Feature article on truck driver retention written
by Richard Stewart for Driving Force magazine
Gallup Poll Reveals How to Keep Drivers
Have you been driving for the same company for five years or more?
If so, chances are good that you are getting steady driving assignments,
respect from management, good pay, support from your company
while on the road, and adequate time with your family. Drivers who
stay with their companies say they are most satisfied in those areas,
according to findings of a Gallup driver satisfaction study conducted
for the American Trucking Associations (ATA) Foundation.
The study, entitled "Empty Seats and Musical Chairs: Critical
Success Factors in Truck Driver Retention," included interviews with
801 drivers in 20 fleets who have been with their current employers
for five years or longer. The objective was to determine attributes that
most influence overall driver satisfaction with their jobs, according to
Released in the fall at ATA's Management Conference and
Exhibition in Las Vegas, the study provides a formula to help trucking
companies retain the roughly 320,000 truck drivers--mostly within the
long-haul truckload sector of the industry--who move from one
company to another each year. This predictable turnover of drivers
who jump ship in search of better driving situations is called "churning"
by the researchers.
"At last we have a likely solution to a serious problem that has
plagued the trucking industry for over 15 years," said Greg Lebedev,
ATA acting president and managing director of the ATA Foundation.
"This important research shows trucking company managers how to
improve driver retention, thus reducing the number of empty seats and
the tendency toward musical chairs."
The study, based on the Gallup Retention Model, recognized that
satisfied drivers tend to stay in their existing jobs. It asked the drivers
to rate their satisfaction with the following 21 job attributes (with the
percentage of "very satisfied" responses in parentheses):
• Company Support--Support from company when on the road
(52%); friendliness of managers (52%), company expectations about
schedules (46%); fairness of managers (52%), company rules about
driving (42%); genuine care of managers (42%); how dispatchers
assign work (41%); recognition when drivers do a good job (35%);
company training program (34%).
• Non-driving Activities--Amount of physical loading and
unloading (42%); amount of general non-driving work (37%);
friendliness of customers (35%); hours of service recording (26%);
waiting time at customer locations (23%).
• Work and Family--Hours of work (32%); time home with family
(30%); time on the road (29%).
• Work Rewards--Steadiness of work (60%); benefits (40%);
friendliness of other drivers (38%); pay (39%).
Companies can increase driver satisfaction, thus reducing the very
expensive churning phenomenon, by making improvements in several
areas, the findings showed. In order of importance to drivers, the most
critical factors are:
• Steadiness of work (such as consistent driving assignments)
• Genuine care, friendliness and fairness of managers
• Support from the company while on the road
• Balance between work hours and time with family
Improved Public Perception
The Gallup Organization also surveyed 1,000 Americans about their
perceptions of truck drivers and the trucking industry and came up with
some surprising conclusions. The survey showed that most Americans
(80%) have a positive view of truck drivers. That contrasts with the view
of trucking executives and truck drivers who believe the public has a very
negative attitude toward drivers. Company managers should communicate
this finding to drivers, the report said, to help increase long-term driver
commitment to the industry and promote retention.
Speeding is one area of truck driver behavior that needs improvement,
according to those surveyed. In addition, about two-thirds (65%) think the
trucking industry needs to recruit more women drivers. Openings for new
truck drivers are expected to total about 80,000 a year over the next ten
years, according to the Gallup Organization. Women and minorities, not
traditionally tapped by the industry as drivers, are the workforce segments
that are expected to grow the most. As a group, minorities show an
increasing interest in becoming truck drivers, the study says.
ATA's Lebedev acknowledges that simple answers are seldom found
to complex problems. "But the Gallup study should offer hope to trucking
company managers that they can indeed find and retain well-qualified and
responsible drivers," he said. "All of the factors mentioned in this report
put the solutions to a difficult situation within their control."
The Gallup/ATA study is available for $25. Call the ATA Order Line
at 800-282-5463 to get a copy.