Driver Retention and Safety

Finding qualified drivers is an age-old problem in the trucking industry. The severity of the problem changes with the nation’s economy, but the problem of finding good drivers is never far away. The most significant factor contributing to this shortage is job-hopping or “churning,” which accounts for as much as 80 percent of the demand for commercial operators. Job-hopping can be reduced through strategies other than an increase in driver compensation. Six areas to consider:

• Selection and hiring

• Training procedures

• Dispatch operations

• Working conditions

• Safety-related rewards and incentives

• Improving perceptions of the truck driving profession

Selection and Hiring

Studies suggest that drivers attain satisfaction from a sense of achievement and recognition. Key factors influencing how long a driver remains with an employer are:

• Steadiness of work

• Level of pay and benefits

• Company support while on the road

• Genuine respect from management

• Amount of home time

While all these efforts are time-consuming and expensive, in the long run they are more cost-effective than having to recruit and hire again.

Driver Training Procedures

Progressive training programs offer drivers the potential for advancement to other positions within a company. If drivers receive such training, they are less likely to change jobs. A comprehensive training program addresses:

• Technical requirements

• Safety requirements

• Lifestyle issues

• Personal challenges

Dispatcher Operations

Dispatchers are measured by their performance in finding and assigning loads to drivers and providing load coordination. The only way to achieve successful performance is for dispatchers to work closely with their assigned team of drivers. Dispatcher behavior has been shown as a key influence on drivers’ satisfaction and their likelihood of remaining with their current carrier. Reevaluate the number of drivers that can be effectively managed by a single dispatcher. Incorporate human relations issues in training to better understand both the drivers’ concerns and their job demands.

Working Conditions for Long-haul Drivers

Driving a truck is a difficult lifestyle. Drivers deal with:

• Long and irregular hours

• Poor living conditions on the road

• Large amounts of time away from home

• Poor treatment from shippers and receivers

• Uncaring interaction with drivers’ own company personnel

Evidence links the economic and scheduling pressures on trucking operations with out-of-service violations and crashes. Truckers who drive in excess of hours-of-service regulations have an increased risk of crash involvement. Effective monitoring and enforcement of driver compliance with hours-of-service regulations is essential in reducing your exposure.

 Safety-related Rewards and Incentives

A commitment to safety from management carries over to drivers. Companies surveyed by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration, Office of Research and Technology said that safety incentive programs reduced the incidence of insurance claims, workers’ compensation claims and crashes by 65 percent. Elements necessary for truck driver safety incentive programs to be effective include:

• Managerial commitment

• Attractive rewards

• Progressive safety credits

• Simple rules

• Perceived equity and attainability

• Peer pressure toward safe conduct

• Family involvement

• Employee participation in program design

• Prevention of accident under-reporting

• Supplemental rewards with safety training

Improving Perceptions of the Profession

Surveys indicate that public perceptions of the truck driving profession are mixed. The overall view of drivers of large trucks was positive for 80 percent of the public. At the same time, 64 percent of the public felt that truck drivers exceed the speed limit frequently. A majority falsely believed that a substantial number of drivers engage in drug use, drinking, violence and recklessness; and that truck drivers are more concerned with deadlines than safety. The public also recognizes that truck drivers are highly independent. This characteristic is one that the industry can capitalize on by improving public perceptions and recruiting and retaining drivers. Improved perceptions also depend on the attitudes of the drivers themselves. Good driver attitudes about employers can result from:

• Limiting office turnover

• Pursuing driver-friendly freight practices

• Addressing driver grievances

• Developing non-pay incentives

• Providing training and orientation programs

While highway safety ultimately comes down to actions on the road, trucking companies have the potential to significantly improve driver retention and safety through specific changes in their selection, hiring, training and safety practices. The content of this material has been taken in large part from information published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. For more information, go to http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov.

Sentry Insurance is committed to helping you protect your business by providing resources to manage loss-producing situations and prevent accidents. For additional information visit ForTruckersOnly.com, or call 1-877-832-1835. 

 

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