With an average workforce age of 59 and the current shortage is estimated at approximately 20,000 drivers, I'm not going to make the argument a driver shortage doesn't exist. It's an issue that isn't going to go away any time soon. With the current trend continuing, the shortage is estimated to reach somewhere in the neighborhood of 110,000 by 2014. That's right…in the next four years the shortage could get worse by a factor of four. At present, some companies are experiencing turnover rates in the range of 70% - 120%, so it's frightening to imagine what things might look like four years from now.
So - given all that, how can we reduce driver turnover 15-30% over the next 6 months?
Most carries would say that they have fairly stringent guidelines for hiring new drivers. You might actually work for one of them. But do you actually follow your own hiring guidelines? How about once you've made the selection? Do you have a formalized on-boarding program with measurable transition points aimed at graduating new drivers to senior drivers?
The key to effective driver retention falls into two separate, yet equally important parts: selecting the right type of driver for the job and effectively managing them through their first 90 days while they get familiar with your company's dispatch, systems and processes. I've spent a lot of time interviewing managers and all too often I hear about drivers quitting over simple management errors that could have been easily avoided with some simple coaching on more effective communication.
The first step in selecting the right type of driver is developing a well documented set of hiring guidelines. Make sure those guidelines are written down and that they're followed step-by-step for each and every hire your fleet makes. Those guidelines should include a list of requirements each driver must meet in order to start the interview process.
Creating a well documented hiring and interview process must then be followed by integrating new hires into the company culture and graduating them to senior drivers. This process may mean spending extra, up front effort, but it will pay massive dividends down the road when you have a solid base of reliable, senior drivers.
For years we've worked with clients to develop customized behavioral profiles for each type of driver they need. By following strict guidelines that also allow a measure of flexibility will insure you're getting the right type of driver for the right job.
As an example, when hiring long haul drivers we generally look for a profile that fits somewhere in the range of the graph below.
By staying within this range when hiring long haul drivers, you can expect to hire drivers who are risk averse, follow “the book”, maintain their patience at all times and focus on meeting scheduled deadlines.
By comparison, the personality traits that make for a good long haul driver don't work as well for an LTL, regional or local delivery driver. Their frequent, daily contact with customers would require them to be more socially outgoing.
The delivery driver has a higher acceptable range for the social extroversion or B factor, which is less desirable in a long haul driver. By giving a driver with a need for social contact the opportunity for social interaction, they will be more satisfied on the job and far more likely to stay with the company for a longer period of time.
Once you have selected a driver who fits the profile for the type of job you're recruiting, the first 90 days on the job are the most crucial. Over half of all drivers who quit do so within those first 90 days. This means that if a carrier has 100% turnover, then their turnover in the first 90 days is 200% or more! A well designed on-boarding program is essential for driver retention. By establishing timelines and effective coaching and management strategies, drivers are effectively managed to learn the systems and processes of their new company.
Our strategy for reducing driver retention is two fold. First, focus on the most effective selection and placement of new drivers to the type of work they're best suited following your predetermined screening, and interview process. Second, develop and put in place an effective on-boarding program. Make sure it includes training for your Driver and Facility managers on how to coach and communicate with different personality types. As your managers begin to understand how to more effectively communicate and deal with your drivers' different personality types, conflict will be reduced, drivers will become more engaged and their job satisfaction will increase. If you follow this simple, cost effective, two-step approach to driver turnover, you're sure to see a permanent increase in driver retention.