ease with their driver being on the road for long periods of time.
  5. Remember Truck Driver’s Birthdays or Anniversaries - These are exciting events for everybody and showing them that you remember can really make a truck driver feel special. Some carriers post this on social media and give drivers a quick call, but a little goes a long way. 
  6. Respond to Feedback Given From Drivers, Good or Bad! - If drivers know that their feedback is being received, they’ll be more inclined to share their feelings about what’s going on out on the road. When you're able to know what drivers are thinking and feeling on the road, you can improve operations accordingly - boosting bottom lines and morale at the same time. 
  7. Share Truck Driver’s Accomplishments Company Wide - When one of your truck driver’s does something great, it makes them feel even better when the whole company hears about it, especially managers. We're all fans of a good story and good stories of heroism, safety, persistence and skill deserve to be shared. 
  8. Make Conversations Meaningful With Drivers- Staying updated on drivers should become a regular thing but if you’re lacking time, make sure that when you talk to drivers they feel like you know them. Keep track of personal interests that drivers have, family details and ask about unique experiences on the road. Drivers will always fight to be "more than just a number'.
  9. Start a Truck Driver Recognition Program - Many carriers already do this, but everyone can always improve. Carriers recognize driver of the month, celebrating million milers or rewarding unique situations drivers overcome. This will motivate employees to be at their best, thus increasing their quality of work. Competition is a great motivation for a lot of employees!
  10. Ask Drivers for Ideas or Opinions About Company Policies - This will show drivers that their opinions matter and that they have a voice within the company. If they feel like they are part of a team, they will have more pride with the company they work for.

What are some other ways you show your employees that they are appreciated? Share them with us!