Driver focus: Reducing turnover helps gain efficiencies

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Even Though the refrigerated segment is doing better than all others within the trucking industries, refrigerated carriers are still struggling with continuing competitive pressures and an increasing challenging business environment. Therefore, they need to find efficiencies in all aspects of their companies, including their employees, and in particular with the driving force

That was the message of TCA chairman Ray Haight, executive director of MacKinnon Transport, in his meeting presentation.

One way to gain efficiencies, he suggested, is by reducing driver turnover, noting that “inefficiencies have been built into our industry to compensate for our dismal track record in being able to retain our work force.”

While employee turnover is inevitable, when it becomes excessive, replacing employees is a constant aggravation that costs money and causes problems. There is usually a loss of productivity, compounded by the fact that it takes time to bring a new employee up to speed on their duties, responsibilities, and paperwork and administration procedures.

Consider the impact on equipment maintenance, useful vehicle life, and resale or trade-in value of a truck operated by one or maybe two drivers over its lifecycle, compared to possibly six different drivers, all with different driving habits, Haight said. Think about how much more productive the operations department would be if it didn't have to continually acclimate new drivers month after month but could work with the same ones.

“The inefficiencies that we have built into our industry are mind boggling, and this doesn't even begin to address the human factor,” he said. “Every time a driver leaves your company, it isn't just your failure, there is also a human being at the other end with a family who is dependent on them to fulfill their needs.”

The driver turnover problem will worsen when the economy turns around because the labor pool for drivers is declining. “We should be preparing now for what we know is coming.”

Logical approach

The better the hiring systems and training, the greater the likelihood of finding better employees and keeping them, he said. This can be done “by providing training and opportunities for your people to succeed.” Investments in these areas make good sense and will help to bring down employee turnover costs over time.

To manage the driver turnover problem at Guelph, Ontario, Canada-based MacKinnon Transport, company officials developed a model of what makes for a good driver. Once this was accomplished, it modified hiring criteria to look for candidates who better fit the company's driver requirements and qualifications.

Over a three-year period, MacKinnon Transport reduced overall driver turnover from 120% to just over 20%.

“It can be done,” Haight stressed, “and it's really not nuclear physics. People stay in situations they like, and they leave situations that they don't like.

“There is no magic bullet. You need to develop a strategy to bring turnover down that will work for your operation.”

But for any approach to be successful, he concluded, “people have to own the strategy” and perform their jobs with passion and purpose.

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