There’s a “Help Wanted” sign hanging on the United States’ trucking industry, a really big sign.
The American Trucking Association estimates there is a current need for between 35,000 and 45,000 new drivers to meet the growing – and increasingly pent-up – demand among shippers looking for someone to haul their products around the nation.
If you’re a driver, or work with or hire them, you, no doubt, understand how tough the job can be. Long, lonely hours and extended days away from home are an inherent problem. But health issues – some related to the job specifically but most just a function of the high average age (49) of drivers today – and other quality-of-life concerns play a big part in high levels of driver turnover industrywide.
The Numbers Paint A Clear Picture
A recent HireRight survey found that lack of home time and health issues are the leading causes of driver turnover. Forty-one percent of drivers are leaving to spend more time at home, and 21 percent are leaving because of health problems, the survey found. While a growing number of fleet operators now offer safety and accident prevention programs and driver health programs, 45 percent of the drivers who responded to HireRight’s survey said their companies still don’t have a wellness program available.
Increasingly, fleet operators also are investing more money in their drivers. HireRight found that about 51 percent of fleet operators are boosting driver pay; 49 percent are upgrading equipment to make life on the road a little safer and easier for their drivers; and 41 percent have put into place driver recognition and rewards programs that have a monetary component. Fifty-seven percent of fleet operators also are investing in driver appreciation events that may not put extra cash in drivers’ pockets but make them feel more appreciated as part of the team. About 35 percent of fleet owners also have begun allowing flexible work arrangements that help retain drivers who have family or other needs that require them to work something other than a traditional multi-day, over-the-road shift.
The HireRight survey also discovered that about 68 percent of fleet operators are using at least some kind of retention incentives to keep drivers (who often decide whether to stay with an operator within six months of starting) and to attract new drivers.
Technology Has a Surprisingly Important Role to Play in Driver Retention
There’s a big role for technology to play in attracting and retaining drivers. Tech tools, available both in cab to the drivers—especially younger drivers who’ve grown up in a technology-infused world—and to fleet and operations managers, are reducing or eliminate annoying tasks that can suck the life out of work on both ends of the equation. And the mountain of data being produced by that technology increasingly is giving managers many important signals about driver performance, health and satisfaction.
Using performance-tracking data from braking and engine systems, GPS, and other data points on modern trucks to provide helpful feedback, drivers can both increase their efficiency and make their job easier. And, that data can even help them get home to their families earlier and, more frequently, without suffering a financial penalty for doing so. Most importantly, technology-enabled feedback can dramatically improve a driver’s ability to get home alive and in one piece by helping them become better, safer drivers and avoid areas of road prone to wrecks.
Used Wisely, Predictive Analysis Technology Can Keep Drivers Safe, Happy and With Your Company
All of those efforts are notable and worth doing, but what if instead of just doing general things to make all drivers happier, managers could know which drivers were in danger of leaving?
With predictive analytics – made possible by the collection, archiving and active analysis of all sorts of data from technology-enabled trucks and drivers’ electronic logs – that increasingly is possible.
Predictive data analysis can consider a driver’s performance record, physical and mental weariness and compare it to historical data to detect subtle changes that may indicate a driver might be entering a danger zone and be primed for an on-road incident. That information can then be used to make sure the driver is getting the right amount of rest and sleep at the right time, and to keep them happy, safe and on the team for the long-haul. Indeed, keeping drivers accident-free and alive are two really important issues in their own right, but they’re also under-appreciated driver retention tools.
Additionally, predictive data analysis gives managers – from dispatchers to CEOs – a heads up as to when any individual driver might be exploring opportunities, either with another motor carrier or outside the trucking industry. Armed with that knowledge managers stand a much better chance of retaining drivers by responding positively and directly to their concerns. That same data also can be used by drivers to prove their value to their managers. The creation of a “Roadside Resume” based on solid analysis of drivers’ performance data can help them earn raises, bonuses, promotions, better driving assignments, rewards, recognition and overall greater control over their own careers.
Taken together, those tech tools should help trucking companies both attract new driving talent and retain the drivers they already have on their payrolls. And drivers – both existing ones and those the industry needs to attract – can only benefit when technology is sending all the right signals to management on how to attract and retain drivers by meeting their needs, keeping them safe and doing everything possible to make them happy.
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