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Enlisting Operations in Truck Driver Retention

I heart driversDON JERRELL
Associate VP

It has been stated that “Drivers don’t leave companies, they leave relationships.” Since the most prevalent relationship between drivers and companies is through the operations department, your driver manager and dispatchers are essential in truck driver retention.   

Dispatch has a huge effect on a driver’s perception of your company - after all, they interact with them more than anyone else in your company.  They should be the front line employees working to improve turnover at your company.

When thinking about how operations impacts truck driver retention, ask yourself these three questions:

1. Does your operations department like truck drivers?

This sounds crazy, but it is not uncommon to discover that operations departments don’t really like drivers.  Sit in your operations department for a day and watch what happens.  Do they make jokes about the driver they just had on the phone?  Are they trying to get off the phone vs. taking the time to work with the driver?  Do they immediately transfer the driver to another department vs. finding the solution themselves and communicating back to the driver?  i.e.  “You have a problem in safety?  Let me transfer you safety, or payroll, or maintenance, etc.” 

Many dispatchers view drivers as problems.  This may be related to companies that do not have programs (such as our driver scorecard performance management process) in place which identify and recognize high achievers and good performance of their drivers.  As a result, the dispatchers spend all their time dealing with problem drivers and henceforth start thinking that all drivers are problems.  This kind of environment can have a devastating effect on truck driver retention.

2. Are your “driver managers” really managers?

There are a lot of so called “driver managers”, but at many companies it is just a title, not a reality.  In these companies, driver managers really aren’t managing anything.  They just dispatch freight, or are used as a buffer zone to “calm drivers down”, but do not actually have the training, knowledge, motivation, and authority to do anything. 

You have to give driver managers the tools they need in order for them to be successful and work well with drivers.  Driver managers have a tough role to play in your organization.  They are the ones who have to deal with, as my good friend Dan Baker says, “Both the front of the truck as well as the back of the truck.”  They have to be responsible for the driver as well as the freight and customer, whereas other roles in the company just deal with one or the other.

3. Do you schedule time for your driver managers to manage?

A manager should be spending at least 25-30% of their time coaching and mentoring!  Having someone to provide this support is essential in truck driver retention. 

Coaching and mentoring does not mean just dealing with problems when they occur.  This is being proactive vs. reactive.  Driver managers need to have data and statistics available in a format which is easy for them to navigate. 

Are you a manager? Do you meet the 25-30% requirement? Remember, this amount of time is a minimum – the better the manager, the more time is spent in the coaching and mentoring mode.  If not, you might want to start walking the walk.

Make sure your people get the message that every person in your company should be invested in improving truck driver retention.  This is especially important for your operations department, driver managers, and dispatchers who interact with drivers often. This group is your front line, affecting how drivers see your company, how long they stay with you, and how they talk about you to other drivers!


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Driver Retention: It Comes Down to RESPECT

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Using a Driver Scorecard to Manage Performance

How Remote Monitoring Can Save Your Business

Topics: Transportation