Article

Top 10 Reasons Drivers Leave

We spend a lot of time trying to attract drivers - but it may be even more important to pay attention to why drivers walk out the door.

January 2008, TruckingInfo.com - Cover Story

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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'I always hear that a driver will walk across the street for 2 cents more a mile, but that's not what we've found," says Rim Yurkus, CEO and co-founder of Strategic Programs Inc., a turnover consulting firm in Denver.

When drivers leave your company, it is most likely not because another company has enticed them out from under your nose. Instead, something triggers them to leave. And it's not always the big things. Instead, it's likely to be a succession of small things, until one day a driver has simply had enough.

"These people keep score," Yurkus says. "It's like an old-fashioned scale, where bad days pile up on one side, good days on the other. At some point, the number of bad days gets high enough to tip the scale."

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Strategic Programs' exit interview process is designed to get past the superficial or easy answers drivers give for leaving. "If you have a casual or not-well-thought-out (exit interview) process, you can ask why and he may tell you because the new company paid 2 cents more per mile," Yurkus explains. "That many not be a lie, but it's rarely the whole truth.

"If you turn back the camera a month or two, something else happened - maybe a driver manager broke his promise about getting him home for his kid's birthday, and while he was nursing that negative attitude, he started looking around for other reasons to quit."

The following list of reasons drivers leave is based loosely on Strategic Programs' database of 22,000 truck driver interviews.

1 - I don't make enough money.

As you probably would expect, money issues, including rates and getting enough miles, are the top reason drivers leave. Complaints about not getting enough miles have risen in the past year as the economy and freight have softened.

"It's important we offer competitive rates in a tight industry," says Rob Newell, vice president of recruiting and retention for Greatwide Logistics. "We've got to remain competitive to attract labor from other markets and attract people into the profession."

Schneider National, for instance, last fall announced what it says is one of the largest driver pay increases in the company's history, with the potential for drivers to earn up to $4,500 more per year.

There are also ways to address the compensation issue other than the per-mile rate. At Greatwide Logistics, for instance, they've been testing a technology solution they're calling GreatMatch. This system makes recommendations to the company's owner-operators on optimizing their income based on hours of service regulations and historical information on various types of loads.

But you might be surprised to learn that the majority of drivers actually leave for non-money-related issues.

"Even when money is the biggest reason, it rarely accounts for more than 20 percent of the people who left," Yurkus says. Issues such as time at home and the relationship the driver has with his supervisor loom large.

"I think pay tends to be the easy answer," says Jim DePillo, 20-year trucking veteran and co-author with Stan Poduch of the book "True Stories of Driver Turnover: Translating the Driver's Perspective."

"The truth is, if there's a pattern of people not responding well to him within the organization, eventually the frustration's going to build and lead to him deciding to leave," DePillo says.

2 - I'm not satisfied with my home time.

This one won't surprise anyone, but it is a more complex issue than simply "not enough home time." Strategic Programs found that some drivers complained that time at home was too infrequent, but others focused on the unpredictability of time at home - or that when they did get home, they didn't get to stay long enough.

Part of satisfying drivers in this area starts in the recruiting process. "If they live in Montana, and your lanes are between Detroit and Laredo, it's not going to happen," said then-president and COO of Celadon, Tom Glaser, during a recruiting and retention conference last year. "Pay attention to your hiring area and where you drive your trucks up and down the road. Hiring area and freight density play an important part in getting those drivers home."

The unpredictability of home time is the main reason drivers leave Maverick, says Darius Cooper, vice president of operations. "While we try to get every driver home for a minimum of 34 hours each weekend, it is still unpredictable. In 2006, 97 percent of our drivers were home every weekend, but in 2007 we have only been able to maintain a 95 percent home average." In many cases, he notes, being home on a more consistent basis is much more important to the family than having a $50,000 per year income.

That's the thinking behind an unusual program at Schneider called Home Run. A group of three drivers are assigned to two trucks. Each driver works two weeks on, one week off. They'll be home 17 weeks out of the year, and know which weeks those are going to be. Schneider also is expanding a program that allows drivers to schedule their home time in advance using an online calendar. Other changes in Schneider's dispatch system mean nearly two-thirds of the company's drivers get home daily or weekly.

3 - I don't like my supervisor.

'People don't leave companies; people leave people," says Greatwide's Newell. For drivers, the supervisor is their dispatcher or fleet manager, their primary point of contact with the company. By the very nature of the job, this relationship is fraught with potential for problems.

"When you look at the behavioral profile of a driver and a driver manager, they're opposed," explained Tom Witt, then-senior vice president of operations at Smithway Motor Xpress, during a recruiting and retention conference last year. "Driver managers are extroverted, work in a fast-paced environment, and work well without structure or guidance. Drivers are very patient. They spend a lot of time in the truck by themselves, they don't receive criticism well, and they need a lot of structure in their environment. What seems to be the disconnect is the way the message is delivered from the driver manager to the driver. The driver's not going to receive very well a dictatorial directive without explanation as to why."

Of course, there are many different personalities both behind the wheel and in the dispatch department. A driver who has friction with one dispatcher might get along great with a different one. There are companies that offer employee profiling services to help better match drivers to dispatchers. But all dispatchers/fleet managers need to have the right knowledge, tools and attitude to deal with drivers.

"Beyond issues like pay and home time, it's all about relationships," Newell says. That's why Greatwide is developing what it calls a Driver Relationship Management Initiative, focused on training fleet managers (what Greatwide is calling driver support leaders). They also are developing technology that will make the dispatching chores less time-intensive and give the driver managers more time to interact with the drivers.

"It's about knowing them by name - they're not a truck and a trailer, they're a person," Newell says. "They're a father, a mother, a brother, a son, and we need to get to know them. We need to congratulate them on a company achievement or if their son won the Little League championship game. That's what relationships are all about." The training encompasses topics such as interpersonal relationships, conflict resolution, anger management and learning about what the driver faces in his daily life out on the road.

Joplin, Mo.-based CFI uses fleet manager evaluations, where drivers are asked to evaluate their supervisors and offer suggestion for improvement. "It helps the fleet manager see things from the drivers' perspective, and perhaps alter how they approach implementation of new concepts," says President and CEO Herb Schmidt.

One common complaint Strategic Programs hears from drivers is that their driver manager does not value their ideas and suggestions. Drivers want to feel like part of the company, and having their ideas taken seriously by their dispatcher can go a long way toward that feeling.

While drivers may cite conflicts with their supervisor as a prime reason for leaving, don't forget the importance of other people the driver comes in contact with, as well, DePillo says - payroll, safety and compliance, mechanics and so forth. "There are a variety of interaction points within an organization, and every conversation that anyone has is an opportunity to retain or to lose the driver," he says.

4 - I'm not happy with the way I'm dispatched.

Beyond the relationship with the dispatcher, there are many opportunities for dissatisfaction with the dispatching and scheduling itself.

One common complaint is unpaid wait time at the customer. "If the sales department doesn't get involved with the customers to get the truck unloaded faster, that's a problem," says Glaser. "The salespeople have to be involved with this process."

At Dart, says Joyce Jordan, COO of the Dallas Operating Center, "We are able to look at the average loading and unloading time by shipper and consignee, and have made a concerted effort to have our salespeople talk to the customers and consignees individually to try to resolve the problem. If a driver is delayed, we will pay him or her for waiting time after a certain limit."

Other complaints include being stranded far from home without a load, bad directions on how to get to a shipper or consignee, bad information on where to pick up a trailer, having to drive in New York City, and so forth. Some of these issues can be addressed with computer technology that helps dispatch drivers more effectively and can provide turn-by-turn directions right in the cab.

Comments

  1. 1. Douglas Priest [ September 11, 2014 @ 01:53PM ]

    I left Greatwide for the same reason as stated above. I've been driving for 20 years and I have never had such a horrible experience I could sit here and rattle off numerous personal reasons as to why this was such a horrible experience but I don't want to continue to waste my time with Greatwide. If you are a driver looking for consistent freight and a good relationship with the company you work for, scroll down to the next company because this isn't the one you want. Do your due diligence. Visit blogs and websites before making the decision to join this company.

  2. 2. travis [ November 24, 2014 @ 05:19PM ]

    I agree with most as to why drivers leave. Mo one mentioned insurance. I am leaving my current company because they not cover my hearing surgery. Value the driver I say ha ha. Without surgery I will not be about to pass cdl psyical and so not have job. Employers not see to care. Went almost to president of company but my boss found out and yelled a me for bothering ceo

  3. 3. TERRY D WILSON [ November 05, 2015 @ 09:26AM ]

    I WAS GOING TO LEAVE MY $50,000.00 A YEAR PLUMBING CAREER FOR DRIVING A BIG RIG BUT AFTER STUDYING THE INDUSTRY THINK I'LL KEEP GOING HOME EVERY NIGHT FROM PLUMBING REPAIRS TO MY WIFE AND DOG

  4. 4. Eldridge. [ November 10, 2015 @ 07:11PM ]

    I read this whole story and it had some good points and bad points the good points are that the companies that participated in this story recognised how important truck drivers are too the transportation industry and are trying to keep and satisfy the drivers by working together as team and not as a rivalry team the bad points I got out of the story is how some dispatchers and
    management and shop technicians feel about drivers.Ifwe all stop labeling each other jobs ie ..driver vs dispatch or driver vs management or shop technicians stop feeling like a driver is the super destroyer of trucks and put more of the negativity about drivers behind us and focus on how to work as a team you would find a low ratio of driver's quiting.

  5. 5. gerald [ November 18, 2015 @ 10:45AM ]

    I have been driving for 22 years.I have found a good one after 6 employers later. Shaffer was a good one and i would of stayed but i was turned into a regional driver covering loads going into the Chicago area.Driver manager took my home time anywhere area and turned it into either here at the yard or your home.Manager did not care about me seeing my aging mom and dad.
    Now I am working for the 7th.I should be here for 14 years and i am going to retire, smoke pot and throw beer bottles at truckers.

  6. 6. Tom esslinger [ December 13, 2015 @ 10:18AM ]

    I had a commercial license since 1971 I work for several companies and the biggest problem out there is the pay in the nineteen seventies and eighties you can make a decent living driving a truck the biggest problem is cheap price there's not a shortage of drivers but there is a shortage of decent paying freight for driver to make under $100,000 a year as a company driver is ridiculous you must figure how many hours a week that you're on the road this does not necessarily mean driving it means the amount of time that you're not at your home just do the math 24 hours a day 7 days a week you're out three weeks you get two days off a whole two days if you put as many hours in working at McDonalds as you do driving a truck you will make over $50,000 a year if you take one step up and become a janitor and work two jobs 80 hours a week lo and behold you're going to make a lot more than a truck driver makes biggest reason time and a half for overtime trucking companies expect you to run every day every night the only time you can stop is for the 10 hours that they say you have to informatics perience most trucking companies want you to try to fudge the books anyway you can to get extra time that doesn't make you any more money it makes them the money I honestly believe that the fleet managers and dispatchers should work the same amount of time as their truck drivers they staying at office 24 hours a day 7 days a week and they have to sleep in a cot somewhere that's 48 inches wide and then they get to go home for 2 days out of every 3 weeks I also believe the owners of the company which are mostly bean counters at this point should do the same thing if they can't do it why should they expect you to do it a long time ago I went on and bought my own truck my own authority and I will set until I find the right load I can make as much money driving a thousand miles a week as most these drivers do I hear running 3000 or 4000 miles because I wait on the good freight if we got rid of all the cheap freight then everybody can make a fair living and you would see there is no driver shortage

  7. 7. Randy [ March 28, 2016 @ 09:44AM ]

    Seems there is a lot of facts in this article. To bad there are so many outfits running under the radar that dont give to shits for the drivers. Such outfits are being run by the pakis of the west threw to the east and when it comes to maintenance it's same thing. I'm working for the 3 rd hiway outfit in a year and been left to sit for 6 days now. Was supposed to have return load but once delivered office apologized for there mess up n said sit. When advised that annual inspection was due for Traillers it was told that no way there only 14 months old and stickers don't mean expiry date they mean when was last done. I've been running comercial trucks for 31 years and just the last 2 years doing freight for foreigners who monopolize n lie there way threw our bleeding heart system. Scales don't want to deal with them cause first thing they do is whine racial discrimination or that they can't speak English. The trucking industry needs to have a place to report these kinda people made public and not only the pakis but any outfit that jeperdises the safety of others and tries to manipulate the safety regulations.

  8. 8. Rey [ June 08, 2016 @ 02:35PM ]

    I quit because of dispatchers being disrepectful, not appreciating favors I did for them, rude communications, the way i was dispatched. It all comes down to money respect and effective communication.

  9. 9. Furious Ghost [ July 31, 2016 @ 10:04AM ]

    Today in 2016, there should be no trucker making less than .50 cents a mile. Truckers are still making the same pay 20 years ago. The cost of living has gone up. They getting an apartment on a $34,000 a year salary. Do not forget all your other bills.

  10. 10. Furious Ghost [ July 31, 2016 @ 10:16AM ]

    Today in 2016, there should be no trucker making less than .50 cents a mile .Truckers are still making the same .31,34,40,45 cents a mile, in which Truckers made the same pay scale 20 years ago.The cost of living has gone up. Try getting an apartment on a $34,000 salary.Do not forget all other bills that are due. If you make good pay, you will be able to have home time.Low pay means more time on the road.

  11. 11. Vixien srisongkham [ November 07, 2016 @ 06:48AM ]

    This is so true all company should read this article I left 6 company within 15 month trying to fine the right company for home time I don't mind the pay but all of us driver need a day or 3 for home time to relax our mind from idiot driver that is why so many company has low CSA scores and turn over rate. Me as a driver I use the Smith system but if a company tell me I need to hurry and drive the Smith system is gone. We need to take break instead of running on our recaps. We are tired after 70 hours of driving. We don't like going to new York. No parking after 12pm. Bad driver out there. If I can fine a company that can pass dot requirements safety and home time I'm sticking with the company for long term.

  12. 12. zman151 [ November 20, 2016 @ 07:12PM ]

    WOW! Nice dialog. I'm 72 years old, my wife and kids are gone. I want to make/save money. I hauled specialty loads all over the U.S. in the early 2000's. I feel like, "If I drive 700 miles a day, rest for eight hours, repeat... I can do that. Am I in La La Land? I don't care about home time. If I get home (wherever that is), then I get home. OK, my experience is outdated but can still do the job. Any thoughts Drivers?

  13. 13. Clay [ December 05, 2016 @ 08:55AM ]


    It's funny how the writer's of articles leave the truth out. This writer has absolutely no idea what it's like to be in a cab 2-4 weeks at a time. In this writer's world, a lie is forgotten, and that lie often means nothing. Out here on the road, a lie from a dispatcher mean sitting in a cab the size of a walk-in closet for two days. Now if that isn't going to lead to animosity toward a dispatcher then you might want to go see a psychologist and find out why your anger buttons aren't working. Once a dispatcher lies, he can never be trusted again.
    And yeah, we are going to get mad if you promise to get us home for Christmas or a kids birthday but do not deliver, just as you would hate your terminal manager if he told you to come in on Christmas morning and sit in the closet at your terminal. Don't worry, you can listen to the radio while you're in that closet. And be patient, we'll let you out of the closet on December 27th.
    After 17 years of driving a truck I believe only about 50% of what a dispatcher tells me. I've also learned to tell them no, and mean it. When it's minus 20 and the wind is gusting 80mph on Interstate 80 in Wyoming, no means no.
    In a nutshell I've learned the only way to make good money is to stay out.

 

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