Driver retention has always been a challenge for the trucking industry. Data shows that in the third quarter of 2019, the driver turnover rate was 73 percent for small carriers and 96 percent for large carriers. Around 15.8 percent of drivers tend to leave their jobs within 30 days, while 35.4 percent leave within 90 days from their start date. The average turnover cost per driver is an alarming $8,234.
Why Do Drivers Leave Their Jobs?
The same study said that there are various reasons why drivers often resign from their jobs. Here are the three primary reasons why drivers quit.
- Driver expectations from recruitment were not met
- Difficulty with onboarding and the training materials
- A sour relationship with dispatchers
Of the three, the poor relationship with dispatchers is the issue that trucking companies can best address.
Improving the Relationship Between the Driver and Dispatcher
Drivers and dispatchers often clash because of their different professional backgrounds. For example, dispatchers plan according to the data and trends they've experienced. Unfortunately, relying on past data alone fails to factor in the road realities, such as traffic detention time and lines at the weigh station, among others. Conflicting views arise between the drivers and dispatchers when things don't go according to plans.
There are various strategies trucking companies can use to improve the relationship between their drivers and dispatchers.
Immersion for Drivers
Dispatchers can get a better grasp of how it feels to be behind the wheel for hours. Being an outsider, dispatchers need to know that driving trucks is more than just getting from one point to another. They must learn first-hand the variables drivers experience on the road. Getting dispatchers to join their drivers on the road, even for a short time, will provide a better understanding of what drivers face day-to-day, improving their empathy.
Build Rapport Between Dispatchers and Drivers
Individuals usually cooperate better with people they know and have spent time getting to understand. Dispatchers and drivers need opportunities to get to know each other in a less stressful environment to improve their working relationship. Companies can have town halls, team building events, and family days, to name a few, to develop rapport among dispatchers and drivers.
Train Dispatchers Not to Task Drivers with Unrealistic Time Frames
At times, dispatchers can become too focused on the numbers and productivity without enough consideration from the driver's perspective, especially during the busy seasons. For example, a dispatcher sees a profitable load opportunity, but it needs an immediate pickup. They determine that a driver seems to have sufficient Hours of Service to take the load, but only by a small margin, making the assignment extremely stressful. Dispatchers must be vigilant to consider the driver's position and choose loads with doable time frames rather than take on jobs at the expense of potentially losing drivers for short term gains.
How Technology Can Help Improve the Driver Dispatcher Relationship
Improving the relationships between drivers and dispatchers requires leveraging technology for more than routing and tracking. The best modern solutions give dispatchers greater visibility over drivers and their activities by staying connected with real-time tools such as mobile apps, thus providing more accurate data.
Here are some operational tips involving technological solutions to help both drivers and dispatchers.
Use GPS for tracking drivers - Drivers tend to feel their dispatchers are micromanaging them if they receive frequent calls asking for the location and expected time of arrival (ETA). These calls tend to distract drivers and offend them at the same time. On the other hand, using a GPS tracking solution removes the need for constant calling and checkups as dispatchers can see their driver's accurate location as well as ETAs. State-of-the-art GPS also has telematics connected to the central computer and can track and document speeds, braking, and idling.
Leverage fleet management solutions with ELD compliant data - The lack of flexibility with a driver's remaining Hours of Service is frustrating. For example, assigning drivers with seven hours of drive time remaining for their HOS to a destination that is six and a half hours away can be challenging for the drivers. They won't have time to eat, go to the restroom or worse; they'll have to park on the side of the road. A fleet management solution with ELD compliance data available for dispatchers will minimize doling out hard to achieve assignments.
Communicate via ELD - Some dispatch teams still rely on manual, old-fashioned means of communicating such as voice calls, or texting. These, unfortunately, are error-prone, time-consuming, and difficult to scale. They also frustrate drivers. Communicating dispatch instructions and updating loads via ELD allows drivers to receive accurate and complete information straight from their phones. A built-in messaging app in the ELD is even a more desirable solution.
Better Dispatching Can Help In Driver Retention
The problem of driver retention has always hounded the trucking industry. High driver attrition rates are costly and impair operations. While there is no one solution to the challenge, trucking companies can still lessen the problem by improving the relationship between drivers and dispatchers. Exposing dispatchers to the realities of the road and providing drivers and dispatchers a way to bond will help. Leveraging technology to give dispatchers better visibility and an easy means of communicating with drivers will minimize driver turnover.