I have a question for you. How do we deal with the mass delusion that driver turnover is inevitable when nothing could be further from the truth? Driver turnover is a manageable business challenge like any other. The only thing standing in our way of achieving low driver turnover is the BS that we keep telling ourselves in a long misinformation feedback loop. This fallacy manages to keep us from tackling this problem with the focus that is needed to achieve the desired outcome.

I am not sure how this type of thing happens. Not that I am in any way immune as I was a partner, President and COO of a company that went from a turnover that was almost non-existent to one that had 120% in a matter of just a couple of years. Some time back I ran into a quote that seems to fit the situation. It read: ‘The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken’. I am not sure who owns this quote and a search on the internet is not conclusive. But it makes me wonder what situation the author was facing when this explanation for their predicament first entered their mind. Quite likely not trucking but it does fit perfectly for the current state of things. So, if your company is the victim of its chains of habit that seem too heavy to be broken, where do you start? Let me walk you through what worked for me and the good folks whom I had the pleasure of working with. By the way, the things I write about here are also currently working with the many companies I am consulting with and references are available on demand. I appreciate that this is an unabashed solicitation.

It starts with the acknowledgment that turnover is man-made and not inevitable as I have already pointed out. It moves from there to the leaders in the company who are committing to be accountable to the efforts and, to each other, to make the changes necessary to transit the company culture and to infuse a focus on a reduction of driver turnover. During my workshops, I usually suggest that these folks draft a mission statement that they all sign. It is a commitment to each other. Sounds easy and it is. The problematic part is allowing a peer, in this case, another senior manager to correct you if they happen to see you acting in a manner that is contrary to the mission statement that everyone committed to. Unfortunately, people’s egos come into play and they are seldom as pliable as they should be.

Next step is what I call the sales pitch; companies need to explain to their employees why a dramatic reduction in the companies’ turnover is critical to its future. They also need to discuss why it is beneficial to every individual’s future at the company. Lower turnover means things such as: a safer trucking company, a more profitable company and a more fun culture to work in, to name just the start of the good things that come from low turnover. In my experience, people get so entrenched in the daily whirlwind of their routines that they get blinders on and then don’t see how a little change in how they do things could be of great benefit. To dive a little deeper but not to get to granular, let’s look department by department.

SALES: With lower turnover there are fewer service failures and you’re not constantly training drivers as to your customer’s needs. Fewer service failures mean less time begging forgiveness from customers and it means you can likely pursue a more significant opportunity with your current customer base.

SAFETY: You will have gains by not having to create new driver files all the time; a considerable time saver. Safety personnel will have fewer accident and incidents to track and files to open. This is because a stable workforce can be trained to a higher standard. You can’t train a workforce with any effect that has high turnover; you’re always starting over. A side note. Companies with lower turnover have fewer accidents and pay less insurance than a carrier with high turnover. There is a direct correlation to lower insurance cost and best in class operating margins.

ADMINISTRATION: With a low turnover environment, gains are made from not having to educate the workforce as to the company’s information flow and paperwork all the time. The company also gains here with its aged accounts receivable, and billing gets out quicker with fewer errors. Also, the money comes in faster when it becomes repetitive and consistent and people know the process. The result is stability in your workforce.

MAINTENANCE: This becomes less of an expense when your workforce stabilizes. A four-year life cycle of a company truck with high turnover could have 4-6-8 different drivers in them. Compare that to a company with lower turnover of say 20%. This company will not only have fewer maintenance issues but it also has an asset that the used truck market covets and thus the truck will have a higher residual value.

OPERATIONS: I saved the best for last. For a dispatcher to acclimate most of their drivers on an annual basis is very distracting and grossly inefficient. How much more time would the individual have in a low turnover environment to concentrate on whatever their KPI’s are? It might be empty miles, revenue per miles or revenue per day. Consider a one-percentage-point gain in efficiency here; the numbers are staggering at that amount. Now stretch that number to a 3-5% gain and see what happens.

Next month I will discuss the platform for change. How do we ensure there is consistency in how we act individually when we take this challenge? What are the guidelines?

All of the above constitutes part of what I call the groundwork for tackling driver turnover. Overall there are seven steps to implement to get things under control, I intend on sharing the rest in sequence in my next six articles. I hope you find some value in turning your issues around. It boils down to transitioning your company from a carrier who delivers freight from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ to being a company which differentiates itself from its competition with the quality and dedication of its employees.

Given the two options, where would you like to spend your career?

Ray J. Haight

About Ray J. Haight

Areas of Focus: Operations, Recruiting & Retention, Human Resources With a career spanning four decades, Ray has been involved in all facets of the North American Trucking Industry.