9 Driver Retention Ideas From MATS 2016 (Part 1)

(4 minute read)

Our team at WorkHound interviewed experts from 35+ trucking companies to learn about their innovative driver retention ideas. This article highlights the best approaches companies are taking to increase driver retention rates.

Many of you know that the Mid-American Truck Show (MATS) is the largest show in North America. This is where you can learn about about products that cover everything trucking related.

However, when we were down at MATS we focused on the ideas. Specifically innovative driver retention ideas.

We engaged with these companies to learn what unique things they do to boost driver retention rates.

As you can guess, there’s no silver bullet to driver retention, it takes a buckshot approach. This makes it important to combine driver retention ideas. The end result should be happier drivers, increased retention rates, and a more efficient operation!

Here are our favorite driver retention ideas from MATS 2016:

Build a driver retention cadence

1. Creating the driver retention cadence:

When a new driver is hired, the first 90-180 days are the most crucial to their success in your company.

This is so important that most companies we spoke with are creating programs to address this. Carriers increasingly focus on the first 3-6 months of a driver’s tenure to ensure they are well integrated into the company.

Many companies schedule 30, 60, and 90 day calls to each new driver to build a relationship. They also find out what’s going well, what needs to improve, and what questions the driver may have. Other companies create a more elaborate system. This approach involves many company departments such as payroll, operations, safety, maintenance, and recruiting.  This creates several advocates within the company that the driver can engage with.

We will be talking about retention cadences more in the future, as they can have a significant impact on any carrier. (Multiple carriers do this)

Create a mentor program

When drivers join a company they are bringing past habits to a new operation. Mentorship is a great way to help steer a driver towards how the company operates. To do this, many companies have unique approaches to mentoring.

2. Senior drivers become mentors:

For one company, senior drivers naturally become mentors, where they pair with new hires to “show the ropes”. This is helpful in understanding the technology, the processes, and the paperwork. (Letica)

3. Referring drivers become a new driver’s mentor:

Another carrier adds incentives to existing drivers by using mentorship as motivation. When current drivers refer new ones, the existing driver becomes a “mentor”. This mentorship happens over the  over the first six months to ensure that the new driver stays. Also the new driver now has an ally at the company and has someone to reach out to with questions.

Embrace early training

For several companies, taking “baby steps” with new drivers  key to a successful tenure. This leads to many unique approaches that lead to increased understanding, trust, and expectations.

4. Don’t hammer early mistakes:

Everyone makes mistakes. This includes office staff and drivers. When a new driver makes an early error, a few carriers take time to coach a driver through the mistake and not punish them. While some mistakes may cost time or money early, this helps increase trust between the office and the driver. Long term, this builds the driver’s trust in the company to stay for the long haul. (Styline)

5. Mandatory in-truck training:

One company requires new drivers (regardless of experience level) to undergo extra training. The training consists of three in-cab rides with another driver. This process helps them learn the technology and the company communication process. Also, it helps clear up questions about in-truck tools, as well as how to handle paperwork. (Styline Logistics, Continental Carbonic)

6. Avoiding bad circumstances:

When a driver joins a new company you don’t send them straight to New York City according to a few carriers. These carriers set policies to reduce trips to big cities and tough interstates. Boosting driver confidence with early successes is key. Over time, these loads will become more challenging based on a driver’s comfort level. (Daily Express, Gypsum Express)

7. Extra training for new owner operators:

When it comes to owner operators, one company provides business training on how to run a business as a new owner operator. This is helpful when a driver is transitioning from a company driver to a small business owner. By having the company’s support in this transition, this helps establish respect. (Christenson)

Continuous improvement

Trucking is a 24/7 business and the ideas within each operation need to evolve with the times. A few companies are proactive in understanding the newest tactics to positively impact drivers.

8. Retention committees / focus groups:

A few companies have a set meeting for a committee of employees to specifically discuss how to improve driver retention tactics. This includes reviewing which tactics are being implemented in the industry. They also brainstorm ideas about how driver retention can improve their company. Some companies include office staff only, while others include drivers in these meetings. (Fraley & Schilling, Containerport)

9. Raising urgent issues to all employees:

One of the most dangerous things a company can do is ignore employee feedback. One company sends all-company emails to office staff to ensure the most important driver issues don’t fall on deaf ears. This extra touchpoint helps build empathy for drivers and create staff urgency to resolve the issue. (Packard Transport) 

Want more ideas? Here’s part two with 9 more driver retention ideas!

Does your company use some of these tactics? What did we omit? Share below in the comments or email us to discuss more.

Special thanks to these companies for sharing their wisdom:

Cargo Transport, Dana Transport, Stage Call, Fraley & Schilling, US Bulk Transport, Letica, Bolt, Crane Freight, Packard Transport, Area Transportation, Ozark Motor Lines, Churchill
Transportation, Ashley Distribution Services, Classic Carriers, Gypsum Express, Koch Trucking, Driving Ambition, Daily Express, Christenson Transportation, Styline Logistics, Clark Transfer, Transport Investments, Tri-State Expedited Services, Continental Carbonic, Containerport, Rush Trucking, Mast Trucking, and RWI Transportation.

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