Guest Columnist- In the Hot Seat with Driver Retention Expert- Tim Hindes, Stay Metrics

Tim Hindes, CEO, Stay Metrics

Tim Hindes has more than three decades of experience in the trucking industry, including early years as a driver and dispatcher. Since 2012, he has been CEO of Stay Metrics overseeing a team that serves nearly 100 carriers and 25,000+ drivers with its industry-leading driver engagement platform and suite of driver surveys. Stay Metrics ongoing research contributes to industry advances in driver retention, safety, and carrier operations. 

 

Q1: What is the state of the driver shortage in the trucking industry today? What will we be facing in five years? 

That’s always the $64,000 question, isn’t it?

When you look at last year and see that many carriers actually downsized their fleets, and carriers will tell you that the 2016 freight market was soft, and maybe it still is, it makes me wonder, “Is there really a driver shortage?” Or at least ask myself, “How does the industry develop a calculation that can tell us exactly how short we are.”

With the ELD mandate slated for December, I believe that an actual driver shortage will be exposed.

Industry experts vary in their estimates, but many believe ELD implementation will remove 3 to 5% of driver capacity. I am in the group that believes the number will be much higher, closer to 7%. 

While the current soft economy may be masking a driver shortage, the ELD mandate – whatever its exact magnitude – will reduce the number of available drivers. If the economy moves out of its current doldrums, I believe the shortage will rear its head big time by Q2 of 2018. From an optimistic standpoint if we see growth north of 2.5% GDP, any real signs that infrastructure is going to get done, then the shortage will expose itself in an unprecedented way, especially if coupled with expected driver retirements.  This time the shortage will be long lasting and affect long suppressed contract rates. 

 

 Q2: Why do owners think their drivers are leaving? Why are they really leaving?

That’s a very good question, and it’s one I love to ask senior executives at trucking companies.

Many of those executives appear to believe in a bit of a “conspiracy theory.” They believe there is a certain segment of the driver population that simply jumps from job to job and it is these drivers that are causing the turnover. They also believe that there’s nothing they can do about it.  Our data says it is time to debunk those claims.  

Another line of thinking is that it’s all about pay and my drivers are leaving for better-paying jobs in the trucking industry. Again, our data says it isn’t so. (Moreover, common sense says since most trucking companies are selling to the same clientele and getting similar rates, it’s difficult for one carrier or group of carriers to have significantly better pay than others.)

While each of our carriers has a unique profile of what’s causing its drivers to stay/leave; if do see common trends. Our researchers have looked extensively at early driver turnover (turnover within the first 6 months after orientation). Many carriers lose 50% or more of their new drivers before 6 months are up; a very expensive type of driver churn. Our data shows us that the most common reason drivers leave carriers as a whole is broken recruiting promises and related communication issues.

 

Q3: What best practices are industry leaders employing to keep the drivers happy and moving freight?

The most common best practice being implemented over the last 18 months has been the standardization of recruiting practices, making sure that the messaging is aligned with what the drivers actually going to experience working for the carrier. As a result, we have been urging the development and executing of coordinated communication plans and messages that contain consistent messages used in every driver-related interaction, from recruiting to orientation to initial training to dispatcher/fleet manager relationship-building.

As part of the ongoing communication with drivers and as part of a driver-centric culture, our best practice clients are collecting driver feedback – at all stages of a driver’s lifecyle – and using that ongoing feedback to make operational improvements.

Last, but not least, finding meaningful ways to engage drivers is critical and, finally, a robust recognition and rewards program is an absolute necessity for a successful carrier. I can’t say whether this will become a standard practice, but it certainly caught the attention of many drivers when a  major carrier will start issuing stock as a way to recognize and retain its drivers.

 

Q4: Are the reasons male drivers leave different than the reasons female drivers leave? How? Why?

Our researchers recently examined annual survey results from more than 12,000 drivers representing 78 carriers, including more than 1,100 women drivers. We created predictive models for both men and women to look at the propensity to stay with or leave a carrier. When comparing the top fourteen items between the two groups,  issues about the quality of equipment, satisfaction with maintenance departments, and respect from the carrier and at the carrier’s facilities were more important for women than men. Among the men, seven of the top issues related to dispatchers; only two of the top issues for women related to that area. (link to article from Fleet Owner http://fleetowner.com/driver-management-resource-center/carriers-take-note-men-and-women-drivers-quit-very-different-reaso?page=1)

 

Q5: What advice would you give small fleets trying to retain drivers? Large Fleets?

I would offer similar advice to both size fleets; though implementation would be different based on their sizes.

The advice we give to small players is to leverage their size. They have the ability to create deep and intimate relationships with your drivers, creating a family type of atmosphere that is attractive to many drivers. Of course, just like a regular family, a “work-family” can be dysfunctional, and can make retention difficult. We recommend using driver feedback to get their order in needed and then spend time building deep, engaging, relationships with drivers.

For large carriers, we strongly suggest formalizing the process of getting driver feedback and getting it at a variety of points in a driver’s career. As I mentioned, early driver turnover is an expensive source of driver turnover, that is one reason that our suite of satisfaction surveys includes asking drivers shortly after their orientation classes and later, during their onboarding experiences. This data can help a carrier focus on improvements in this critical window for retention. Ongoing annual driver surveys help carriers get a better understanding of the general satisfaction and of their fleets, while at the same time gaining insight on what is causing your turnover. A formal recognition and awards program is even more critical for larger fleets, which can have more difficulty making the personal connections. It is critical ensure that a fleet’s most valuable asset feels most valuable. 

About Stay Metrics: The Stay Metrics driver engagement platform helps trucking companies engage, reward and keep their best drivers. Carriers see improved driver retention by using a unique custom-branded loyalty rewards program to recognize driver performance, in combination with driver feedback interviews, surveys, and related research. The platform includes a driver communication and resource hub, in addition to cutting-edge safety and wellness training. For more information visit http://www.staymetrics.com.

Let's Talk