2018 has come to a close, and we are in the thick of 2019. Already, we know this year will be highly unpredictable in terms of the economy and labor market. One thing is very clear, though: the driver shortage isn’t going anywhere.
As I wrote in a previous blog, changing demographics and the relative undesirability of the truck driving job among young people continues to thin the incoming driver workforce. At the same time, the average age of drivers continues to climb. Adding to this challenge, the US economy is in a period of practically full employment, with an unemployment rate that has not been this low in 50 years. Trucking is competing with the trades and other blue collar jobs for an increasingly small pool of applicants.
Considering these trends, if I were a carrier today, here are the top 3 things I would be doing right now to make sure I have a strong 2019.
Measure fleet size constantly, perhaps even daily.
I would become obsessed with how many drivers I have, what my retention rate is, and how many new drivers I bring in. This laser focus on retention from the top will cause people at all levels of the business to think about how they can keep the number of drivers going up.
Ask of the entire company: “How are we treating people?”
Especially with such a low unemployment rate, leaders in all businesses need to come to the realization that people do not have to work for you. Employees have options. Instead of taking drivers (and all employees for that matter) for granted, I would keep my management team in a mindset of gratitude for each person who has chosen to work for us. They are contributing their unique talent to our organization, and that is priceless.
As companies make this shift, I challenge top leaders to honestly examine their own management philosophies and past behaviors to ensure they align with this mindset. How does building a culture that people want to work in fit with how you manage? Is there something about the way you have related to people in the past that would inhibit your organization from becoming driver-centric? Reflect on these questions and find ways to improve personally so that the ripple effect can transform your company’s culture for the better.
Investigate the Stay Metrics platform and how it can help.
The one thing I think every carrier should be doing right now is to get serious about the early driver surveys we offer. These surveys go out to drivers first about a week after they start and again about 6-8 weeks later. They help you get a handle on what drivers are expecting coming in and how your team is delivering. You can track what your recruiters are promising and how your dispatchers are relating to drivers. You will be able to find areas where you can coach your team to prevent friction points that lead to turnover.
My Top Recommendation
Use the most powerful aspect of our early driver surveys: interventions. Triggers are built into these surveys that notify you when you need to reach out to specific drivers because they seem at-risk for early turnover. For carriers that are already Stay Metrics clients, take a look at how you handle these interventions. Track them and show how many drivers stuck with your company after an intervention. The more of these you do, the better your team will be at them. Your intervening managers will also build personal connections with your drivers. These positive encounters help them feel like a valued part of your team.
For carriers that do not use Stay Metrics, I encourage you to take a hard look at these tools. Ask questions of our team, find out what the science behind our data is, and keep reading our Success Metrics case studies. These stories show real-life examples of how carriers are succeeding and some of the challenges they have overcome.
2019 is the year to invest in building a driver-centric culture. Drivers are becoming harder to find and autonomous vehicle technology will likely not come quickly enough to meet the demand. Carriers that will succeed are going to be the ones drivers want to be a part of because they know their needs will be considered and they will be treated with respect.
Not sure where to start? Let Stay Metrics be your partner in retention in 2019 and beyond. Contact us today.