The trucking industry is facing a driver shortage, but tools like real-time monitoring and driver reward programs can help fleets increase retention.
The trucking industry relies on drivers to navigate complex routes, transport sensitive materials, and ensure that all deliveries arrive on time and in top condition. Yet due to factors like operational inefficiency and job dissatisfaction, carriers are rapidly losing experienced drivers.
In fact, the American Trucking Association has found that the annual turnover for large fleets increased to 94% in 2017. With cost of hiring and onboarding a new driver reaching $12,000, it’s increasingly urgent that carriers are able to retain the skilled and reliable drivers that keep their operations running smoothly.
Enter “smart transportation” technologies that incentivize and reward drivers, as well as collect and integrate real-time information — all of which can improve driver retention rates. These initiatives have the potential to not only boost data visibility and improve job satisfaction, but also lower costs for carriers who no longer have to expend valuable resources on replacing drivers.
The Impact of the Driver Shortage
The problem of driver retention means that the most experienced drivers are leaving to work for competitors or pursue work in other fields. As fleets lose drivers, they must increasingly rely on entry-level hires. Driver iQ shows that over the past six years, the number of carriers recruiting entry-level drivers has increased from 30% to 54%. The resources and training required to onboard these new hires means that fleets are experiencing cost increases and productivity losses
The current driver shortage can be attributed to a variety of factors — some of these, like the increasing success of direct-to-consumer and ecommerce retailers, are broader industry trends that carriers can do little to mitigate. Others, such as lagging job satisfaction, carriers do have some control over. In the latter case, carriers can improve efficiencies and enhance drivers’ quality of life by incorporating technology into their retention strategies.
Improving Job Satisfaction for Drivers
Drivers often complain about long hours, including time spent waiting at docks to load or unload cargo. Many are dissatisfied with the directions they receive on the route to the consignee or shipper, especially when facing traffic or delays. Preventable form and manner violations result in frustration and lost productivity as well.
Real-time monitoring, powered by the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronic logging devices (ELDs), can help boost driver morale by improving logistics and saving valuable hours. ELDs help fleets optimize scheduling and routing, sending instructions to drivers to ensure they follow the best possible path and avoid congestion while loading and unloading cargo.
Trucking technology can also streamline record keeping, freeing up time that drivers can spend on the road. By eliminating manual paperwork, ELDs can significantly reduce the occurrence of form and manner violations. Electronic logging apps automatically fill in necessary compliance information, minimizing the number of record-keeping penalties for drivers.
ELDs can also be used to measure driver performance, set goals, and deliver ‘rewards’ that incentivize performance. ELDs can even be used to send messages and collect real-time feedback through surveys. This technology provides drivers with a fast and effective way to communicate with managers — a crucial (and cost-effective) method by which to improve job satisfaction.
“Smart transportation technologies that incentivize and reward drivers for good performance can help improve driver retention rates.”
Greater Visibility for Trucking Companies
Fleets may terminate drivers for violations, collisions, or driving complaints. Without context or reliable data, however, companies risk letting good drivers go even when they are not at fault.
IoT technology like smart cameras and sensors can give carriers greater visibility into accidents, allowing them to screen drivers more effectively — letting go of unsafe drivers and retaining those who prove to be reliable.
By implementing smart trucking technologies like these, fleets can enhance driver satisfaction and improve retention rates. However, it’s not enough for carriers to simply install cameras and collect data. They need to to effectively process and communicate this new information for it to have a real impact. One way companies can take full advantage of emerging transportation technologies is with an integrated data platform that connects existing systems with new technology, and enables decision-makers to develop the valuable insights they’ll need to maintain their workforces and capitalize on the rapidly rising demand for their services.