Reveal the Ugly

Here is a tip on retention; reveal the ugly. Before I get too far into the weeds in my reveal process, I have observed that driver turnover usually originates in an offshoot of some extenuating factors of the past. The company may have experienced rapid growth, or the company might have been sold or amalgamated with another company. The company’s primary customer base or lanes may have switched from short-haul to long-haul. The company ownership might have been passed on to the next generation or the primary funding source may have changed, bringing new outside influences.

The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.
– Samuel Johnson 1709 – 1784

For us, in trucking, I relate this phrase to the unending variables we deal with and the proportionately low returns we receive. You simply cannot take your eyes off the ball in any department if you are running a trucking company; things are just too tight. Johnson said the trouble is you do not see them coming. Habits start so small they can go unnoticed until they are “too strong to be broken.” Turnover is creeping up? Don’t worry about it. It will come back down as soon as this or that happens. Next thing you know, your numbers are out of line and you can’t seem to bring them back down as things continue to deteriorate.

Most of the work I have done with carriers starts with a general conversation that paints a picture for me. It is not unlike peeling the layers of an onion. To name a few: what’s the fleet size? What type of trucking does the company do? Flatbed, van etc.? What’s the safety record of the business? What are the current driver turnover numbers and does that answer come with a lot of conjecture? How many unseated units do they have? What does the corporate structure look like and does it reveal a boss or a leader? Finally, the all-important question of; “What do you think the issue is”?

There is more, of course, but this can easily get a conversation started about the possible issues that cause the turnover. From here, I have a survey that will reveal what people within the company perceive and certain aspects that are vital to retention. These include: safety, communication, culture, operational training and empathy, systems proficiency, consistency in driver contact, employee opportunity, etc. Once I have all the above, I can reasonably ascertain the gaps in company performance that are likely the significant factors contributing to its turnover.

Here is a tip for those companies that are worried about becoming victims of the above scenario. On your income statement, put a line item for turnover, both monthly and year to date. If you lose ten drivers a month at $7K per driver, $70,000 a month, $840,000 in any given year then my thinking tells me that this number would be acted on much quicker if revealed clearly on your financial statements – especially if it started to creep up with any momentum. Treat this as your ‘effective’ income. Drill this into your tea. Every time a driver leaves, they are taking a bag of cash of $7,000 with them. Now add gross margins from unseated units. All of this is, of course, accounted for in other areas of your financials. Reveal them and see the eyes in the room roll. We know we can’t hire our way out of the current situation and, if you believe as I do, standing still will make you a target. Time is a wasting folks. If you would like to have a general conversation on your company’s turnover, please reach out to me. Let’s see what we can see.

Regards 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.