The workplace is facing a dynamic of worker movement never seen before. Workers are leaving jobs for new jobs and even new careers. Is this dynamic presenting a new problem for the trucking industry, or is it simply the same old issue?
“The trucking industry expects that drivers who come in the door might also walk out the door,” says Max Farrell, CEO & Co-Founder at WorkHound. “That’s because industry-wide, trucking companies experience around 95% turnover for drivers.”
That number may sound crazy to anyone who isn’t involved in the day-to-day operation of a trucking company or a related vendor, but it’s accurate. Turnover is a pervasive and costly problem.
“It costs between $5,000 and $8,000 to replace a single driver,” Farrell says. “The reality is that trucking companies budget for that expense. Companies spend millions on recruiting each year, just for truck drivers.”
But is it a problem that’s been magnified by “The Great Resignation,” the period of workforce turbulence that’s been affecting industries nationwide? That’s an interesting question. While trucking carriers are accustomed to high levels of turnover among professional drivers, they’re facing unique challenges right now in retaining other employees, particularly those on the frontlines.
“The part of The Great Resignation that matters for trucking companies is on the office side,” Farrell says. “Lots of people are burnt out and leaving, which affects who drivers are communicating with. It’s a strange conundrum. If the dispatchers aren’t taken care of, then the drivers hear about it and that can affect their viewpoint of the culture.”
Drivers who see their support system upended with frontline worker turnover are more likely to become less satisfied themselves, leaving for jobs with other companies or outside the trucking industry altogether.
Effectively managing turnover during this time requires companies to prioritize retention for both drivers and the larger support network of employees, since the roles affect each other.
So, what’s the solution for keeping drivers and other employees satisfied and happy with the work they’re doing? It involves a culture change.
The first step toward solving the problem is determining its exact source. And that has proven to be a challenge.
“There’s a debate about whether there’s a shortage of talent or whether turnover is the problem,” Farrell says. “It’s a leaky bucket. These companies fill up the talent pool, but then aren’t able to keep the workers. That’s what we try to solve; we try to find how to patch the leaky bucket.”
But to play along with the leaky bucket theme — if you try to patch the bucket without looking for the exact source of the leak, you’re unlikely to find success.
“The problem with the way a lot of companies tackle turnover is that they’re trying to fill in the leaky bucket, without trying to repair the culture,” Farrell says. “And if they are trying to fix the culture, they’re looking at the wrong thing and providing solutions for problems that don’t exist. Companies need to slow down and stabilize things that are broken.”
To patch the bucket effectively, first determine the actual source of the leak. In a trucking company, that involves actively asking drivers and other employees for feedback.
Their help identifying and clarifying problem spots can allow companies to take meaningful steps to improve culture and retain employees.
“Feedback helps companies achieve clarity and understand exactly what the problems are — in other words, where the leak is,” Farrell says. “We talk a lot about analysis paralysis, where companies have so many things that could be changed, so nothing gets changed.”
That paralysis can be costly, and it can also be solved.
“Carriers often spend a lot of time in that paralysis/procrastination phase, instead of dialing into what drivers really need and are asking for,” Farrell adds. “That could be fixed by asking employees about their problems and taking time to determine what those top priorities are.”
Giving your employees a voice can be a valuable retention tool. Check out our case study with Venture Transport on how they were able to leverage feedback to improve driver experience and minimize turnover.