Why Retaining Drivers is Difficult and What You Can Do About It

by | Oct 29, 2023

If you’ve been a fleet manager or transportation owner operator for a while, you know how hard it is to retain truck drivers. The trucking industry dominates the road transport sector, and it’s no secret that the truck driver shortage is a growing concern for transportation companies. Despite having a high demand for drivers, fleets find themselves with the significant challenge of being unable to retain their drivers with an unprecedented high staff turnover rate. But the question is: why is it so hard to retain truck drivers? In this blog post, we’ll discuss the reasons why the industry is experiencing this problem and what actions you can take to improve driver retention. 

Low wages and lack of benefits 

One major reason why the truck driver shortage has become so significant is the low wages that come with the job. Pay uncertainty is a significant concern for truck drivers, who are in search of job stability and financial sustainability. Many drivers are required to drive for long periods without breaks and often pay rates that are not commensurate with the work they do. In addition, they may have to pay for their own food, fuel, and lodging. Truck drivers are typically paid per mile or per load, and these rates can be difficult to negotiate, leading to inadequate or unreliable payment. On top of these low earnings, many drivers are often classified as independent contractors and suffer from a lack of basic benefits such as health insurance, pension, and paid time off.

To retain a competent and experienced driver, paying a fair wage is crucial. Fleet managers should consider implementing competitive compensation that includes a benefit package to commensurate with the driver’s experience and expertise.  Not to mention, guaranteeing pay for non-driving tasks.  

Long Hours, isolation, and no work life balance  

As we touched on briefly, a significant struggle faced by truck drivers is the extensive hours they spend on the road away from their families and friends. Many employers require drivers to cover long distances with tight schedules, leaving them with little personal time to rest and recharge. This leads to stress, exhaustion, and ultimately, burnout. The job can be mentally and physically exhausting and can have detrimental effects on the driver’s mental health, leading to a high turnover rate. To retain truck drivers, fleet managers need to strike a balance between the driver’s work hours and their rest time. Drivers should be given the flexibility to plan their schedules, increasing the number of rest areas along the routes ensuring they have downtime and adequate rest periods to maintain their overall health.  

The isolation that comes with the job is often overlooked. Drivers can get lonely on the road, and the irregular schedules make it challenging for them to have a social life. To address this issue, trucking companies can offer a buddy system, where drivers can connect with other drivers, participate in events outside work, and have access to support and community services. 


Lack of Advancement Opportunities  

Many truck drivers complain that there are few career advancement opportunities in the industry. This is a growing concern due to the truck driver shortage. They may feel like they’re stuck in their positions as a truck driver and have little room for growth, perhaps assuming that there are no transferable skills as it’s often a specialized job. It’s essential to help drivers see the potential of career growth within the company by offering training, mentoring, and coaching programs. It may be beneficial to incorporate more 1-on-1 time with individual drivers to discuss their goals and wishes within the company. 


Safety Concerns 

Safety is a significant problem faced by truck drivers. They’re often on the road for extended periods, sedentary for hours at a time, and the pressure of the job can lead to poor health. Truck drivers also endure various weather conditions and share the road with other vehicles and the risk of accidents is one reason why truck drivers leave their jobs.

It’s important to prioritize safety by offering health and wellness programs, safe driving training, and ensuring that safety equipment is routinely checked and always in good condition. Fleet managers must prioritize this and ensure that the trucks themselves are well-maintained, adequately equipped with safety features and tools, not only to prevent accidents but give the driver assurance; in the case of an unexpected accident, that they will know what to do and be able keep themselves safe from injury as much as possible. 


Lack of Respect and Recognition 

Many trucking business owners might be surprised to know that one of the biggest reasons why truck drivers leave the industry is the lack of respect and recognition. Drivers often feel underestimated and undervalued while being overworked. They are the backbone of the whole industry, and as a company, it’s essential to recognize the contributions that drivers make to the organization and take steps to show appreciation for their dedication and hard work.

This can come from monetary compensation like bonuses and achievement incentives. But also, through direct conversation, saying thank you and showing appreciation goes a long way. If you don’t already have a company social media presence, posting gratitude on behalf of the company is a great way to congratulate and uplift your employees. It gives a platform for other individuals within the organization to interact with each other and foster a sense of community.  


Poor Communication 

Communication is essential in every job, and it’s no different for truck drivers. Poor communication, such as lack of feedback and unclear expectations, can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction, which can ultimately lead to attrition. In relation to our last point: to retain truck drivers, fleet managers should aim to communicate directly and regularly with their drivers, providing feedback and guidance to help them improve their performance. Open communication lines can also help drivers feel like valued members of the team and can increase job satisfaction. 


Poor working conditions 

Many truck drivers experience the hardships of working in cramped and uncomfortable conditions. The need for space and comfort are often ignored, leading to a negative driver experience and increased chances of accidents. Sensible solutions such as upgrading truck fleet to comfortable, newer models goes a long way in making the life of a truck driver more stress-free, easier, and far more attractive to possible new hires. Employers could also provide drivers with essential appliances or items for living on the road, or compensate drivers for necessary items they purchase while on the road. 


Adverse societal perceptions 

Society’s adverse view towards truck driving jobs creates a sense of negativity and loss of interest for potential applicants. The nature of the job of a truck driver is seen as monotonous, unpopular, and physically demanding, which is not particularly attractive to younger generations that are more technology-inclined. As the current workforce ages and retires, we need to cater to a younger demographic to avoid prolonging the truck driver shortage. As discussed earlier, trucking companies can combat this negative image by increasing driver visibility on social media and traditional media by celebrating the achievements of their long-haul, and local drivers as well as the importance of the industry to the economy, along with working on enhancing other incentives like work-life balance and good pay. 


Lack of Training and Mentorship 

One of the major factors playing into this high turn over rate, has been the inadequate resources to not only train, but to mentor newly promoted drivers. Developing sturdy mentor programs and guidance in support and rationale increases drivers trust and confidence in their employers, as well as their skill levels- reducing the amount of avoidable accidents, re-occurring problems and escalating interests in the job. When properly and thoroughly trained, drivers will feel more capable on the road, more sure of themselves, and overall more loyal and connected to their work. 

Combatting the truck driver shortage

The truck driver shortage is a growing challenge that requires immediate attention and action from transportation companies. But there are things that we can do as a company to address this issue. By providing better wages, reasonable hours, career advancement opportunities, safety programs, recognition, among other factors, we can increase driver retention rates and improve the industry’s overall performance with more competent drivers. As transportation owner operators and fleet managers, it’s our responsibility to take the necessary steps to keep our drivers happy and motivated to stay with our companies for the long-term. Good retention is crucial for building a reputation as a company that values its employees, and ultimately, maintaining a successful transportation business.