Getting your new drivers up to speed

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Anyone who commutes on the interstate is probably aware the trucking industry has job opportunities. “We are hiring” is the standard decal on every fleet’s trailers, it seems.

The reason why people choose to start or change their careers to be a professional driver is easy to understand. Few other careers offer the chance to earn a respectable income with only a few weeks of training.

Unfortunately, what many new drivers experience during the first few weeks and months on the job is not what they expected it to be.

Early turnover and industry experience

Early driver turnover is a challenge for all motor carriers, but the challenge is especially acute for carriers that hire drivers with limited industry experience.

Stay Metrics’ research database shows that 33 percent of drivers leave their carriers within the first 90 days of employment, and an additional 22 percent quit within 180 days. We also find that about 77 percent of drivers that leave within 90 days have limited experience.

In working with clients, Stay Metrics has found that communicating a consistent message during recruiting and orientation, managing expectations, and improving the orientation and onboarding experience for drivers are all strategies that move the needle for reducing early driver turnover.

To retain new drivers with less experience, motor carriers will need to execute on additional strategies to better prepare drivers for the work lifestyle of a truck driver and set them up for success.

Training and supporting new drivers for success

All drivers begin their careers with a set of expectations. Too often, these expectations may be unrealistic. Younger drivers, generally those between the ages of 21 and 35, may be more prone to having unrealistic expectations because they have less life experience from which to form those expectations.

Besides training new drivers on how your company and its systems work, consider additional ways to train drivers on how to overcome the difficulties they will encounter, but may never have expected.

For example, a carrier might add training in the orientation and onboarding process that helps drivers lead a healthy lifestyle on the road. Carriers might also provide information and resources about communication and relationship challenges that can occur. Several clients include brief sessions about personal finances and budgeting — important in an industry characterized by variable paychecks. Driver mentors can help inexperienced drivers to learn the ropes of trucking, but can also share their experience as truckers.

And don’t forget about dispatchers

Worthy of consideration – and a blog post for another day – is the impact of driver-dispatcher relationships. Our research shows that dispatchers (driver managers) have a big influence on early turnover, especially for drivers that have less industry experience. What support can dispatchers offer to drivers who are new to the industry? Do those dispatchers understand how critical they are for helping retain these group of drivers, who have some different needs than those who’ve been in the industry for years?

To continue moving the needle for driver retention, motor carriers will need to get less experienced drivers up to speed more quickly in a career they chose, but may never have expected. These drivers two sets of needs: a need to learn about how to be a driver and a need to learn how to drive for you. These are different. Successful carriers will find a way to address both.

Our Stay Metrics surveys continue to offer our client carriers insights about driver experiences during their first weeks and months. These 7-day and 45-day surveys help carriers identify drivers facing early challenges and, oftentimes, mismatched expectations. If you’re interested in adding driver survey research to your retention strategy, we would like to connect with you.

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