You’ll Pay A Lot…

I subscribe to Seth Godin’s daily blog which you can find at: This is a useful, freelance marketing document that sets out strategy that you can fit into a single sentence. He recently stated: You’ll pay a lot, but you’ll get far more than you pay for!

When I think on this for a few minutes, I reflect on the recent Truckload Carriers Association’s annual convention that was held in Orlando at the end of March of this year. The overall buzz in the meeting rooms and in the hallways was about the themes that prevailed in the round sessions: drivers and the lack thereof. I had the pleasure of moderating a couple of round tables that had the title of “A holistic view of driver retention” that were well attended and received great reviews.

It’s hard to lose when you have a panel of some of the best minds in the industry to talk about the driver turnover issue that is industry wide and specifically, what they do inside the walls of their own companies. The panel included my good friend Kevin Burch of Jet Express, Trevor Kurtz of Kurtz Trucking, Lee Michaud of Schilli Transportation and Garth Pitzel of Bison Transportation. My panel along with many others, a great exhibition hall, outstanding general sessions and well-attended social events made this a must to attend occasion for any truckload carrier in North America, no matter what segment. Jack Porter, who is the program manager for Truckload Carriers Association’s Profitability Program, put on one of the most popular sessions. Along with Jack was our own Chris Henry, who is a facilitator for the Best Practice Benchmarking program facilitator and a partner of mine at Chris and Jack did a session called “The Nine Traits of High Performing Trucking Companies and Their Leaders.” You can find the information on the session at: This seminar ran three times and was a sell out each session.

So let’s go back to the title of my article. Who wouldn’t or doesn’t make decisions based on risk versus reward on a daily basis and what business doesn’t put time and money into harms way on a regular basis in an attempt to increase their businesses ROI (rate of return)? I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. To me, expanding a business, buying out a competitor or venturing into another sector of the industry when you are not maximizing the rate of return of your primary business makes no sense whatsoever.

I’m speaking specifically to those companies that have high turnover or turnover that they know is heading out of sight of a reasonable number. I’m always asked what the time and monetary investment is in the beginning of a retention effort and my answer looks like this: first there are intersecting lines of both diminishing returns and increased efficiency that occur, meaning that the small investment in up-front cost for a program or a consultant only appears significant when compared to some other hard asset that the company may need. When the proper comparison is made which is the high cost of replacing just a few drivers, it pales in comparison. Secondly, one of the benefits of reducing turnover is that you eventually smooth over many of the rub points within your company that cause turnover. These rub points cost time and money so eliminating them along with reducing the number of drivers that you need to hire, turbocharges the rate of return of the retention investment.

I can tell you from personal, first hand experience that when the 275 trucking company I headed decided to tackle the turnover issue that we had, we might have invested a total amount of $50-100K. The consultant portion was a small part of this. Other investments were made in developing and executing a communication strategy, investing in customer service training, developing a recognition program, social events and so on.

What we experienced once we started to turn the corner on our issue was that our operating ratio began to grow proportionately and eventually exponentially to the turnover numbers we experienced as they dropped. And it continued to grow to twice what it was when we started our retention effort. We also experienced a transition of our workforce from one that might be described as a group of people that checked their brains at the door to one that was fully engaged in their jobs and truly enjoyed working at our company.

I am thoroughly convinced that every carrier out there that has high turnover would realize the same type of benefit if they decided to take their high turnover on, to draw a line in the sand and beat the issue. Develop a strategy, seek help if needed, then persist and resist. Persist in the successful pursuit of your goal, whatever the target is and resist all the naysayers and roadblocks that get in your way.

Ray J. Haight

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.