Data is a powerful tool when it comes to freight market insights, and now more than ever, companies are turning to the numbers to make decisions related to driver recruitment, training, and retention. Using Driver iQ’s Q218 survey on driver recruitment and retention as a point of reference, Stifel Capital Markets hosted Lana Batts, Co-President of Driver iQ and Eric Fuller, President and CEO of US Xpress, inc. to discuss driver recruitment and retention trends in 2018 and beyond. According to Batts, those who responded to the survey are “people who are living and breathing these issues day in and day out.”
In order to contextualize the data discussed, driver turnover rates were provided by Batts, who stated that the average cost of driver turnover to the truckload industry is $8.2B annually. “The cost of driver turnover for the carrier is pretty astounding,” Batts said. “I think we can all agree that’s money we’d rather be spending on our drivers.”
From the perspective of a carrier, Fuller explained that “Large carriers are doing more than they ever have to try to retain their drivers. There are a lot of programs looking at how to make the job more attractive, maybe looking at dedicated opportunities from a driver perspective, more so than they ever have before, when evaluating opportunities.”
Driver iQ’s Q218 data indicated that despite attempts by carriers to retain drivers, 45% of respondents to their latest survey expected driver turnover rates to increase. According to Batts, driver retirement also figures into retention data. “There are a lot of guys leaving their companies that are of retirement age,” Batts explained. People are staying longer in the workforce for various reasons, but, as Batts said, “The most basic reason people stayed is that they loved their jobs…if we figured out how to get guys to love their jobs more, maybe they’d stay longer.”
Fuller mentioned that driver retirement has evolved over the years, saying that “in the past, when we had drivers retiring, we felt comfortable that the new drivers coming into the industry kept us even on the playing field, but what we’re seeing is that there’s not a lot of people filling these jobs from a younger age bracket.”
“Until we can find people that can fill these jobs and make a career out of it, we’re going to continue to dig ourselves into a hole,” Fuller concluded.
Reaching candidates of differing demographics is also becoming a priority in the industry–Batts and Fuller discussed the importance of hiring younger drivers, veterans, and women. 37% of survey respondents reported that they did not have programs in place aimed at recruiting veterans, and 35% of the same respondents lacked a program designed to bring more women into the industry.
“A large portion of drivers coming in as students are leaving the industry. They try it, they don’t like it, they leave, they don’t come back,” said Fuller. Of course, training is an investment for carriers, but if it’s done right, Fuller and Batts believe it’s worth the cost up front. “What we’ve seen in the past is CDL mills churning out drivers without preparing them for the career. Carriers have begun investing in schools so we have people who are better prepared for the industry. We want that fall out in the first couple of days. We don’t want to invest in someone who isn’t willing to meet the expectations,” he noted.
So how do industry leaders anticipate to fill said jobs? By attracting the right candidates, creating better training programs, and by helping new drivers turn driving into a career. “There aren’t many people in the country who want to do this job anymore,” said Fuller, but if carriers are willing to collaborate to successfully recruit, train, and retain drivers, Batts and Fuller believe that the industry can change for the better.