Tackling driver turnover part 3: Safety

PHOTO: JIM ALLEN/FREIGHTWAVES

PHOTO: JIM ALLEN/FREIGHTWAVES

By TCA Retention Coach Ray Haight

So far we have talked about setting your retention and recruiting efforts up for success. We have also discussed the TPP Retention Project platform and the expectations for conduct throughout this effort and the importance of knowing where you are in the marketplace on driver wage. The next step revolves around safety.

When discussing retention with new clients, I always ask them what their safety records are early on in the process of investigation. Safety records are one of the most overlooked areas when trucking companies decide to come to grips with their turnover and recruitment issues. I can count on the client’s response coming in one of two forms:

The first and by far the most favorable response is that the company has a very good safety record and above average CSA scores. My usual reaction to this information is to ask how they are leveraging their efforts and results to bolster their recruitment efforts. I will admit that this is a bit of a trap in that I usually do social media reconnaissance ahead of the call, and if they had been leveraging their safety results, I would have congratulated them for their efforts at the beginning our conversation on the subject. Let me state very clearly that if you’re a company with a very good safety record and you’re not flaunting this fact in your communications strategy, then you are seriously missing the boat.

A good safety record cannot be bought, and you can only rely on good luck for so long. The only way to achieve good results is through diligence, dedication and making sure you do the right things right – all things that are cultural cornerstones of successful companies. Anyone out there who does not think that truck drivers and owner-operators do not care about the safety record of your company has their head in the sand.  Safety is the second layer of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and is absolutely necessary to include in an effective retention and recruitment strategy. 

The second response I get is that the company has had some issues and has started to focus on getting their CSA scores and safety results inline. Although this is not the ideal response, it also has value by affording the company the opportunity to draw a line in the sand on the safety issue and use the situation as a bellwether moment for turning the corner on driver retention. 

Companies with lower turnover have safer fleets. Ask any insurance provider; these companies have lower CSA scores, fewer claims, more reliable equipment, etc. By focusing on the safety effort, you’re demonstrating your care and concern for your drivers and the motoring public in general. You can use the safety effort as a springboard for effective efforts on turnover because the two go hand in hand. Professional truck drivers want to drive for professional trucking companies, kind of a no brainer right? Shoddy equipment, being pulled into scales regularly, reporting deficiencies that go unfixed and seeing crashed trucks against the fence in their yard all lead to high turnover and should be avoided.

If you are faced with either of the scenarios described in this article, please consider the above and act accordingly. In my own experience, the company I managed was in dire straits when facing 120% turnover.  My phone rang continually in the evenings and weekends and after identifying the caller as my safety manager, before I would say hello I would ask “did we hurt anyone?” This was no fun, and it was a situation that could not sustain itself. Fast-forward a short five years and we had won three TCA National Fleet Safety Awards, and our turnover was at 20%. We were fully staffed and making much better margins.

In the next issue of Tackling Driver Turnover, we're going to talk about communication and all of the facets of making it effective. As a precursor to that, consider that a critical part of every successful safety effort is a robust communication strategy. After identifying where you are now, envision where you want to be in the future? Now decide how you're going to get there. Soliciting your driver’s opinions on various elements is an effective method and is essential to the recruitment and retention effort. 

As TCA Retention Coach I do not have all the answers, but there is a plan available to you, one that works. If you would like to discuss the opportunity further reach out to me and we can consider what is available. You can also take this short survey that reveals some shortcomings you can address whether you chose to move ahead with the offering or not. That survey is at, https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KF2HG7S

Tackling Driver Turnover Part 4 is next and will deal with communication, which is an integral part of any retention effort.