Omnitracs' Road Ahead blog

ATRI: Focus on Driver Shortage, Retention and Compensation

As the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) states in their 2020 Critical Issues Report

“The year 2020 can unequivocally be described as the most chaotic and
unpredictable time period in many decades. In the course of several months,
the U.S. economy spiraled from new records in consumer sales growth, low
unemployment, industry-favorable trade agreements, and a dramatically
improved regulatory landscape… to a COVID-related economic slide paralleling
the Great Depression, and all that comes with it.”

Yet, through it all, the trucking industry survived, and in limited instances, thrived. During this tumultuous time, 10 issues surfaced as priorities in ATRI’s 16th annual survey. Assuming that your fleet is also struggling with some of these challenges, we’re going to do a deep dive over a series of blog posts on how technology can help.

  • Driver Shortage
  • Driver Retention
  • Driver Compensation
  • Truck Parking
  • Insurance Cost and Availability

Driver Shortage, Retention and Compensation

For the fourth consecutive year, Driver Shortage is the trucking industry’s top concern on the overall list. Also on the list is Driver Retention and Driver Compensation – inexplicably linked to the driver shortage.

As the trucking industry faces a driver shortage, fleet managers are tasked not only with hiring the right employees, but ensuring they stay for the long haul and compensating them appropriately. Despite the recession brought on by the pandemic in early 2020, freight demand is returning to pre-COVID levels and early indicators are showing that the shortage will soon return to the levels experienced in 2018 and 2019.1

The increased freight demand coming out of the pandemic, combined with the pandemic-induced backlog of new entrants into the workforce, make it more important than ever that fleets retain their best drivers. As reported by the American Trucking Associations, “the turnover rate at truckload carriers with more than $30 million in annual revenue fell 12 percentage points to 82% – the lowest level since the end of 2018.”2 However, it is expected that turnover, and the need to retain drivers, will continue to ramp up as freight demand returns to pre-COVID levels.

While focusing on attracting drivers to fill positions, fleet managers must also stem the flow of drivers leaving their fleet to seek higher pay or a position that allows them to be home each night. In addition, fleets terminate drivers for a variety of reasons, including involvement in a collision or in response to a complaint about their driving. Without good information—and context—fleets risk letting good drivers go, whether voluntarily or involuntarily. There’s no panacea or quick fix to solve the driver turnover challenge, but fleets are wise to explore how technology can reduce attrition by supporting driver incentive and reward programs – improving the driver experience and leading to an overall safer fleet. And, let’s face it – safer fleets have an easier time retaining drivers.

A driver incentive program, which not only prompts drivers to make smarter and safer driving decisions, but also promotes driver happiness, is one way to attract drivers, while also increasing driver retention. Successful fleets train drivers regularly, and reward drivers on a regular basis—ensuring they develop and retain top performers. Rewards can take many forms—monetary, time off, branded gear, etc.—incentivizing desired behaviors and demonstrating driver recognition and appreciation. A well-executed data-driven driver incentive program can provide considerable return on investment as a result of improved driver safety and reduced accidents, all while enhancing recruitment and retention. After all, drivers are integral to a fleet’s success—with cash or non-monetary rewards, carriers can ensure drivers remain happy and focused on the job.

The results speak for themselves. Looking to attract drivers, while retaining drivers, regional flatbed and dry van carrier, Fraley & Schilling, instituted a data-driven driver incentive program based on safety performance. In addition to putting more money in their drivers’ pockets, Fraley & Schilling experienced:

  • 55% reduction in accident frequency rate
  • 50% reduction in DOT Recordable Accidents
  • 10% reduction in self-insured retention costs
  • $2 million added to bottom line since implementing SmartDrive

Driver ScorecardA data-driven performance program provides you with an unbiased view of your safest, most improved and overall best drivers. The result is a win for your fleet (safer drivers) and a win for your drivers (more money). Vital to many fleets’ rewards program is the SmartDrive® Driver Scorecard. The scorecard allows you to set specific parameters and thresholds for bonus program disqualifications, while quickly recognizing and rewarding top-performing drivers.

For insights into building your own driver incentive program, check out our two free eBooks:

You’ll quickly realize why Matthew Penland, VP, Risk Management of Cypress Truck Lines, says: “Using data to create a program that incentivizes our drivers gives me confidence in knowing we’re reinforcing safe driving and protecting the motoring public. As a result, I’m happy to pay out for safety. In fact, I hope 100% of our drivers qualify for our quarterly safety performance bonus!”

Next Up: Focus on Truck Parking

1Huff, Aaron. “Fleets Preparing to Face a Driver Shortage Like it’s 2018 All Over Again.” Commercial Carrier Journal. October 5, 2020. Available online:
2American Trucking Associations. “Truckload Turnover Plunges in Second Quarter.” Press Release. September 23, 2020.

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