Driver Retention two CDL drivers enjoying a laugh

Ultimate Guide to Driver Retention – Ideas and Programs

The most challenging aspect of the transportation industry is driver retention at sustainable rates. According to FreightWaves, the average cost of driver turnover is $15,728 per driver, and over 50% of newly hired truck drivers will leave their carriers in the first six months. Add to that, the average ballpark cost to onboard a driver costs between $6,800 to $14,000.

These facts indicate that the inbound value transportation companies receive is low, given the expensive value of hiring drivers and the lack of retention investment to maintain drivers for the long term. Truck driver wages have not met inflation for years. Rates for a truck driver sits at about $136,000 per year. But break this down to an average hourly wage, and a truck driver’s salary is approximately $20.38 an hour to work 11-hour day shifts.

A lack of bottom line for companies is highlighted by the lack of long-term loyalty and retention of truck drivers, citing the need for a more substantial investment in a retention process. Getting long-term commitment from drivers cannot be bought. Although pay is critical to most drivers, other elements in the transportation industry need consideration to increase loyalty and reduce turnover.

Driver retention doesn’t simply mean paying them more. It is showing appreciation and respect to them as an employee of a company. High costs of obtaining driver qualifications and certifications are also discouraging new drivers from coming on board. The average minimum wage continues to increase, which puts even further pressure on companies to pay for loyalty.

Two critical elements can assist with successful driver retention. The first one is corporate: onboarding the driver, applying company policy and agreeing on a truck driver’s wage. The second one is management: the role to maintain the truck driver for the long-term. Below further illustrates the key elements that define this.

Before we get into the details it is important for us to define driver retention.

What is Driver Retention?

Driver retention refers to the ability of a company to keep CDL drivers employed through leadership and keeping aware of local market conditions.

Sourcing and Hiring with Driver Retention in mind

Driver retention starts before the hiring process.  Given the driver shortage, it is hard to turn interested candidates away.  But if you had a consistent stream of candidates coming in through unconventional channels, it allows more latitude to select the best talent.  There are two primary considerations to be made during sourcing and interviewing.

Work history – It’s easy to identify a serial job hopper.  New job every year or less for the as long as they have had their CDL.  It is more challenging to decide on a borderline candidate. A great metric to use when reviewing candidates is the average time per job listed.  This enables you to have a bigger picture view of the likelihood that the driver you are considering hiring will stick around. If you have programs in place such as those listed in this article, you will likely increase that average time per job metric.

Good Attitude – Perhaps one of the most important characteristics to consider when finding a new driver.  A good attitude is contagious and can permeate the job just as easily as a bad one.  So finding candidates with a sense of humor and a positive outlook on life is of the utmost importance.  You can start looking for individuals with a good attitude even at the sourcing stage by introducing humor into your job advertisements. 

To check out 17 ways a drivers retention starts with souring check out this article.

Happy Driver behind TrashTruck

Company Culture and Health & Safety Integration

A study from EduMe found that companies with safety-first cultures enjoy higher retention rates. The transportation industry is one of the most critical when it comes to the health and safety of its workers. A lack of thought and policy to this can impact the efficiency of the supply chain. When health and safety are not a top priority, this can put the wider public at risk and even cause fatalities in the workplace, which are all the more common, according to the latest figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

An unsafe environment owing to a lack of discipline in following work policy or a lack of risk management strategy can impact company reputation, not to mention the health and safety of its employees. Fleet reputation can directly impact the financial position of a transportation company as well, and the response and trust of customers are critical for overall success. Therefore, drivers are expected to follow specific work policies to protect company reputations. 

Below outlines some helpful strategies that can assist with the promotion of health and safety culture in the workplace. Also check out this blog that calls out all aspects of company culture in driver retention:

  • Maintain Clear Communication – Communicating effectively to all can help promote safety in the workplace. Openly communicating the importance of this can introduce a higher value towards keeping workers safe as a priority.
  • Training – Adopt health and safety training to understand certain situations where safety is necessary. Follow specific lessons and best practices within certain scenarios to help you promote health and safety during work practice.
  • Quality Assurance – Follow Health and Safety Compliance training to meet governmental regulations. Proof of certification can help build a safety culture amongst all workers.
Helping hands - Retention

Driver Retention Reward Ideas

Purpose is everything

Driver retention starts with showing appreciation to drivers and acknowledging a job well done. Drivers are more inclined to remain with a transportation company driver for longer should best practice policies be implemented, but also to feel like they’re needed and are considered a “quality employee.” Here are some helpful reward ideas that would deliver a source of appreciation to truck drivers:

  • Coaching Effectiveness ScoresThe considered purpose of a coaching effectiveness score is to avoid certain behaviors through coaching sessions. The objective is to provide drivers with the tools to become safe drivers in specific exercises. The term “subconscious behavior” springs to mind, where the company expects drivers to regularly repeat safety behaviors when required. Coaching effectiveness would require regular employee discussions and be consistency in practice.
  • Safe Miles Driven – Recording the number of safe miles driven should be considered an achievement. A driver who worked with trucking company KLLM recorded 9 million safe miles throughout his driving career and was equally rewarded. Create a board at work and update weekly with individuals safe miles driven. 
  • Positive Customer Reviews Customers can now dictate the quality of truck drivers by simply leaving reviews with the service they’ve received. Reviews include safe deliveries, communication with consumers, and overall body language, which can dictate how consumers rate a driver.  Make a competition out of it.  Track the number of positive customer reviews and have an award for the top driver at the end of every month.  This is also a business opportunity for you to engage your customers and get feedback on a few different areas of business. 
  • Reduce Distractions On The Road Road distractions can cause unnecessary accidents owing to a lack of attention on the road. Behaviors can include using handheld devices to make calls, read social media and send text messaging. Anything that involves not keeping a keen eye on the road and general surroundings. Applying specific road safety policies in a company can ensure drivers eliminate these distractions to uphold safe driving behavior.

Benefits Packages Need To Be Competitive

Creating appropriate benefits packages can address the needs the drivers have. Benefits can include a healthy pay packet which is naturally important to truck drivers. Earning a good wage will keep truck drivers happy, but for their position to be meaningful, offering more incentives to accommodate them highlights the importance of drivers and thinking long-term. As a truck driver, it is more than just a job. It can become a lifestyle. They may need to adapt to different driving conditions and adapt to different working shift patterns. Aligning their lifestyle with a benefits package also highlights their support as a valuable part of a company.

Offer an attractive package to include elements such as:

  • Wage increases – If your drivers have not recived a 20% increase in 2020/2021 you are likley behind your competitors. It is important you keep a watchful eye on what the competition is offering. Performing quarterly wage compensation analysis is imperative not only to retain current drivers but also to attract top talent.
  • Retirement Savings Plans The cost of health insurance is expensive, and naturally, truck drivers will want to think of the future and consider alternative plans regarding health insurance. A package that includes health and well-being through medical perceptions, dental, and vision with low premiums is a step in the right direction.
  • Dental and Health Insurance – Truck drivers working in irregular patterns and conditions will impact their health to some degree, with the control of their life centered around their work shifts and hours. Drivers may become ill, and offering dental and health insurance is a great perk to retain them.
  • LifestyleBenefitsLifestyle benefits such as gym memberships, personal space, or even fleet amenities such as annual gifts are a great advantage.  Any drivers who care for their health highlight that companies care about the life of a truck driver and not just the job.
  • Driver Loyalty ProgramsReward long-term loyalty of drivers with discount programs or rewarding them in the form of points that can help them use the points for credit card purchases—aligning the driver’s quality and meeting necessary targets, which is an incentive for both company and driver.  Extra pay per milestone year worked, gift cards are a couple of additional ideas for loyalty rewards.

Education And Training

A bad reputation can stem from providing drivers with “dead-end” roles, who are more inclined to take those roles if the pay is high enough, dramatically impacting turnover! Drivers need to have consistent opportunities to grow their skills and can mitigate any pitfalls with improvement opportunities. Therefore, offering drivers training and development first helps drivers stay focused and engaged in what they are doing and new insight into how to perform with quality.  Offering regular training also helps develop drivers to nurture them to be considered a higher quality talent.

Tailor personal programs to the specific driver are the best recommendation. The opportunity to advance their skills or having professional development opportunities indicates a robust onboarding process and demonstrates strong feelings of loyalty. Where there is a future direction to grow, drivers are more than likely to remain loyal.

Training programs and education should be intertwined.  Learning about what it takes to be a consistent performer and learning what policies and procedures are followed and when.

Keep Equipment Well Maintained

Employee satisfaction, safety, and loyalty increase if drivers have the right equipment to do their job. Not only this, but making sure that drivers are using equipment safely. Equipment that introduces risk to them will likely cause them to leave.

The equipment also means keeping trucks in good condition. Trucks that break down will affect on-time consumer delivery and damage the relationship between the fleets and the drivers. Drivers are likely to remain if they have no worries about the truck they’re using. There is more damage to the company’s reputation if a truck breaks down than the truck driver. A bonus is that drivers will remain more satisfied and are more than likely to stay.

Why Else Is It Important? It’s natural for equipment to become rusty and unusable from time to time. Still, it is the company’s responsibility to consistently provide the right tools and equipment well maintained and low risk. Equipment maintenance includes maintaining quality standards of use and utilizing the most up-to-date tools. This is essential for promoting driver safety and legal compliance. Transportation companies must ensure physical tools being in good condition and technological equipment such as electronic logging devices and dashcams. This helps promote a strong working culture and, most importantly, higher retention rates and less chance of injury.

Usability of the equipment they operate needs to be in good working order and legally compliant, which promotes a strong health and safety working culture and, most importantly, higher driver retention rates.

Well maintained truck

Keeping Communication Open

A driver is more inclined to follow those who lead them. Peer leadership through a driver council, where a driver can lead their peers, is the most effective of all. Having a driver council promotes an open communication channel, and it allows drivers to voice any displeasures, such as with company policies or health and safety procedures. Having a soundboard for driver-related issues can ensure companies take further improvements to keep drivers on board.

Start with employee feedback. Use a third-party service to conduct a confidential survey. Make sure they utilize simple questions and avoid open-ended questions. The results of this survey will help your company identify issues and allow management to be proactive in taking corrective actions. Retention starts with an understanding of factors that are important to your employees. Check out Step 1 in this article “7 Practical Approaches to Boosting Employee Retention in The Trucking Industry.”

Communication, as previously mentioned, is a significant tool to ensure the following of policy and practices, and a driver council can boost driver retention, knowing that their grievances will be heard and acted upon. Not only to voice their concerns but maintaining optimal service is essential for any business. Quality service can be achieved as long as the truck driver delivers optimal customer service. Poor service can cause unnecessary problems and delays to customers, which introduces a damaged reputation to the company. Special attention is needed to keep customer service strong and can be achieved through strong communication. 

Create Your Own Candidate Pipeline

Depending on your state and company regulations, if you are able to hire 18-year-old drivers, you may consider getting one of the local high schools to start a CDL training program.  Next Generation Trucking is an organization that can assist both your company and local high schools through the process.  They promote trucking as a career and technical education. Will act as an interface between you and local educators.  

The company is responsible for staying engaged throughout the school year through demonstrations and discussions with the students.  In the end, you get a steady stream of formally trained drivers that are unbiased by a previous shop culture or experience.  There is a lot to be said about having younger talent, which you are able to quickly mold into your company culture.

Here are five ideas on how you can start to build your own driver candidate pipeline.

Diversity and Inclusion

Having the freedom and comfort to express who you are, your ideas based on past experiences, and your feeling of home are all conducive to helping driver retention.  Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) starts at the hiring stage and continues through company culture, vision, and management.  When recruiting drivers, it is important to make sure you are using avenues accessible to all and not just those who are well off.  Work on reading between the line on someone’s resumes before screening out.

Take a hard look at your current staff and see what is missing. Ask your drivers if they feel at home when in the shop or talking to dispatch.  Follow up by asking their recommendations on how to improve.

Building A True Team

There can be many cases where drivers work in pairs as co-pilot. Working as a team requires more communication and working in tandem to meet requirements and get the job done efficiently.

Here are some specific people that would build a true team:

  • Hire A Mechanic – There is nothing more frustrating for a driver than breaking down on the road. Regular maintenance can prevent this. Also, drivers may be seen as unsafe drivers and need to be inspected, which the driver can do without. Keep people on the road safe with simple maintenance of the truck.
  • Hire An Accountant – Keeping track of your taxes can save truck drivers money when it comes to hourly fees. Hiring an accountant can help you keep your finances in check.

Equally, team driving has multiple advantages. Allowing cooperation in delivering various loads. Each driver shares equal responsibility, which promotes equal operational efficiency and quicker turnaround of deliveries.

Communication is a priority in this regard, and both drivers working together is really important, and not having a partner who doesn’t pull their weight! Overcoming difficulties also helps to strengthen a true relationship within a team of drivers.

One way to help build a true team is through employee referral programs. Companies should look at harnessing their power and reputation to build the strongest pool of drivers. Offering incentives can help influence driver behavior to ensure that results are heading in the right direction through these programs.

Team with hands in the middle

Technology Makes Life Easier For Them

Technology makes life easier for truck drivers as it saves a lot of time and money on the road. Not only this, but technology also helps to improve truck driver safety, such as the use of backup cameras and dash cams to promote a wireless safety communications system. This idea is for drivers to be made aware of road hazards and emergencies on their journey.

Bluetooth is also another technology that promotes safety measures. Drivers can keep their hands off their smartphones and other handheld devices and use Bluetooth to wirelessly connect devices through their devices and use an earpiece to communicate. Allowing them to remain concentrated on the road ahead while being informed of any hazards.

Drivers also want to ensure they follow the appropriate safety regulations set by local governments. For example, truck driver’s hours of service make sure vehicles are operated within the requirements set by a regulatory body. Electronic logging can do this automatically and accurately. Truck drivers used to log everything through spiral books as a lack of technology meant no robust fleet management systems. Using an ELD helps to automatically record driving time for accurate record-keeping such as miles driven and when the engine is on—promoting public safety as it relates to driver tiredness and fatigue—helping to reduce the number of potential incidents on the road.

Women driver on tablet

Stay Engaged With Your Drivers

It is naïve to think that drivers will simply take the job and get on with it. Drivers may have their concerns and questions they would want to share. Therefore, to retain drivers, foster strong relationships with them. Listen carefully to them and act upon anything they need. This is honest communication. Drivers aren’t necessarily after a quick fix. Rather want their voice to be valued.

For example, a consumer may complain about the length of time delivery took, and the driver could only apologize to the consumer owing to the route they took to deliver. A driver may raise questions regarding the route and identify simpler, shorter routes to deliver faster to satisfy consumers. Drivers may also identify things that can benefit the company as well. Constant communication with drivers is important in this regard.

Pay Salaries On Time

Delaying payment to drivers is not good for the company’s reputation. Drivers have bills to pay and mouths to feed, and a company must always submit invoices promptly so that salaries return to the driver on time. The stress a transportation company will have will double if drivers begin to take action or even go on strike for driver pay, which is a major turn-off for driver retention.

The cost of losing a driver can be higher compared to retaining them. Even so, astute drivers and deliver quality in their job every single time only build a company reputation. Drivers are the breath and soul of any transportation company because they source consumers and deliveries. Money isn’t enough. Drivers want to be heard and want to feel part of a company. Remain committed to them and ensure they feel valued.


Drivers are the backbone of your business, but don’t forget the importance of your technicians! Check out our Ultimate Guide to Technician Retention for valuable insights you can apply across both teams.

The transportation industry faces a challenge when it comes to driver retention rates. High turnover rates due to low wages, costly onboarding processes and lack of appreciation for drivers are some of the factors that contribute to this. Highlighting the importance of driver retention for long-term success, companies must ensure to adequately invest in a retention process to maintain drivers for the long term. This includes providing competitive wages, offering benefits packages, keeping communication open and utilizing technology to make life easier for drivers. With these measures, transportation companies will be able to increase driver loyalty and reduce turnover.

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