If you ask anyone in trucking what the biggest problem in the industry is, there’s a very good chance they’ll mention driver turnover as the number one concern. There are countless reports that discuss how destructive turnover can be to business, but we don’t often take the time to turn things around to consider just how beneficial high levels of retention can be to every fleet out there.
When we talk about the incredible effect retention can have, we can really organize it into three specific categories: financial gain, increased performance, and improved reputation/culture. Let’s investigate all three closely and get a sense of how exactly retention impacts each and every one of them.
In terms of the financial benefits of retention, your turnover rate can be destructive to the bottom line. When you hire a new driver, you are making a serious investment. The costs of recruitment and hiring are steep, especially if your fleet is turning over new people regularly. At a low estimate, it costs roughly 20% of an employee’s salary to replace that individual. Trucking is no exception to that rule.
Not only do you save big on recruitment costs, but on training too. The importance of training can’t be understated in truck driving in particular. As Jim Park of HDTrucking puts it so clearly, “[T]here’s no B-Team in trucking. Nor do parallel roadways exist where inexperienced rookies can safely hone their skills before stepping onto the big road with the pros.” You either can do the job or you can’t, and fleet managers can’t afford to put people on the road that can’t do the job.
Those are the big pieces of what makes hiring costly, but there are so many other little notes that get added to the spreadsheet along the way. High retention eliminates every single one of them, and ensures that fleets can populate the road with people they know can do the job. Which brings us to…
There is no arena where retention makes a bigger difference than in performance. Drivers who have time to acclimate to the fleet, to get aligned with expectations, and to build up their skills often prove to be top performers. It’s worth investing in long-term success because these top performers get the job done, they keep the road safe, and above all, they take the initiative to do things that save the fleet money.
Driver performance and behavior makes a huge impact, not just in terms of the baseline goal of hauling cargo from one place to another, but on all the little demands that it takes to do that job optimally. For example, a big piece of it is fuel performance. Driver behavior and the way the truck is handled can have a dramatic impact on fuel economy in many small ways. Training and keeping people that master the art of saving fuel not only has an overall performance benefit, but it’s another check in the financial gain column, too.
Above all, every fleet wants people they can depend on to do the job. There’s nothing worse than having to put blind faith in inexperience and realizing too late that a new hire wasn’t able to deal with the demands of the job. Not only do you lose precious money and time dealing with mistakes, but you then have to go back and start the whole costly process of recruitment, hiring, and training over again. Dependable drivers that you know can perform make all the difference in the world.
From the outside looking in, retention can be a huge impact on a fleet’s reputation. Nothing gives a worse impression to potential hires and customers than a transient workforce. As much as you want drivers that you can depend on, your customers want the same thing as well. If they see that drivers aren’t sticking around long-term, they may question if your fleet is right for the job.
This is just as true of talent that may be looking to join your fleet. Drivers want pay and respect, as well as security. If they see that your fleet can’t seem to keep drivers very long for whatever reason, they may look elsewhere, which only makes the costs of recruitment even more severe. On the other hand, if they see that your fleet is committed to each and every driver, you stand a much better chance of attracting and keeping the very best talent out there.
Within the fleet itself, retention is essential to building a strong culture. Culture takes time to build, and it will never have a chance to develop if the makeup of the fleet is changing every few months. On the other hand, when drivers stick around and really dig their roots in, that’s when you know that you’re building something special, and the drivers will know it, too. The best part is that culture works in return to reinforce your retention efforts, making them stronger.
So let’s ask the obvious question: How do you get all these benefits? To start, you invest in your driver’s performance. You show that you respect them with a steadfast commitment to their growth, development, and success. You incentivize the people who stick around and do the best work for your fleet. And you invest in technology specifically designed to enable all of that with its ability to measure, increase, and reward performance — True FuelTM.