Driver Turnover

I don’t understand it. Why does it happen? What is the cause? What can we do to fix it? Whose fault is it anyway? Why is a driver so unhappy that they willingly spend up to two weeks of income to change jobs?

What a way to start an article – with a bunch of questions that I don’t have answers to. If you want the answers, you are not going to find them here. But if you want to help me try and understand this problem, then let us work on it together. Because I just don’t get it. I previously had a good job and quit after several years thinking that I was going to get a better one. But it never seems to work out like that. I’m not a truck driver anymore but in my personal life, I still change jobs. Well not anymore now that I’m self-employed. I have no one to complain to about my boss. So why should a driver be any different?

I really want to understand this issue. It costs our economy way more money than we can imagine. If a Driver or Owner Operator takes up to two weeks to find new work and get going with paid miles for the new company, what did that cost the driver and their family? For a driver it is about $2,000 and for an Owner Operator it is somewhere around $5,000 for the two weeks. Then there is the company. Studies show that it costs $13,000 to hire/replace a driver/operator. That is a big hit to the company’s bottom line. So whether you are a truck driver or a company owner, it is a big hit to the finances.

So why does it happen I ask? Before we can do anything about turnover, we have to understand the ‘Why’. Some people with jobs other than truck driving stay at one employer their whole working career. Others, like me, change jobs every 5 to 15 years. But for truck drivers, there is a large number that switch employment every two years. Here in Canada our turnover is much better than our southern friends but still, we have very high turnover and it costs us dearly. So why? What makes the driver spend a week or two of income to change jobs?

Here are some of the things I have been told and/or I believe to be true – but am I correct?

• The recruiter lied to me and didn’t tell me the whole truth.

• I need more home time.

• My family/wife/husband needs me.

• I quit for more money at my new company.

• The dispatcher doesn’t have any respect for me and the other drivers.

• The owner is making all the money and they are not sharing.

• Shippers/Receivers are making me wait too much and I don’t get paid while I’m waiting.

• The equipment is terrible and not maintained.

• I don’t like the shipping lanes the company has.

• The company tells me to break the laws and fudge my logbooks.

• They keep changing policies. For example, they are now making us go to Electronic Logging Devices.

Most of the above reasons are from the driver perspective. But drivers also get fired. The companies that I have been speaking to are telling me that the main reasons that they encourage drivers and operators to leave are:

• The driver had an at-fault collision

• The driver got another ticket (violation)

• The driver doesn’t follow directions and instructions from dispatch very well.

• The driver is always leaving late for the delivery.

• The driver yelled at my customer.

• The driver fails to call into dispatch as per policy.

• The driver is an idiot. (This is my personal favorite. If this was a true statement, then the driver should never have been hired and I have serious concerns about the company’s recruiting practices!)

When you last quit your job, do you remember why? If so, fire me off an email and let me know as I would really like to hear from you. If you are in management, please tell me why you dismissed your last several drivers. I’m interested and I want to hear from drivers and companies. I want to understand this issue so that we, as an industry, can start to fix it.

Stay safe out there.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.