People stay in situations they are comfortable in and they leave the ones they are not comfortable in. When it comes to employment in trucking, is it this easy to break it all down? Under normal situations, I would say that is not the case. In other sectors, the availability to leave one employer and go across the street and be re-employed in short order is usually not in the cards. That is unless you are satisfied with minimum wage and menial labour and if “do you want fries with that” is not something you mind saying 100 times a day.
In trucking’s reality, a decent driver with a good record can have multiple job offerings within hours of contacting any number of carriers. I observe that this reality is one that many truckload companies have not come to terms with and that many are at a total loss about how to deal with their turnover in any kind of effective fashion. So, if you were a driver looking for a job, why would you choose that type of company?
To begin with, company owners; take a long look in the mirror and ask yourself a few questions. Where is my company in the marketplace regarding driver wages? Where are we in the lanes we service and, in your sector, be it flatbed, tanker, refrigerated, van, etc.? If you don’t know, find out and know your status at a minimum of every quarter. Not knowing might be the number one reason your turnover is so high.
Next question, where do you prioritize safety in the day-to-day operation of the business? Is it engrained in the culture or is safety an afterthought? Where are your CSA scores at? Newsflash: professional drivers quite enjoy being around other professional drivers. If you are letting drivers get away with unprofessional behaviours, your good ones will leave. Do you have a solid discipline policy and is it enforced? Does safety have the knowledge and credentials to execute a sound safety strategy that is eagerly supported by the entire company? If not, you better get on it because you will run out of drivers shortly or the insurance companies will price you out of the marketplace!
Next question. Where do your drivers get their information on the company they work for or the industry they work in? If you do not have a formal strategy for communication, then you must be happy for them to be informed via the drivers’ room at your terminal and, of course, the CB radio. Now think about this for a moment; humans are social beings and they long for interaction. For you non-believers, go ahead and pick up any book on human behaviour to validate this statement. I don’t care if you drive a truck or are the Maytag repair guy; people need to communicate. If you still have doubts, save your time and you can stop reading this article right now.
For those of you who are still with me, and by that, I mean the more enlightened of you, stop thinking of yourself as singular communicators; what I am talking about is how the company communicates to the universe. You may not be aware but, your company is constantly communicating to its current drivers, its inside workers, the customers it services, the suppliers it uses, FMCSA along with law enforcement, any charities you support, the communities you service and where your terminal resides. Lastly and possibly most importantly, you communicate with the perspective workforce you are trying to attract to your company and I am not talking about what your recruiting department is doing when I tell you this.
What is the message you send to these groups? Is the message one you control or is it one that you react to? Listen up. Controlling and directing the narrative of your company’s communication to all these communities is one of the most important roles of any company leader.
Let’s play a game of ‘rate our company’. Where on a scale of 1 -10 would you be when it comes to your company’s pay package compared to your competition? Now let’s do the same thing for safety. Be honest here and yield on the side of caution. Finally, what is your company communicating to all the different communities it is exposed to on a scale of 1 -10? Think about each one of these before you put a number on it.
Now that you have a score, how did you do? If you sucked, then, believe it or not, that is good news because now you know where to improve your performance. What does that accomplish? Well, it will go a long way to improving your company culture and that is what it is all about folks. Do you score the company high in all categories and still have recruiting and retention problems? Please go back and do it again. You missed something! Does anyone doubt that perception is reality? How is the company perceived? Does it reflect reality or are you just not controlling the narrative properly? Again, you should know where to start to get control.
Every company I deal with hires way more drivers than they need. A positive sense of community where you are respected and that people have your back is what gets the job done. That is a place where a driver will want to work and stay at. If you want to discuss any of this further, please feel free to reach out to me and we can discuss strategy and retention.
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.