The 5-Don’ts of Retention

I’m very pleased to announce that I have been offered and have accepted the new role of Retention Coach at the Truckload Carriers Association. I look forward with enthusiasm to the challenges that are ahead of me. We have built a strong training program that includes video and manual learning designed to assist those trucking companies that need help in curtailing their fleet turnover numbers. I currently have a handful of TCA member clients on the program and I am very pleased with the success that they are enjoying. Part of the program includes monthly calls with the carrier ‘change agents’ wherein we make sure that the expected progress is being achieved and where issues can be discussed and solutions agreed to. Following the pre-set plan we have for carriers, it is garnering a 50% reduction in the turnover of carriers in their 1st year. The program is currently only available to members of TCA but if you would like to see and learn more, please take a look at

As with anything as important as this, it all starts with leadership. In fact, this program starts with my insistence of talking directly with leadership to ensure that their buy-in is rock solid. I have no interest in selling programs for the sake of the sale. I must have the sense that what must be done will be done. I will be sharing some of my observations over the coming months but to kick this off, I thought I would share what I see are the top 5 leadership absolute “don’t do’s” when your focusing on reducing driver turnover!

  1. Here is a harsh reality. You, as the leader of the company stating that the company is going to take on and beat driver turnover will likely be received with reluctant hesitation and, at best, apathy. Shocker here, but if you have anywhere near 100% turnover or higher it is not likely that your people believe much of what management says on any issue. So why not look for, or create, a bell weather moment. Winston Churchill was credited with saying; “never waste a good crisis”. Pick wisely when you choose to reveal your company’s new driver retention initiative. If you can tie it to a critical event, good or bad, you should figure out how to do it. In my business experience past, we decided to train our entire inside the wall’s employees on customer service. When people start to realize how their actions affect those around them they start to get the picture pretty quickly. When we finished the training, driver retention was a natural extension of that training and the transition was easy.
  2. Do not take on the issue of your company’s high turnover as a challenge until you can wrap your head around the fact that you did everything that has created the turnover you now have. The point here is that if you don’t take ownership of the issues, neither will your people and excuses for turnover are far too common and easy to come by in trucking. We have all repeatedly heard them over the years. The blame game is for losers. The only way to get off to a good start is to state that you are determined to turn the corner on your company’s turnover and that from now on, every driver that leaves or is fired from your company is on you and your people. There is an opportunity learned from every single failure and by the way, take it personally. No one goes to work in the morning with the intent to fail. These are families we are messing with.
  3. Don’t keep your people in the dark about what you’re doing. Use every channel possible to let them know what is going on in your business. In order for your company to turn the corner on driver turnover you will need the assistance of everyone in your business and, what is discussed and has focus is seen to be the priority and it usually is. Think about this, I give you information because I trust you and I value your input and need your help. Or, I don’t share information with you because I don’t particularly care about your opinion and I don’t think your input will bring value to this initiative. Which approach works? Want your people to stop parking their brains at the door when they come to work? Then let them become part of the solution and share as much information with them as possible. Then ask them for their help.
  4. Do not try and impose your own personal values on people. If you sit down by yourself and pen a value statement and then take it to your people and expected them to respond positively to it, you’re sunk. It won’t work. A strong values statement can be the cornerstone of your retention objectives but only if it is your entire collective values that you plan on following. Here is the question to pose to your people. If a perfect scenario existed in a company that you would like to work at, what would that company look like? One paragraph from each person is all that is needed. Do it as a team with common purpose.
  5. Do not get impatient. This is change and change will scare people. This is a bit of a tight rope walk because being patient does not mean turning a blind eye to behaviour that is counter to the company goals. Being patient means coaching, talking the talk and if that individual who refuses to change crosses the line again and again you will have to cut bait, cull the herd and get the right people in those roles. Tough decision, but it is entirely necessary to succeed. Stay determined.

High turnover is not necessary and can most definitely be beaten. Bin there, done that, got the scars and bought the tee shirt.

Take good care and 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.