Turnover rates are so bad in the trucking industry that the American Trucking Association reports that 91% of truckers switched jobs during a single year.
Why is that a problem? Every new hire costs $6,000–$12,000. If trucking companies and delivery businesses want to save money, then truck driver retention must be a top priority.
Where are these drivers going? Other trucking fleets. Experienced drivers aren’t leaving the industry — they’re chasing higher pay, more home time, a better work environment, and additional perks.
If your fleet managers are stressed about your company’s driver shortage, take a deep breath. You can correct course and retain great drivers with just a few truck driver retention strategies.
Why driver retention matters
Over the long term, you want to retain your drivers. If drivers are leaving in droves, you’re doing something wrong. Work-life balance and working conditions may be poor, pay may be low, or you may not have created a company culture that keeps drivers employed.
Driver retention rates do vary between countries. For example:
In the US, retention rates for fleets with $30 million or more in revenue were 22% in Q4 2022, and some were as low as 9%.
Annual retention rates in Canada are between 64% and 78%.
Low retention rates are a signal that your truckers are not happy. If your employees aren’t happy, it will cost you money and impact your supply chain and bottom line.
The cost of driver turnover
Hiring costs $6,000–$12,000 per trucker, but this still doesn’t give you the complete picture. Your costs will also include:
Training the new driver
Lost business due to your driver shortage
Lost time spent interviewing drivers
Many companies in the transportation industry, in the US at least, also pay sign-on bonuses of $3,000–$15,000.
Your trucking fleet stands to lose a lot of money when drivers leave because you have to replace them. Wouldn’t it be better to keep drivers around and spend the additional capital growing your fleet?
First, you need to know why drivers quit in the first place before you can work on improving driver retention.
What makes delivery drivers quit?
Delivery drivers quit for a number of reasons, many of which are highly individual. But some of the top complaints among drivers are:
Not feeling valued or appreciated by their employers
Having zero work-life balance
Lack of benefits
Being overworked (thanks, in large part, to high turnover rates)
Knowing why drivers quit is the first step to improving your own driver retention rate.
7 of the best strategies to improve truck driver retention
1. Check in with your drivers
One of the biggest complaints among drivers is not feeling appreciated. They don’t want to feel like another cog in the wheel. They want to be heard, and they want their work to be valued.
How do you fulfill this need?
Make sure that you’re checking in with your drivers regularly. Ask them for feedback. Listen to what they have to say.
Here are some of the most common things we hear from the hundreds of delivery drivers we work with:
“I spend an hour every morning sitting in my car with a stack of papers, and I have to figure out in my head how I’m going to deliver my packages. Because of this, I have to come in an hour early.”
“The routes that my company gives me don’t make sense. I end up backtracking to the same street in the morning and in the afternoon.”
“My manager pressures me to deliver more packages than I can handle, so I end up working overtime.”
“The software that they told us to use is not very intuitive, so I prefer to stick to my clipboard and my knowledge of the city.”
“Being a new driver, I don’t feel that I’m being treated fairly. The driver with seniority always gets the scenic routes.”
Feedback like this is so valuable because drivers are telling you exactly what’s troubling them. That makes it much easier to solve these problems now and keep your drivers happy. Happy drivers are more likely to stick around.
So, make it a point to check in, gather feedback from your drivers, and act on that feedback.
2. Don’t micromanage
One common complaint we hear from dispatchers is that they don’t trust their drivers. That lack of trust can cause dispatchers to start micromanaging.
When drivers are constantly being called to see where they are, they feel:
Pressure from the dispatcher
Distracted from the job at hand
Drivers are attracted to this job because they assume they’ll have some freedom and autonomy. Micromanaging them will only cause tension and dissatisfaction.
Try taking a different approach. Focus instead on tracking the key metrics that actually matter to you, like “customer satisfaction rating” or “on-time deliveries.” Tracking software can also help you keep track of where your drivers are without having to check in with them.
3. Help them plan efficient routes
What’s your current solution for route planning? Are you leaving the planning up to your drivers, or are you helping them?
Every minute your driver spends on route planning is another minute lost in productivity.
Give your drivers a helping hand.
Invest in route optimization software and easy-to-use driver apps to help your drivers find the quickest, most efficient routes for the day.
Drivers will be more satisfied and may even finish their routes earlier than expected. What driver wouldn’t be happy with the opportunity to go home early?
4. Give them an incentive to stick around
Lack of benefits is a common complaint among drivers. Pay is important, but it’s not the only thing your drivers care about. They want to ensure that their health and well-being are also being looked after.
Offering a competitive benefits package is a great place to start.
In addition to raises, make sure that you’re offering:
A comprehensive medical insurance package that includes dental and vision coverage.
Options for retirement savings plans, so truckers can save for the future.
Lifestyle benefits, like truck terminal amenities and gym memberships.
Driver loyalty programs that offer rewards drivers actually care about.
If you really want drivers to stick around, offer them training and education. No driver wants to feel like they’re in a “dead-end” role. They want opportunities to grow and advance in their careers.
Invest in giving them the training and education they need to reach these goals and enjoy more fulfilling careers. Offering growth opportunities will keep drivers in their roles.
5. Celebrate their victories
Truckers reach milestones every year. Safety records are broken, miles are exceeded, more freight is hauled, or employees reach new work anniversaries. Acknowledge your team’s victories, and you’ll find that:
Employee engagement and productivity rise
Retention rates fall
One survey found that 46% of workers left a job because they didn’t feel appreciated. Show appreciation to your truck drivers, and they’ll be more likely to stay in their positions.
6. Invest in quality equipment
Quality equipment is crucial for driver safety and well-being. Truckers often leave reviews about fleets and mention issues with:
The quality of their equipment
Driver feedback on equipment should be a priority because quality trucks, e-logs, navigation systems, and other items keep your drivers comfortable on the road. Respecting the quality of equipment is a big part of building a safety culture.
Investing in quality equipment and maintaining it shows your drivers that you care about their health, safety, and earning potential.
7. Make work-life balance a priority
Truck driving is a demanding job. Studies show that work-life imbalance as a truck driver leads to high stress levels and poor quality of life. If you want to retain more drivers, focus on work-life balance as a perk of employment.
A specific number of days off for each week on the road
Regional options with 34-hour resets
Long-haul drivers are known for being away from home for weeks at a time. If they want to maintain social lives or relationships, it can be a significant challenge. Offering flexible time off or opportunities to move to a regional or local route can reduce truck driver turnover.
How to calculate your driver turnover rate
The tips and strategies above can help you improve your driver retention rate, but how do you know if they’re working for you?
To measure the success of your retention strategies, you need to know your driver turnover rate.
Here’s how to calculate it:
Choose a period for calculating your driver turnover rate. For this example, let’s go with an annual turnover rate.
Next, calculate how many drivers you had at the start of the chosen period. Let’s imagine we had 200 drivers on the payroll at the start of the year.
Now, look at how many drivers you had at the end of the period. We’ll say that we had 150 drivers at the end of the year.
The next step is to calculate the average number of drivers you had for the year. In our example, the equation would look like this: (200 + 150) ÷ 2 = 175. So, we had an average of 175 drivers for the year.
Next, determine how many drivers left voluntarily or involuntarily throughout the year. In our example, we’ll say that 75 drivers departed.
With these figures in mind, you can now calculate your turnover rate by dividing the number of departed drivers by the average number of drivers and multiplying that figure by 100. For our example, the equation would look like this: (75 ÷ 175) x 100 = 42%. So, for the year, our example company had a 42% turnover rate.
To find out your retention rate, simply subtract your turnover rate from 100. In our case, we had a 58% retention rate.
Taking steps to reduce your driver turnover rate will not only save on costs but also help improve productivity, efficiency, and customer experience. Use the tips above to keep your drivers happier and more satisfied in their roles.
Rene Emery is a B2B/Finance/SaaS writer who focuses on clear, concise, and optimized content. Leveraging 12+ years of experience, she relies on her work with hundreds of companies worldwide to create content that speaks to readers and makes difficult topics easy to understand.
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