Have You Created a Rut?

The following comes from Seth Godin, whose daily newsletter I have subscribed to for some time now. I share this because it hits the mark when it comes to what I observe when I get face to face with trucking company employees during my workshops that are focused on Driver Retention.

It goes like this:

Again, and again, ruts don’t dig themselves. Most of the time, we’re in a rut because that’s precisely where we put ourselves. Actions become habits and habits get repeated because they feel safe. The easiest way to make things more interesting is to simply stop repeating your habitual behavior and that often comes from reacting to triggers. Remove the triggers and you can alter the habits by tiny changes and different ways to keep score. Tomorrow comes daily. But we don’t have to take the same route to get there.

The fundamental concept behind a severe reduction in driver turnover is, first, acknowledge that the ruts that relate to your company’s high turnover are of your own collective making. You must own them; you can’t allow the folks in your company to play the blame game with each other. The rut looks like this: recruiting is hiring the wrong drivers; operations are to blame for our issues; they don’t make them like they used to and on and on. Playing the internal and external blame game is usually rampant in high turnover companies.

The absolute only way to make a change to a company’s high turnover that is sustainable is to begin with everyone in the business grasping this reality. No one came into your business and designed policies and procedures to make your workforce uncomfortable to the point that your turnover is where it is today. Your folks did that so own it, or it will never change. Allowing your inside the walls folks to play the blame game lets everyone off the hook. I always preface this by saying that the journey to becoming a company where drivers want to work is not an exercise in finding bad guys. What it is, is following a project plan that is designed to get out of the ruts that are holding your company back and onto a successful track to lower your turnover significantly. “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”  This quote is from Samuel Johnson and it applies nicely to this situation.

It’s as simple as “it takes what it takes.” You must be ready to put the work in. High driver turnover is an ugly reality of our industry and to separate yourself from the crowd, you need to look at it from a different paradigm. Willing a different result will not accomplish what is necessary to address the situation, continuing with an apathetic approach will achieve nothing and the consequences are just too extreme to not act.

On the trucking company side, high driver turnover results in a company that has higher insurance costs, usually because their accident rates and CSA scores are in worst shape than they should be. They will have a higher percentage of unseated trucks; they will have a higher turnover rate of people inside the walls. Their operating ratio will be less than acceptable, and their culture will be suffering, to name but a few residual effects of high turnover.

On the driver side, leaving a company or being asked to leave a company results in a disruption to their families, their cash flow is disrupted, mortgage payments and car payments continue to steam in. Medical cost continues to come and a possible disruption in coverage causes stress. All this plus the noticeable kick to one’s self-esteem. If any of you have ever lost a job, you will know what I mean. Every day we create situations where people have to go home and tell their families that they have lost their jobs. We are disrupting families and there is no reason for it but our apathy or disbelief that you can make changes.

Watch this short video about your drivers that expresses very well the empathy required: www.youtube.com/watch?v=91DWO39PLqA

Turnover beyond your control is likely 1-2%; this is mostly due to the drivers that retire or might have health or family issues. Now we have the folks that get homesick, didn’t understand what they were getting into, who thought this industry was perfect for them and now feel otherwise, etc. I believe this number is between 15–20%; the rest of it is yours to own. You are hiring to fill seats rather than for a good fit for your company’s needs and you don’t express or request expectations of your new hires on paper that are reviewable by operations regularly. Promises are made during the recruiting process with little chance of them ever happening for the new hire.

I ask this question of all attendees to the workshops I do.  If you were a driver looking for a job, would you come to work at this company? Usually there are no hands in the air. I challenge you to do the same thing with your folks; find a way for your people to vote anonymously and see what the results are.
If this exercise doesn’t open your eyes to what the culture is at your company, I don’t know what will. Success can happen, but “It Takes What It Takes!”

If you would like to know more about the TCA TPP Retention Project Plan feel free to contact me at ray@tcaingauge.com

Safe Trucking

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.