Appreciating Drivers All Year: Best Practices for Driver Retention

October 24, 2018

The American Trucking Association recently announced that driver turnover at large truckload fleets hit the highest level since 2015, compounding industry-wide concerns around driver recruitment and retention. There has never been a better time to ensure drivers feel appreciated for their hard work.

To celebrate this year’s National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Samsara hosted a special social media giveaway in honor of truck drivers everywhere. However, recognizing drivers should extend outside of a single week of celebration. We spoke with three of our giveaway participants to learn their best practices for appreciating and retaining drivers.

Honesty, Commitment, and Celebrating the Little Things

Ricky Gaspard is the Safety Director at Protected Cargo Transport, a family-owned carrier based in Louisiana. He oversees both independent and company drivers and is committed to making sure each person feels like they’re part of a larger family.

According to Gaspard, honesty and commitment are critical for keeping a good driver happy. “If you tell them you’re going to do something, like get them home to their families every week, you have to follow through,” he explained. “I recently did a poll among drivers about what they’re looking for, and by far, the number one thing was honesty.”

As part of ensuring honest communication, Gaspard finds ways to invite drivers to voice opinions and concerns. “We have open sessions where drivers can say, respectfully, what they think is right or wrong in the company or what they would suggest we change, without any repercussions,” said Gaspard. “We really take it seriously. We might not approve of or act on everything, but a lot of times we get really great suggestions and we try to follow up on them.”

Finally, Gaspard believes that rewarding the little things can go the farthest. For example, he recently saw one of his newer drivers changing an older woman’s tire. “He didn’t have to and he wasn’t getting paid for it, but I just happened to catch it,” Gaspard explained. “I sent out a mass message to our fleet thanking him for making our fleet look good and doing the right thing. As a reward I took him out anywhere he wanted to eat last week, and he’s thanked me a hundred times since.”

Gaspard shared this photo of his daughter Bella and his father-in-law Chuck Reich, the Co-Owner of Protected Cargo Transport

Strong Communication and Efficient Systems

Brenden Magill manages quality assurance at Doyles Wholesale, a family-owned distributor servicing the greater Northwest. Magill handles “the equipment and the people,” which includes overseeing safety and compliance, maintenance and upkeep, and new hires and recruiting. Magill believes the key to driver satisfaction is strong communication, along with having the right safety, compliance, and maintenance processes in place.

Doyles Wholesale deployed Samsara dash cams to improve fleet safety, which has made their best drivers feel more supported. According to Magill, before dash cams, “there was frustration for the drivers that were being safe because they couldn’t trust other drivers out on the road. With the dash cams we can hold people accountable, which is making our safest drivers feel more comfortable and heard.” Doyles Wholesale is in the process of implementing a safety rewards program, which has their best drivers excited to be rewarded for their already safe practices.

Magill also believes that finding the right ELD solution is important for driver satisfaction. “In the past we were struggling with a prior ELD log and there was a lot of frustration for the drivers,” explained Magill. “It was hard for them to stay compliant. We switched to Samsara and the frustration dropped to zero. These guys are visually seeing update after update with interface changes. They’re constantly seeing that this thing is evolving and becoming more and more awesome. They’re loving it.”

Access to live engine data for the entire fleet through the Samsara dashboard has made it easier to make drivers feel supported even while on the road. “Previously they felt pretty disconnected,” said Magill, “but when I can call them knowing that their tractor is having a problem before they do and I’m able to get them back on the road quicker, they really appreciate that.”

Aligned Incentives

Arley Garner is the Operations Systems Manager at Hardies, a fresh food distributor in the Southwest. Garner manages safety and compliance across Hardies' distribution and warehouses, and oversees the systems and telematics within their trucks.

To reward their best drivers and encourage the full team, Hardies incentivizes drivers through an awards program. Drivers are rated on a multitude of metrics, including safety and on-time delivery, with metrics tracked automatically through Samsara. All drivers are entered into an A-B-C classification system where the best drivers “with no incidents or accidents, who make on-time deliveries, are classified as A drivers and get the best routes,” explained Garner. “We give our drivers something to strive for and make it a competition, which makes everyone better in the long run. If they get a good status, they’re going to have a cushy month.”

Dash cam footage provides safety feedback loops and aids continuous training, helping drivers feel protected. In one incident, Garner explained, “a driver was in an 18 wheeler and approaching a merge-on location and a car came out in front of him and tried to squeeze him, scraped the side, and we ran into the back of him. The guy sued. As soon as the video came out, it showed the driver did absolutely nothing wrong. It completely exonerated him. From that point on, everyone was happy with the cameras.”

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