5 Driver Retention Ideas From MATS 2018

The Mid-America Truck Show (MATS) is the largest show in North America. This is where you can learn about the latest trucking industry products.

Our WorkHound team interviewed experts from 35+ trucking companies to learn more about innovative driver retention ideas. Here are the best approaches companies are taking to increase driver retention rates.

As you can guess, there’s no quick fix to driver retention and recruiting isn’t complete once a driver is hired. That’s why it’s important to combine ideas from the list below. The end result should be happier drivers, increased retention rates, and a more efficient operation!

Be transparent:

From one expert in the field: “Recruiting is like dating– it’s important to set realistic expectations.”

Recruit to retain on the forefront by presenting and aligning realistic expectations. Many carriers are actively looking for drivers that will fit the company culture. This includes drivers with experience that fits the expectations for their role.

Set recruits up for success by being completely proactive and transparent. Be upfront about any unique policies or perks that your company has to offer. And then, create a retention cadence beyond the drivers’ first few months to ensure your expectations are continuously aligned.

In short, don’t over promise and under deliver.


It’s no secret that at times, drivers and dispatchers can have an adversarial relationship. That’s why it’s important to facilitate face-to-face connections whenever possible.

If a driver isn’t able to meet these key players in person, set up a video call. Retention is everyone’s job in every department.

And this goes beyond introductions. Staying connected includes checking in with drivers throughout the year about how they are doing, not just in the first 90 days. Keep drivers up-to-speed by checking in regularly.

Trucking is a community and drivers want to feel like they’re part of the family. Open up dialogue about life beyond work. As one connection at MATS said: “If you treat a driver like a driver, you lose them. If you treat them like a person, you keep them.”

Don’t forget to give drivers a voice beyond the recruiting process. Ask for referrals. A happy driver is the best recruiter.

Offer perks:

Create a great brand image that makes drivers proud of their company.  Lately, carriers are establishing this identity through employee perks.  

To get started: Create short orientations so drivers can quickly get on the road.

Does your company offer an Employee Stock Ownership Plan? Empower drivers to become an owner through an ESOP program. This is also a great way to incorporate financial coaching. Help drivers get set up for success off-the-road through financial planning.

If your carrier is just one pillar of an even larger operation, maybe you can offer advantages for other resources in the organization. If your company or ownership group owns a restaurant or resort, consider perks. If they own a truck shop, what would it take to offer discounts on parts?

Maybe your carrier already offers incredible benefits and it’s been awhile since you’ve reminded the workforce. Repetition is okay and an open opportunity to start a positive interaction.

Close the gap:

In any organization, it’s challenging to build connections between the top-level and those on the front line. Especially in a mobile workforce like trucking.

A quick call from leadership on a special day can go far. Consider anniversaries at one month, six months or a year. And don’t forget birthdays! One carrier we met even offers a bonus when drivers work on a milestone dates.

Retention mindset starts from the top down.


“We’ve always done it this way” is a pretty dangerous phrase, especially in an industry changing as rapidly as trucking.

If you’ve found yourself saying this phrase but don’t know what to do next, consider tracking issues that your drivers are facing and tackling their feedback head-on.

Change can be good and it might be time for it. Adapting to your drivers’ needs is the key to their happiness which will ultimately result in higher retention and a more profitable investment in recruiting.

And remember: A happy driver is the best recruiter.


Special thanks to these companies for sharing actionable wisdom:

Merx Global, A & R Logistics, ContainerPort, Daily Express, Mercer, Foremost Transport, Hogan Transports, Trailer Transit, CoreTrans, Transport Investments, Online Transport, Atlas, Eby Brown, Dominos, Long Haul Trucking, Koch Trucking, and Quickway Carriers.


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