The US will be short 175,000 truck drivers by 2026, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). As the trucking industry faces a rising turnover rate, there’s never been a better time for fleet managers to show their truck drivers that they care. The trucker shortage has spurred concern among owner-operators and vice presidents alike as they consider different tactics to increase truck driver retention.
Care about your truck drivers
Real World Logistics President Steve Schommer considers hiring and retaining truck drivers to be a critical challenge for the industry during the truck driver shortage.
“Drivers today have a real sense of what they value in a workplace environment - even if that environment is a truck,” said Schommer. “If you’re doing it right, you find out what motivates your drivers and make changes to maximize that motivation.”
Schommer, who started his career as a over-the-road, long-haul driver decades ago, believes addressing the driver shortage requires far-reaching changes for trucking companies. "A giant industry shift needs to take place,” he said. “It comes down to a higher degree of respect by companies, shippers, and receivers for the drivers and the truck driving.”
As an example, he noted how efficiency issues in the shipping and distribution centers impact wait time for truck drivers, sometimes causing entire-day wait delays. If driver pay is based on time on the road, then the driver loses those hours with no compensation while waiting for the truck to be loaded or unloaded.
Launch driver retention programs
While changes across the trucking industry will take time, individual trucking companies can take matters into their own hands by launching driver retention and safety incentive initiatives to combat the shortage of drivers. Whether it’s reconfiguring the interior of a truck to better fit female drivers, offering more generous time-off policies, or awarding bonuses or pay increases for driving excellence and safety, Schommer highlights that it is imperative to focus on the employee experience.
“You really have to care for the people,” he said. “If you motivate and train and treat people right, they will do amazing things. That’s the key.”
Trailer Services, a full service freight transport and shipping company based in Washington, started its safety incentive program based on that same philosophy of putting people first.
Every month, the company celebrates its Driver of the Month: the driver with the best Samsara safety score. The winner receives a cash gift card and recognition across the organization. Besides identifying the Driver of the Month, Trailer Services also awards Safety Bonuses each quarter to drivers with no driving violations, as well as cash gift cards for clean DOT inspections.
“Our program helps us create a culture that appreciates our drivers and supplements their livelihood,” said General Manager Tracy Ridout. “We worked closely with our drivers to identify a system that felt good for everyone involved and set everybody up for success.”
Driver Michael LaBay poses with Trailer Services’ Samsara Driver Safety Report, which landed him a gift card and the honor of being Driver of the Month for December 2017.
Trailer Services has used a mentorship program to assist with driver development and help curb the shortage of truck drivers. Ridout and his team of driving mentors rely on data from the Samsara Dashboard to help coach newer drivers on safety best practices and decrease turnover rate. Using information about harsh acceleration, harsh braking, and vehicle speed, they have immediate visibility into driver behavior. With the new Samsara safety leaderboard in the Driver App, Trailer Services has even more tools at its disposal to motivate drivers.
Look at the data
“Through the data that we have, we’re finding a whole variety of ways to reinforce safe behavior,” said IT specialist Zach Waber. “Now each driver also has the individual metrics they need to proactively improve their skills and safety.”
For Ridout and Waber, the company’s initiatives have improved the safety of the fleet, but even more importantly, helped create a community of qualified drivers. These cross-team relationships are proving to be immensely valuable across the company, and Ridout hopes that Trailer Services’ driver-centric culture will help the company stand out when it comes to recruiting new drivers and retaining employees.