By Sandy Long
Recent reports say that driver turnover that was as low as 86% is now at 106% for companies with $30 million dollar revenues or more, the biggest turnover rate in four years. Imagine that! This means that drivers at those companies are changing companies every 343 days according to the ATA. They act surprised by this.
With freight picking up slightly, attrition due to retirement, CSA and other regulations running drivers out of the industry, there is now a true driver shortage. Of course there is. What makes a driver though go from one company to another so often though? Treatment for starters; while companies are picking and choosing so called quality drivers, they still treat those drivers like meat in the seat…a part of the equipment. They take a 25-year driver with a safe record and then try to micromanage them like a new student. Run this route, fuel here and only put this amount of fuel in, do not run in any other lane than the right one, stop here, sleep now, do not talk to us, you do not know anything…you get the picture. This is not new, just happening in greater numbers to drivers as companies try to get their CSA scores in line fearing litigation, harassment by the FMCSA and loss of customers.
The companies seem to think that it is all about money and are starting to throw cash around like they have printing presses in their offices. Cents per mile rates are rising, but the real kicker is the sign on bonuses. One small company had a sign in front of their terminal offering $6,000 for owner operators to come sign on there. A company advertised on the radio that they were offering a $10,000 sign on bonus to teams. A company in Iowa pays $5,000 for solo drivers to hire on. This is not limited to the trucking companies either. A major used truck dealer is offering huge matching down payment bonuses to anyone with good credit to come buy their trucks.
In this economy, is it any wonder that drivers are leaving one company to follow the money to another? A $6,000 sign on bonus would make a huge difference to an owner operator, as would a $5,000 bonus to a solo driver. Contrary to common belief, truckers are not stupid; they are going to go where the easy money is and what is easier than a sign on bonus?
To find good drivers and keep them, companies are going to have to change the way they treat the drivers first and foremost. Then they are going to have to step up recruiting efforts to bring new drivers into the industry, this will be hard to do with the bad rep truckers and trucking has. In addition, as more experienced drivers leave both the companies and the industry, training has to be overhauled so entry level drivers have more knowledge starting out than just passing the CDL tests to compensate for the lack of experience found in the trainers. Throwing money at the problem of driver shortage is just intensifying the problem not solving it.