4 Ways to Improve Driver Retention

If you’ve been struggling to hire and retain drivers, you’re not alone. In a recent study, 99% of fleet managers named driver-related issues as their top concern, outpacing the second-highest-ranking challenge – equipment and maintenance – by more than 70%.

It makes sense that driver retention weighs heavily on the mind of a fleet manager since it’s estimated that driver turnover can cost anywhere from $6,000-$12,000 per driver, due to the time and resources that you’ve invested in recruiting, onboarding, and training each driver. With spending on hold for many fleets in preparation for a potential economic downturn, it’s more important than ever to hold onto your experienced drivers.

The Real Cause of Driver Turnover

Over the last decade, the driver turnover rate for commercial fleets reached as high as an astonishing 90% in 2019. However, as some industry experts point out, if these drivers were actually leaving the industry, operations would have collapsed years ago. Instead, this turnover rate can be more accurately described as “churn,” meaning that drivers were moving from company to company rather than to a different line of work.

With an increasingly tight labor market, companies began responding with signing bonuses, salary hikes, and a wide range of added benefits, effectively creating a bidding war over drivers. But now, with economic uncertainty looming on the horizon, fleets are tightening their budgets and looking for more creative and organic ways to reduce all types of attrition.

Supporting Driver Retention

The good news is that In a recent study by the National Transportation Institute – based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor – turnover for large truckload carriers fell significantly from 2021 to 2022. This decrease seems to suggest that drivers are staying with their current companies, and that retention efforts are beginning to pay off. 

Retaining drivers is crucial to fleet success and helps maintain productivity, safety, and profitability. Below are four ways to improve driver retention for your fleet.

1. Provide Training and Development Opportunities

As in any career, drivers appreciate opportunities for growth through training programs, mentorship, and opportunities for advancement. Training doesn’t have to be boring, either. In fact, creative and engaging interactions often stay with your team longer. Some options for creative development opportunities include:

  • Gamified Training: What metrics would you like to see improved upon within your team? Consider setting up a friendly competition with desirable prizes (gift cards, paid time off, or monetary bonuses) for the team or employee that performs best or completes the requirements.
  • Virtual Training: Modern technology has made distance learning easier than ever. Consider using online meeting and presentation tools to empower your team through continuing education or developmental training regardless of their location.
  • Leadership Opportunities: Consider surveying your team for interest in acting as guest trainers. Look to veterans or those with specialized experience who might be willing to lead a virtual or in-classroom session for fellow team members. You may even be surprised at topics they suggest which could really benefit your team.
  • Support for Continuing Education: Some of your drivers may want to pursue a degree during their off-hours. From business administration or economics classes that support career opportunities in logistics to computer classes related to automation technology or electronic logging devices (ELDs), these courses are a great way to motivate and strengthen your team. Consider supporting team members seeking higher education through tuition assistance or future career path opportunities.

2. Develop Recognition Programs

Fleet managers have the power to create a positive company culture by recognizing driver accomplishments, promoting teamwork, and showing appreciation. Drivers who feel valued by their fleets are far more likely to stay for the long haul, so think about creating a recognition program with incentives such as:

  • Recognition Board: Consider setting up a centrally located display to highlight employees of the month, top performers, good customer feedback, and other accomplishments. This “Wall of Fame” is an easy way to show drivers you appreciate their extra efforts and great performance.
  • Personalized Schwag: Build company pride with customized items your drivers will love and use, like hats, coffee cups and tumblers, backpacks, toiletries, and notebooks. Consider items they can share with family members, as well—everyone loves a cool item branded with their company’s logo.
  • Inclusion in Marketing Materials: When you’re working on your next ad campaign or taking photos for your website, be sure to feature some of your top performers. You could also offer drivers an opportunity to write articles for your internal communications or newsletter, or feature a “driver spotlight” in your social media feeds.
  • Gift Cards and Bonuses: Monetary awards and gifts are the simplest and most effective ways to recognize good performance. They’re especially impactful if you know a bit about your recipients—like their favorite restaurants, hobbies, or something their families would enjoy. Regardless of the size of your workforce, celebrating birthdays or special events (such as weddings, new babies, and work anniversaries) is a small but meaningful gesture.

3. Provide Driver-Focused Software

In the fight against attrition, the last thing you want is for your drivers to feel frustrated by their day-to-day technology—which may lead to human errors and more calls to your fleet managers. Instead, look to provide your drivers with easy-to-use fleet management software tools that make their jobs more efficient and accurate.

From navigation and inspection to route management and more, these tools increase driver satisfaction by improving communication, reducing busywork, and increasing transparency. Fleet management software helps fleets:

  • Simplify the Driver’s Day: Fleet management software offers a clear picture of each driver’s day, including pre-plans, easy-to-read and -find job info, and clear hours of service clocks. Digital DVIR forms improve safety and communication between the back office, maintenance department, and driver cab, as well.
  • Improve Communication: Instant messages, priority route notifications, timers, and safety updates all make your drivers’ days more efficient. These tools also help fleet managers communicate effectively with their teams, leading to stronger relationships, better job performance, and more satisfaction behind the wheel.
  • Streamline Workflows: Automate redundant administrative tasks by leveraging better in-cab and tablet technologies and user interfaces. Even simply reducing the number of “taps” required to navigate through their apps and forms helps drivers get their job done more efficiently and accurately.

4. Support Driver Safety

Statistics show CMV drivers have some of the most challenging jobs and there’s no shortage of danger on the road. Fleets looking to retain their drivers should prioritize safety by providing ongoing training and promoting safe habits. Fleets should also consider investing in advanced safety technology and equipment to ensure their drivers are operating in a safe and secure environment.

While you may be looking at some additional upfront expenses, investing in safety equipment (such as collision avoidance, disc brakes, lane change alerts, and electronic stability control) reduces overall collision repair costs and yields a return in only 18 months. Drivers who feel safer in their vehicles are more likely to feel satisfied with their jobs, and recognition of their well-being from their company increases loyalty.

Safety features that improve communication with maintenance departments ensure drivers’ vehicles are optimized and ready to roll, taking a mental load off drivers by reducing the likelihood of mechanical malfunctions . Similarly, better back-office communication guarantees drivers are easily alerted of reroutes, inclement weather, delays, and construction on the road ahead.

In-cab safety features like a driver command center prioritize messages, reduce driver distractions with “wheels in motion” features, centralize necessary apps, and aid in emergency communications. Easy-to-read widgets also help drivers track speed and HOS to reduce the potential for errors and dangerous situations.

Retention: A Return on Your Investment

In addition to helping fleets retain their best and brightest drivers, taking these steps attracts rising stars. Drivers often recruit other team members by sharing positive experiences with their current companies. Ensuring your drivers feel appreciated, supported in their goals, and protected increases your chances of developing lasting, loyal relationships with your team members and ensuring your fleet's longevity, benefiting your fleet while promoting safety for all drivers on the road.

Learn how Platform Science fleet management tools improve your drivers’ daily job satisfaction, increase safety, and future-proof your business.