If you’ve taken a road trip lately, you probably have noticed those “drivers wanted” signs on the back of nearly every long-haul truck you pass. Attracting and retaining drivers is one of the transportation industry’s most challenging issues. And no wonder – long haul trucking is a tough career. Being away from home, driving two to four weeks at a time, with short breaks in between, can put a huge strain on an individual, not to mention their relationships. This all results in the average tenure of a long-haul trucker being less than one year. As they say, it takes a special type of person to enjoy long haul trucking.
The transportation industry is very fragmented, with big and small trucking companies, shippers, and receivers. And yet, long haul truck drivers must work cohesively with all the other pieces of the supply chain. Add to that the fact that truckers are on the road every day, isolated and cut-off from the company culture. Hiring and retaining good drivers is difficult in a highly competitive industry with tight margins, where driver compensation and benefits are similar among most companies.
Increasing employee engagement has become a strategic priority for transportation companies. Research by DecisionWise finds that when employees have a strong connection with their place of work, they are more engaged in their work. Employees connect with their organizations through the people with whom they work, the mission and values of the organization, and the work that they perform. When employees are connected to their organization, a job is transformed into a team that generates ideas, solves problems, takes care of customers, and acts with the organization’s best interest in mind.
While it is challenging to create connections with a workforce that is widely distributed, there are methods that can work, such as:
- Mentoring Programs for new and incoming drivers
- Participating in training, both in-person and online
- Maintaining truck appearance
- Pre- and post-trip inspections
- Defensive driving courses
Additionally, an employee recognition program (often based on earning points) can incorporate improving driver safety, years of service, attendance, and wellness.
The tactical initiatives and programs you can use to address employee engagement are limitless. However, more powerful and more sustaining changes in employee engagement must be culture-driven. Developing and nurturing a culture that values employees, and the contribution they make to the bottom line is truly the necessary foundation for all employee engagement increases.
The driver shortage is a trend that is forecasted to continue until 2020, according to DB Squared, Business Finance. Drivers retiring, or leaving the field, are just not being replaced fast enough by new drivers. Additionally, Bob Costello of the American Trucking Association said the organization has found that “88 percent of carriers said most applicants are not qualified.” That’s yet another reason to invest in corporate culture to engage employees – and to keep them with you.