Driver Retention: Set the Tone with Your Orientation Program

It's not about driver recruiting; it's about driver retention.

It’s no longer about recruiting. It’s about driver retention.

Driver retention — or the lack thereof — at fleets is a massive cost. By some estimates, it’s $5k to $15k per driver when you consider all the factors, say our partners at Compli. To put even a dent in it would increase profits dramatically. On the flip side, an unused truck sitting on the fence means $500 to $600 a day in lost revenue per truck. So fleets are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Pay a few grand per new driver, or raise standards too high and lose revenue.

But if you look at the top 10 reasons drivers leave fleets, it mostly has to do with “soft” reasons, rather than pay or equipment. And most of those problems can be solved in the first few days with a good orientation or on-boarding program.

Lack of Home Time

providing a good home-time policy is probably the most expensive proposition because backhaul opportunities may be lost. But more and more fleets are looking at how to make home time a part of the logistical ballet. One way the fleet can help is with good training during on-boarding about ways to deal with life balance. It’s also important to help the driver to communicate family needs to dispatch and managers so drivers feel like they have more control.

Problems with Dispatch and Managers

There’s an old adage that “employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” For drivers, they often have two bosses: dispatch and their actual manager. And according to a recent study, problems with dispatchers is a key reason drivers leave. You should use orientation time as a way to explain how dispatch works, how to talk to and negotiate with dispatch, how to ask for other options, how to deal with being delayed at a customer, and how to deal with disputes and miscommunications. If you don’t have training and policies to smooth the relationship between drivers and dispatch, you should consider it — the cost is much lower than replacing your entire fleet once a year.

Customer Service Headaches

This is a touchy subject, and tips and guidelines for customer service should absolutely be covered in your new-hire orientation program. Customers who take a long time to unload a truck put your fleet in a bad position. Drivers need to learn a few ways to try to handle the problem professionally themselves. But they also need to hear from the fleet about how to escalate the problem to dispatch and higher if necessary. It tells the driver that their time is valuable. Because face it, their time is valuable.

Recruiters and Expectation-Management

Recruiters have a bad reputation for promising the moon. It’s critical to open a dialog with a driver to find out why they left one company, and what they’re expecting with you. Then you can set expectations appropriately, and give the driver the kind of resources they need. If their issue was bad equipment, providing them all the information about dealing with maintenance and equipment perks will let them help themselves.

Communications with Headquarters

Drivers are lone wolves, but people are still pack animals. That means they need a good stream of real information to feel like they’re a part of something bigger. On-boarding is a good time to make sure they’re introduced to as many people as possible, and for those people to follow up with them by phone and by email whenever they can. In the absence of information, drivers will fill in the blanks and assume the fleet has bad motives. So rewarding drivers for taking training and publicly appreciating them goes a long way.

Driver Retention is a Competitive Advantage

As obvious as that sounds, using retention as a competitive advantage has taken years for the message to sink in. Add in the looming driver shortage, and more and more fleets are emphasizing retention and away from recruiting.

And a successful new-hire orientation program with custom training is the first step.

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