Fleet Driver Logistics: How to make Your Fleet More Productive with Less and Reduce Driver Turnover

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Seventy percent of all freight travels by truck. To carry the 11 billion tons of freight in the U.S. alone, there is a need for about four million truck drivers. The national supply chain needs to add about 100,000 qualified drivers a year, and it is currently short by 50,000. Furthermore, the average fleet driver is aged 55 and aging, and the industry is having a very difficult time attracting young drivers. If that weren’t enough, the current turnover rate of fleet truck drivers, within one year, is almost 100% (as the attached infographic shows). That means each driver in your fleet costs you at least $91,000 annually, and $46,000 of that expense is non-productive.

Truck Driver Infographic

Whether you field your own fleet or 3PL it, you have a logistics crisis on your hands, but you can solve it by reducing turnover and doing more with less (in this case, fewer drivers). Interestingly enough, the two-part solution — reducing turnover and improving productivity with fewer drivers — is rooted in the same practices:

  • Be a desirable employer,
  • Make your drivers happy,
  • Change the image of the industry.

We have MetaExperts who transform fleets, reducing turnover from 100% to 50% or better while resolving fleet issues that cost you rather than make you money. Here’s how they do it.

The MetaExperts know what the global challenges are before they spend time with your fleet team — note that these issues are largely responsible for both turnover and driver shortage. Good drivers leave (and people don’t want to be drivers) because:

They make on average $4.33 an hour, and for the same reason (hint: 14-hour consecutive shifts), they aren’t home with their loved ones enough (hint: 950,000 miles a year).

Driver managers (extroverted, multi-taskers who don’t need structure) and truck drivers (patient, independent and often introverted individuals who prefer structure and don’t embrace criticism) have a difficult time understanding and appreciating each other.

Dispatch schedules and dispatchers are often considered by drivers to be unaware of and uncaring about the unique challenges drivers face every day (bad delivery addresses, weather, and accidents slowing or stopping delivery, no one at delivery points to unload the freight, etc.).

The job they were recruited for doesn’t resemble the job the recruiter told them they were getting.

Maintenance problems result in breakdowns that make 1 and 2 above worse and give the driver the message that their wellbeing isn’t a company priority.

Advancement opportunities rarely exist (hint: they aren’t looking for a job change, just a better deal as they gain seniority).

The dispatcher and fleet manager are the only people in the company with whom they have contact, so they are outsiders without connection to and participation in company culture.

The vast majority of fleet drivers have all of these complaints, almost all the time, so the MetaExperts are on point to deliver affordable high-impact, low-risk ways to eliminate these inequities before they even arrive at your facility. In every company, there are underlying reasons for these fleet problems, and these can be quite different from organization to organization. Nevertheless, a lot of them can be mitigated before they become personal. Everyone in a fleet is a trained, experienced professional. Preempting the global issues above, allows the MetaExpert to get granular with the individuals on the team. These personal sessions bring out both the justification for high turnover and the reasons young people find the idea of driving a truck less than desirable:

“I’m almost old enough to retire, but I can’t afford to.”

“I’m good at what I do, I’ve done it a long time, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone but me.”

“My job is dangerous. I’m driving 80,000 pounds faster than I should, and I’m exhausted from the long hours. Does anyone care about that?”

“Don’t even ask me about my health. What do you think spending 14 hours a day at your desk while eating high-fat/salt/sugar fast food (sometimes just to stay awake) would do to you?”

“I’ve been married 35 years, and we’ve only taken six vacations. Now, when I am home, I don’t feel like doing anything — not fair to my wife at all.”

“I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been broken down by the side of the road for hours in 110-degree heat.”

“I’d love to do something else, but who’d hire me, and for what?”

The people who say these things have ideas how to solve them. Do listen.

What our MetaExperts know about the truck-driving industry, and what they learn when they work with a fleet, is almost always that drivers’ impressions and feelings are wholly justified, and the impression outsiders have of the business is equally understandable. As one MetaExpert says “My success is largely related to my program, in which I teach the front-line supervisors and the executives how to treat drivers, so they want to stay. Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with raising wages.” And it has enormous potential to change the image of the freight hauling industry to a positive one that will attract new drivers and deliver an improved experience to them.

Your conundrum is straightforward: How do you increase your drivers’ job (and life) satisfaction to reduce turnover while increasing productiveness? Here’s a look at some of what MetaExperts help you do, that you can start implementing tomorrow for results as soon as next week (hint: ask all the members of your team, the freight haulers to the C-suite, what they think would solve these issues, then incorporate them in your following actions):

Take the emphasis off salary as the primary reason to drive a truck for you. Monetary compensation is always greatly appreciated by employees. You can’t afford to increase the expense of your employees to improve their job satisfaction without increasing your revenues first, so find out how they think they can contribute to your improved bottom line so you can monetarily appreciate them. IoT technologies, for example, can help your drivers locate easy- and quick-access outlets with reduced fuel prices. Pass half the savings on to them.

Make time off scheduling priority. Again, ask your people what type of schedule would give them more of the home lifestyle they desire. Have them do some work with your other drivers to determine how they might help each other cover two weeks on, one off, for example. They all have the same desire, more quality time at home, more often. They can help each other, help you, to achieve this. Give them access to a communications vehicle (i.e., internet conferencing), so they can do the work at no cost to them and as volunteers.

Moderate and mediate the disconnect between drivers and managers and dispatchers. The investment in this up front will have a sustainable payoff on the backend. Encourage all team members to record their communications grievances (anonymously if preferred) and participate in a sensitivity practice that results from it. Again, you will probably have to make a short-term investment in someone with expertise in this area to create the process, but the dividends will be well worth it.

(Oh, and as your people participate voluntarily in making these improvements possible, plan to reward their participation when those dividends are returned.)

Ask your drivers for feedback to dispatch. Work with them to create an easy online form (or even an app), so you can aggregate data on challenges drivers incur from following dispatch direction. Ultimately, dispatchers and drivers can make each others’ jobs more effective and less painful through a simple engagement and feedback system, and buy-in for it.

Insist on honesty in your job descriptions (the good, the bad and the ugly). If your recruiters are painting a rosy picture when there is none, your turnover will be very costly. If you can’t write a job description for a driver hire that is honestly attractive, then you probably need to bring in someone like a MetaExpert who can help you create a fleet system that does attract quality drivers who prefer long-term commitments.

Commit to good maintenance practices and invest accordingly. Think of your fleet as your Air Force or Navy. Can they really win your battles for you if their equipment fails? More than anything else on the list above, investing in keeping your equipment running well tells your drivers you care and are committed to their safety and success. Plus, the cliché applies: an ounce of prevention… will deliver pounds of productive time.

Participate in their advancement, career change or retirement. Your drivers each have a dream. Ask them what they’d like to do when they stop driving (ask them when you hire them, and periodically thereafter). What they want their lives to look like. While we’ve all been profiting from business models that don’t reward loyalty and extra effort, your fleet will finish you if you don’t change these practices. Here’s why:

“The trucking industry is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy. Over 70% of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks. Without the industry and our truck drivers, the economy would come to a standstill. To move 10.5 billion tons of freight annually requires over 3.4 million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks and over 3.5 million truck drivers. It also takes over 38 billion gallons of diesel fuel to move all of that freight. Simply – without trucks, America stops”. ~ American Trucking Associations

Bring your drivers into the business and culture fold. This isn’t about the once-a-year company barbecue. It’s about involving your drivers in the evolution of the company. It’s about getting their feedback about the sections above and developing policy and process from it.

At this point, you may think “doing these things and making changes the way a MetaExpert might advise will require resources — what’s the risk and the ROI?” The risk is minimal because it’s all about gathering information from the people who know best what they need. What they need to be their best, for you. What they need to be loyal, to you. What they need from you to be part of the productivity for profitability, for you. Our MetaExperts have proven time and again that your ROI is the ability to continue moving your freight, hence, sustain and grow your business. You can do this on your own, or you can get to the ROI faster by bringing in some help. Regardless, the people in your trucking trenches have the answers you need to reduce their turnover and your associated (and considerable) costs while increasing productivity and making fleet driving a desirable career. Your business depends on it.

Resources and Additional Reading

Calculate your driver recruiting budget for fleet growth

How to Achieve Operational Excellence in Your Supply Chain

What do Executives and Fleet Managers need to do to increase productivity with a smaller fleet than they really need?

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