Tackling Driver Turnover Part 1 – Delusion

How do we deal with the mass delusion that driver turnover is inevitable? Nothing could be further from the truth. Driver turnover is a manageable business challenge like any other. The only thing standing in the way of achieving low driver turnover is the nonsense that we keep telling ourselves in a long misinformation feedback loop. This feedback loop manages to keep us from tackling this problem with the focus that is needed to achieve the desired outcome.

 

I was a partner, President and COO of a company that went from a turnover that was almost non-existent to one that had 120% in a matter of just a couple years. Some time back I ran into a quote that seems to fit the situation in our industry, it reads “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” I wonder what situation the author was facing when this explanation for their predicament first entered their mind. Quite likely not trucking but it does fit perfectly for the current state of things in trucking. If your company is the victim of its chains of habit that seem too heavy to be broken where do you start? Let me walk you through what has worked for myself and the good folks with whom I had the pleasure of working.

 

The plan starts with the acknowledgment that turnover is man-made and not inevitable. From there, the leaders in the company must commit to be accountable to the effort and to each other to make the changes necessary to transform the company culture to infuse a focus on a reduction to driver turnover. During my workshops, I suggest that these folks draft a mission statement that they all sign as a commitment to each other. Sounds easy and it is. The problematic part is allowing a peer, to correct you if they see you acting in a manner that is contrary to the mission statement that everyone committed to. Unfortunately, people’s egos come in to play, and they are seldom as receptive to this feedback as they should be.

 

The next step is what I call the sales pitch in which companies need to explain to their employees why a dramatic reduction in the companies’ turnover is critical to its future. They also need to discuss why it is beneficial to the individual’s future at the company. Lower turnover means things such as a safer trucking company, a more profitable company, and a more fun culture to work in to name just a few of the good things that come from low turnover. In my experience, people get so entrenched in the daily whirlwind of their routines that they get blinders on and don’t see what a little change in how they do things could be of great benefit. To dive a little deeper let’s look department by department.

 

The sales department benefits from lower turnover through fewer service failures and not having to regularly training drivers as to your customer needs. Fewer service failures means less time begging forgiveness from customers meaning you can likely pursue a more significant opportunity with your current customer base.

 

The safety department gains by not having to create new driver files all the time, a considerable time saver. Safety personnel will also benefit from fewer accident and incidents to track and files to open. Why? Because a stable workforce can be trained to a higher standard. When you are always starting over, you can’t train a workforce with any effect. Side note — companies with lower turnover have fewer accidents and pay less insurance than a carrier with high turnover. There is a direct correlation to lower insurance cost and best in class operating margins.

 

Administration gains by not having to educate the workforce as to the company’s information flow and paperwork all the time with a low turnover environment. The company also gains here with its aged accounts receivable, and billing gets out quicker with fewer errors, allowing the money to come in faster.

 

Maintenance becomes less of an expense when your workforce stabilizes. A four-year life cycle in a company truck with high turnover could have 4-6-8 different drivers in them. Compare that to a company with lower turnover, say under 20%, this company will not only have fewer maintenance issues and an asset that the used truck market covets, it also has a higher residual value.

 

Lastly, Operations, for a dispatcher to be acclimating the majority of its drivers on an annual basis has to be very distracting and grossly inefficient. How much more time would the individual have in a low turnover environment to concentrate on whatever their KPI’s are. Might be empty miles, revenue per mile, or revenue per day. Consider a one-percentage-point gain in efficiency – the numbers are staggering at that amount.  Now stretch it to a 3-5% gain.

 

Next month I will discuss the platform for change. How do we ensure there is consistency in how we act individually when we take this challenge on and what are the guidelines?

 

All of the above constitutes part of what I call the groundwork for tackling driver turnover. Overall, there are seven steps to implement to get things under control. I intend on sharing the rest in sequence in my next six articles. I hope you find some value in turning your issues around. It boils down to transitioning your company from a carrier who delivers freight from point A to point B to a company which differentiates itself from its competition with the quality and dedication of its employees.

 

Given the two options, where would you like to spend your career?

 

Interested in learning where your company rates on their overall driver retention effort?  Go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KF2HG7S and follow the instructions. From there we can set up a call to see if what we have developed at TCA as a Driver Retention Project Plan is right for your company.

 

Safe Trucking,

RJH

TCA TPP Retention Project Plan

Commitment to change for an organization is no small feat when taking on turnover. It starts with the leaders acknowledging that the issue is the company’s doing and agreeing to change the way things are currently being done. Blaming outside forces is very dangerous because it does not allow for ownership of the issue – it can always be someone or somethings fault, or its an external problem. Owning the situation within the company, when it comes to turnover, is where it must begin. Usually, when I have almost finished the one-day workshop that begins the project plan at a management team meeting there is a complete dedication to the effort, everyone is bobbing his or her head in unison to the new strategy.  Thing is I can read the room fairly quickly, and although there are always a number of the folks in attendance that are entirely committed to change, there are usually one or two other folks (let’s call them Bobs). Why? Because they are bobbing their heads in agreement, but they are not what they seem.

 

I’m not quite sure where I tend to lose these Bobs when I discuss the new TCA Retention Project Plan. Maybe it’s when I tell them that if turnover is upwards of 60% at your company then the majority of their employees and Owner Operators do not believe a word they say. That might turn them off. Maybe it’s when I explain the program I offer and tell them that although it takes additional effort up front, in the end, they will save time. Maybe it’s when I explain that they are going to do the same thing in the program as they have always done, but that they will do it a little differently? Could be it’s when I discuss my real-life experience of my management team taking our trucking company turnover from 120% to 20% over two years and along the way doubling our operating ratio and transitioning from a poor insurance risk to winning TCA national fleet safety awards. I’m not sure. The sad thing is that some of these Bobs have influence, usually through tenure with the company or family ties and they can tend to slow an excellent effort to a crawl. These folks have what I call “Loyalty to the past.”

 

Goes like this: “we have always done it this way, and we got this far so why should we change now?” Of course, this is a rhetorical statement and it is also the root of why the company’s turnover has escalated. Times have changed. The labor pool your draw from has changed in a variety of ways: age dynamic; X’s Y’s Millennials; we are sexually and ethnically much more diverse and so on. Your company has not adjusted to these real-time influences. You’re doing the same things you have always done them, and now you are struggling with high-turnover trucks against the fence, etcetera.

 

These companies are also usually under an autocratic type management style where creative thinking is not only discouraged but it is stifled as soon as it is found out. Unfortunately, one of the offshoots of this style is that it tends to repel young talent. Millennials don’t buy into this style at all. In fact, once recognized, they bolt from it – both drivers and managers. These folks are into collaboration and creative problem-solving. The good news, of course, is that in this case if ownership is willing to accept this reality, they can use this as a paradigm shift to springboard a new initiative. Like the TCA TPP Retention Plan: to plan for success or to call it a bell weather moment.

 

Taking on any significant project plan within a company is of course challenging and at times may seem daunting. Add to the mix that to be successful you will likely need to change your companies’ culture. Now you have folks scared. The nice thing is that the process that is offered by TCA is a stepped process that you can move along at your own pace: do step one and then move on to step two once you have the essence of that step mastered and understood. Now do it 44 more times in sequence.  It’s like painting by numbers. Easy? NO, but it is much more straightforward than starting from scratch and hoping that you succeed. The program has a successful track record, and it is growing weekly. Got any issues that you would like to discuss? All my contact information is below. Let’s have a chat and see if this new offering is a good fit for your company.

 

Safe Trucking and Merry Christmas,

Ray Haight

TCA Retention Coach

[email protected]

Cell 1-519-820-1632

 

What Gets Measured Gets Improved

Its a priceless mantra that we’ve all used many times. However, knowing what you are going measure (and why), how are you going to measure it and how are you going to turn your new knowledge into an actionable and worthwhile result is the real challenge.

What I’m talking about is reducing driver turnover and using the real data that is right at your fingertips, if you chose to mine it and use it for better turnover results. When I ask most companies about their turnover rate, rarely do I get a response that is more than a guess. I find that surprising, to say the least. In today’s trucking environment it is all about the driver, hiring them and keeping them. Here is what I measured, how I measured it and how I used the results when I ran my company.

What

  • We had 6 dispatch boards with approximately 300 trucks. We measured short-term turnover, meaning those who had been with us for under 1 year. We grouped this by drivers, O/O’s and overall. We tracked companywide turnover, meaning the board fleet as a group, again segregating company drivers and O/O’s. We also measured turnover coming out of our training trucks on entry-level drivers. Total reports were 4-5 per board, depending on whether they had ELD or not, and overall total reports were 27 – 33.

How 

  • We used an old JJ Keller formula that I still use, it really doesn’t matter what you use if it is consistent, and it is a rolling 365 day a year tool. We used the following:
  • Short-Term Driver turnover ratio 12 Month = Drivers no longer with the company that were hired in the last 12 months divided by the number of drivers employed in the previous 12 months.
  • Long-Term Annual Turnover Formula    = Drivers no longer with the company (YTD) divided by elapsed days X 365 divided by total # of Drivers. By the way, an employed driver is one that has turned at least one mile of work in which revenue was generated. The fact that you have any no shows at orientation is an entirely different issue.

Action

  • We’re looking for variations in the numbers. Why are some boards results better than others? We’re not looking for bad guys here. The exercise will reveal two things are at play here that can help our results:
    • First, you will likely see where you are getting some stellar results – an individual or two that have turnover rates that are well below the rest of the gang. The obvious question is how are they getting these results? Are there things that they do that can be shared with the rest of the dispatchers? Do these individuals have behavioral traits that we can identify and possibly hire to those traits in the future? Can this person or persons mentor other dispatchers?
    • Secondly, are there things we’re doing or not doing that are creating poorer turnover results on those boards that have the higher turnover numbers? Take a second level deep dive into common root causes on these boards and let’s see what’s really going on.

Once the measurements process is set up and functioning, it is quite easy to generate these reports on a monthly basis. Give it a try and see what opportunities you might uncover. Measure and manage – here we come.

Safe Trucking,

RJH

Driver Retention =Discipline

The core of the TCA TPP’s newly released driver retention project plan is a focus on managerial discipline. It lays out a step-by-step process that is designed to layer a gradual focus on creating a driver-centric culture at any given trucking company starting with the commitment by the senior management team to the successful execution of the program.
Through the process of rolling out the DR Project Plan to a new company, we encourage an on-site visit and workshop that I facilitate. Having done these on numerous occasions, I can usually expect that one of the common concerns that are revealed is that consistency is crucial to the successful execution of the DR Project Plan itself.
The manifestation of this concern among senior managers is in and of itself very telling of the culture of the business and it is a likely sign of a company (although it may be successful) is likely not performing to their maximum potential. What do I mean by this?  This is likely a business that operates in silos and not as a high performing, focused unit. Each department is trying to keep up to the pressures of the day, living in the whirlwind. They are not genuinely supporting each other and suffering when it comes to focusing on either a common purpose or accomplishing a WIG (wildly important goal).
One of the benefits of the DR Project Plan is that at its core it strives to hold people accountable for staying to the project plan. If an individual is not onside, they will be called out on their lack of focus by other members of the team. Hopefully this is done in a supportive way (as is encouraged). This support is a core commitment that each senior manager makes to the others as part of the program, and it is critical to its success. The program also addresses the blame game, finger pointing, and dodging accountability, which of course is nothing but a child’s play and a waste of spirit. The turnover in this industry and at each company I work with is a result of the company’s entire personnel’s efforts to get where it is – period.
Taking full accountability and ownership of the situation each company is in is the starting point for the program. There is no future in finding bad guys or playing the blame game, none. Everyone at the company and everyone reading this article for that matter has done everything perfectly correct and in perfect order to be where you are today. In your careers in your relationships in your communities, you have to own that paradigm, not to say that challenges and in some case significant problems didn’t present themselves to you, but you decided how to react to those issues. No one else but you, so own your successes own your failures, own your past and own your future.
Without this core understanding as a starting point, the DR Project Plan (and any other WIG for that matter) has a very narrow chance of ever resulting in the success that it was designed to achieve. It has been my experience that most new revelations, including the new DR Project Plan, are nothing more than common sense revealed. Hope you agree. You can find out more about the new TCA TPP DR Project plan at: https://www.truckload.org/tpp-retention-project/ or at https://tcaingauge.com/the-retention-action-plan/
Safe Trucking
RJH

The Top 5 Leadership Absolute “Don’t Do’s” When You’re Focusing on Reducing Driver Turnover!

  1. Here is a harsh reality: you simply stating that the company is going to take on and beat driver turnover will at best be received with reluctant hesitation and/or apathy. This should not come as a shock but if you are approaching 100% turnover (or higher), it is not likely that your people believe too much of what your management team is saying. So why not look for (or create) a bell weather moment? Winston Churchill was credited with saying “never waste a good crisis”. You should pick when to reveal your company’s new driver retention initiative wisely. If you can tie it to a critical event, good or bad, then you need to determine out how to do that. In my past we decided to train all the “inside the walls” employees on customer service. When people start to realize how their actions affect those around them they start to quickly get the picture. When we finished the training, driver retention was a natural extension and the transition was easy.

 

  1. Do not take the issue of your company’s high turnover on as a challenge until you can wrap your head around the fact that you did everything necessary to cause the turnover you have now. The point here is that if you don’t take ownership of the issues neither will your people. Excuses for turnover are far too common and easy to come by in trucking. We have all heard them repeatedly over the years. Remember that the blame game does not solve anything. The only way to get off to a good start is to state that you’re determined to turn the corner on your company’s turnover and that from now on the responsibility for every driver that leaves or is fired from your company is on you and your people. There is an opportunity learn from every single failure. Take that failure personally. No one goes to work in the morning with the intention of failing. These are people’s families that we are messing with.

 

  1. Don’t keep your people in the dark about what you’re doing. Use every channel possible to let them know what is going on in your business. For your company to turn the corner on driver turnover you will need the assistance of everyone in the business. What is discussed must be the priority. Think about this: I give you information because I trust you, I value your input and I need your help. I don’t share information because I don’t particularly care about your opinion and I don’t think your input will bring value to this initiative. Want your people to be more engaged when they come to work? Let them become part of the solution, share as much information with them as possible and then ask them for their help.

 

  1. Do not try and impose your own personal values on people. If you or your senior managers developed a value statement and then took it to your people and expected them to respond positively to that statement, then you are in trouble – it just won’t work. A strong values statement can be the cornerstone of your retention objectives but only if it reflects your collective values and that you plan on following through with it. Here is the question to pose to your people – what would your perfect company look like? One paragraph from each person is all that is needed. Do it as a team that is working towards a common purpose.

 

  1. Do not get impatient. This is change and change will scare people. However, being patient does not mean turning a blind eye to behaviour that is counter to the company’s goals. Being patient means coaching and talking the talk. If that individual who refuses to change crosses the line again and again you will have to take the steps necessary to get the right people in those roles. These are tough decisions, but they are entirely necessary for you to succeed. Stay determined!

 

Safe Trucking.

RJH

TCA Retention Coach

Turbocharge Your Recruiting Efforts

Having reviewed the recruiting practices of hundreds of carriers, the majority leave me completely underwhelmed. Almost everywhere I go, the model is essentially the same – cast a wide net, and hope you catch a couple. No successful entrepreneur would ever recommend a business strategy were you simply copy the same model, strategy and tactics of almost ALL of your competitors. Although most of the fine people I get to work with have good and honorable intentions, many fall far short of being as effective as they could (and should be). Within the carrier I ran, 50% of all our new hires were sourced through on-road recruiters – your fine and hard-working drivers. This is likely similar to the results from the carriers reading this post, however more and more are coming via social media channels and initiatives (which is an extremely big part of your recruiting and communications strategy – something we will talk about in depth in future posts).

Today, let’s focus on arming your on-road recruiting warriors with the tools they need to succeed. First you need to figure out a proper training program for the interested participants. That training will likely include elements such as a conversational sales course. You don’t need to develop that training program in-house, in fact it would be fool-hardy to do so. We are big fans of online training. For sales training, there are hundreds of courses available on Udemy for peanuts. Find your favorite, make it the standard. Combine this external training with a tip sheet which will include all the items you would want a prospective driver to be aware of, which could potentially work at your business. These items could include the lanes you work, company’s values statement, its social support, its pay structure, equipment (type, average age, replacement schedule etc), history, and most importantly a personalized un-scripted message about why your on-road warriors continue to work for your company despite thousands of competing offers.

In our business, we also had decals made for the side of their trucks calling attention to the fact that the driver of the vehicle was an on-road recruiter for us. We had business cards stating the same, and they had our value statement printed on the back. They had the recruiters name on them and a direct line to our recruiting department.

Further, there were two other key elements to the program, first our philosophy was that when an on-road recruiter brought a prospective new driver to our company we would go through the same criteria for pre-employment, as we would any other driver coming to our business – no exceptions. If we decided that the driver was a good fit for us we paid the recruiting fee to the on road recruiter immediately, mile one. If that new hire quit or was fired shortly after – that was on us, not the on-road recruiter!

The second element was recognition, when an on-road recruiter brought a new hire in the doors, we celebrated in our newsletter on social media, and at company events. Everyone likes a pat on the back when they succeed, and we did it loudly We had special plaques made for the best recruiters, we had one gal who was an O/O at our company, bring in six new drivers one year. They made an additional twelve thousand dollars through this program. I know some TPP members who have drivers making $30,000 to $50,000 per year in referral fees alone – wow!

Need some help turbocharging your retention efforts, take this free survey today – www.tcaingauge.com/retentionscore.

Why They Are Leaving You (or Soon Will)

Trucking executives have been contemplating this statement since the first wheels turned in this industry. In the days of regulation, the opportunity cost of any empty seat could be calculated with certainty (it hurt, but you could at least make fairly realistic budgets and purchasing decisions). These days, that same empty seat could result in lost profits double or triple what they were last year at the same time. The anxiety of what’s being left on the table is palpable when I speak to trucking entrepreneurs and executives. During previous ‘hot markets’, I was one of these executives, and it wasn’t until we decided as owners that we were going to meet the challenge of high driver turnover ‘head on’ that we began to get a handle on it and eventually drive our triple digit turnover down to below 20%.

So why do they leave? It’s a complex question, but from a 50,000-foot view, it is really as simple as stating that people stay in situations they like, and they leave the ones they don’t. By parallel we all do it, we live where we live because it is a comfortable neighborhood, we are in the relationships were in because we see eye to eye with that person, they’ve got our back and we have theirs. We work at our jobs because they challenge us, we’re appreciated, and we enjoy the challenges and opportunities the workplace offers. People stay because they have purpose and are part of a team (a tribe if you will) that has the exact same purpose.

To put it all in context, your drivers leave (or will leave) because they have no attachment to your company. You have not created the compelling reason for them to stay. It’s hard these days for a driver not to feel like a small part of a bigger transaction, with an ever-decreasing connection to their tribe (in work and life). These forces make it easy for them to decide when another job, or bag of money gets their attention. You treat them like a transaction – don’t be surprised if they turn the tables.

The good news is that change is possible. Have been there, have done that. It’s tough. You may need to invest time and money. You may need to terminate people. You will be uncomfortable. It may get messy. TCA has created the framework to guide carrier members to low turnover numbers, it’s called the Retention Action Plan. This plan is the center piece of my role as the newly-minted Retention Coach, a service offering from the TCA Profitability Program. We believe that excessively high turnover is an unnecessary evil in our industry, and that with the right effort, and the right plan it can be reversed. If you’re interested in starting this journey, click here for a gut check.

Are You Looking for a Professional Driver?

I have been speaking and consulting about retention, almost exclusively, over the past number of years. What I have found, and it is my experience, that high turnover in any trucking company can be brought under control.  That’s a fact, been there – done that, bought the tee shirt. Any half insightful management team that can muster a measured amount of committed effort, can show impressive decline in lost drivers in a matter of three to twelve months. With ongoing programs, it can be maintained indefinitely.

Recently I have been asking my trucking executive audiences how many of them would prefer to hire professional drivers.  To put this in context I classify drivers in three categories.  First, the lost and forlorn, they’re just driving until they find their real calling (and BTW, they rarely do). Second, there is the truck stop cowboy, these folks are in love with the image of being a truck driver more than being proficient at what they’re doing. The 3rd is a professional, always looking clean and sharp, concerned with doing things properly and being accountable and responsible for all their actions. After I ask what type of Driver and Owner Operator they would like to hire, what I see is a room full of hands that have shot in to the air for, of course, the professional.

So, here’s the nest question to the group, so you all want professionals in your company, okay that makes sense, so what do you do to foster that desire, this is when I get the glazed over look. Most companies currently have professionals in their infrastructure that they support. You may have a CPA that you assist in making sure is current with all accounting rules and probably pay for their annual CPA dues. You may have a head of HR that you support who needs to be kept abreast of all the new labor rules. How about your Safety Manager? The company likely sends this individual to regular safety council meetings and has paid for them to get their CDS designation. This is to name just a few positions.

So, you want professional drivers and Owner Operators at your company, what do you do within your fleet to support this claim? How do you make information available so that your people have a source of knowledge that will allow them to excel at their trade, such as: how to be a successful Owner Operator; new proposed rule-makings; advanced defensive driving; new equipment innovation; and conversational sales, to name a few examples? If your answer is nothing, then you should stop claiming to want professionals at your company because you do not have an infrastructure that supports that claim. If you want professionals, treat them like professionals.  As Don Cherry would say “It’s not nuclear surgery”.

And it is so easy. There are so many great resources for educating oneself these days on how to be successful. This is not to say that there wasn’t some good information back when I drove but back then it was in book form and after I put in my long days’ work it was time to hit the sack. Reading a couple chapters and absorbing anything of value from a general business self-help book was not in the cards. And when I got home it was down time – get recharged and then head back out.

Today there is a great wealth of information specifically on being successful as a driver or Owner Operator and it is available in the most convenient forms – whether streamed from internet, YouTube, listening to satellite radio and online courses. Much of it can be listened to while the driver watches the miles go by.

For those drivers out there thinking of purchasing a truck and possibly becoming an owner operator or even starting a small trucking company, here are some of the materials that I would suggest that you get a hold of and listen to as a way of formulating a plan to move forward.

I would listen to Trucking Business and Beyond by Kevin Rutherford on Sirius XM Radio’s channel The Road Dog. I would also check out the training he offers here .  Kevin is an old friend of mine, and has a sea of knowledge on how to become a master Owner Operator. I took Kevin’s Certified Master Contractor course some years ago and it was excellent – well worth the money. I would check out ATBS’s Knowledge Hub program as it is an excellent resource of valuable information, a great website ..  In addition, there are many good industry publications whose editorial has valuable information that is there for the reading. On any variety of business topics and life in general I happen to love Udemy . The volume of quality educational content is staggering and very economical. If there isn’t something there that peaks your interest, maybe it’s time you consider retirement.

The list of good information that is there for the listening can go on and on. Much of it is free and the rest is very economical. I remember being at a seminar where the speaker was then Miami Dolphin coach Jimmy Johnson. During the Q&A period he was asked this question. Coach Johnson, how do you mold the crop of young boys you get each year into men who are professional football players? The coach’s short answer was “talk to people that look up to you the way you want them to behave and they will become that. Talk to them the way they are, and they will stay that way.” You want professionals? It’s simple, treat them that way.

Take Good care and Safe Trucking,

RJH

Where Do Leaders Go For Advice?

Effective leadership in business, politics, a family, or in any situation or organization is a critical success factor. I have seen, and been involved in many situations at many trucking companies, non-profit organizations, and community efforts that would not be suffering but for one missing element, effective leadership. Someone with dedication, vision, and a strong moral compass who walks the walk can fix almost any issue in any circumstance; I know this to be true!
 
Leadership used to be tied to that person being a role model but that idea is suffering badly in the public eye. I have been fortunate in my lifetime, along with many of you I’m sure, to be exposed either through teachings or first hand witness to many great leaders that were in the public purview. Folks like Tommy Douglas, father of the Canadian Health Care System, Winston Churchill and his heroic stand during World War 2, JFK and the unfolding of the civil rights movement, Terry Fox, Mike Hanson and the list goes on and on! These were and are great role models, and these were folks that knew the price of leadership whether they sought it out on purpose or it came to them as a result of a heroic effort, they rose to the occasion for all to see and stood proud.
 
Of course today’s scrutiny is much more of a micro lens than the macro lens of just a few decades ago, but even so when these folks were elevated to their pedestals by “we the public” it seemed that all we did was shine a light on what was already there. Their style and class was not contrived or manufactured, what we saw was nothing more that what already existed and it was class and it gave us all something to aspire to. The world seemed a better place because of the folks that were our role models of the day.
 
I’m confident that these same types of role models exist today and these same types of folks are walking in our midst as I write this piece. That Micro examination of today’s media though shows every freckle, wart, and hiccup that ever existed in ones past, and regardless of ones character you will be vetted in the public eye to that situation or circumstance. Let’s face it, who needs that type of scrutiny. Even if you were prepared to endure the focus on yourself, all of those around you will suffer the same level of scrutiny and should they have a skeleton in their closet, condemnation by association will be swift.
 
Where big business and the mainstream media direct their spotlight and whom they place on a pedestal these days is of course the youth of North America, the trendsetters, and the consumers. Look at what’s happened in just the past 3-5 decades, during that period our elders who were once upon a time invaluable advisors to our youth, have been transformed from role models, knowledge givers and resources of a life of experience they were willing to share, into a burden on society. The very infrastructure that they built for us to live in now is turning on them and blames them for the high cost of supporting them in their advanced years and the cost associated with health care and other social infrastructure. 
 
I am no conspiracy theorist but I believe what’s happened is that the mainstream media’s focus has lead us down a path that is directly pointed at the youthful consumer, and the advertising dollars that come with selling products and services,. In doing so, they have discounted our elders in today’s society. The focus today is on youth and future possibilities not accomplishments of the past and calling on that wisdom to offer opinion on today’s reality. 
 
Direction is given and taken from advertisers trying to solicit young consumers by portraying them as the chosen generation, the folks who will evermore carve our trek into the future, new is better, old is bad. It was just a few short decades ago that seeking advice from one’s elders was common practice, and always looked upon as a prudent thing to do. How often do you hear of that today, typically the elders among us are uninitiated in the world of technology, and are made to feel left out of the loop and disconnected from the rest of the world, discounted in their value as people! I think young leaders in our industry would be wise to consult and listen to the successful people before them who made our industry so successful.
 
Nothing takes the place of experience and common sense; it was explained to me this way by an acquaintance that has a PhD in education, he says that young people have what is referred to as liquid knowledge. Which is the knowledge that comes from studying a particular subject or learning as they move through a situation? Mature people have liquid knowledge and have crystal knowledge, which is the additional knowledge that comes from having worked through a particular subject or situation once or many times. It is additional knowledge that comes from experience, trial and error, getting better and better at something, minimizing the scares, bin there done that, know the drill!
 
So whom do you call on when you need advice whether you’re a Driver, Owner Operator, company Owner or a Department Manager ? We all from time to time should have an experienced confidant to bounce things off of and to act as a sounding board. Those industry topics that keep bubbling to the top, despite some slight changes in appearance, are the same ones that those elders encountered 3-4 decades ago. According to the TCA, they are, HOS and the shortage of qualified drivers, fuel issues; congestion; government regulations; tolls and highway funding; tort reform and legal issues; truck driver training; environmental issues; and on-board truck technology. See anything new? I don’t, and remember “A wise man learns from the mistakes of others while fools learn from their own mistakes.
 

Retention – Building a Base

I recently had the great opportunity to speak at the KSM (Katz Sapper & Miller) Trucking Business Owner’s Roundtable. This is a first-class accounting/consulting firm that continually impresses me with their integrity, innovation and dedication to the industry. Every six months or so they assemble many their trucking clients, primarily made up of senior leadership, along with several leaders from non-clients to a half day education session. I was asked if I would be interested in speaking to the group on my take on the current state of driver retention. Also on the bill was my partner Chris Henry from TPP (Truckload Carriers Profitability Program) to speak on benchmarking, industry trends and the nine traits of high-performing trucking companies.

When I was asked, I quickly jumped at the opportunity. I admit I was more than just a little eager because, as I explained to the crowd, usually when I speak to the topic of retention the crowd is made up of recruiters and safety personnel. Don’t get me wrong. I have great admiration for the job these folks do, especially considering what they must deal with if they are in a high turnover environment. So, I warmed myself up to the crowd by suggesting to them that at every retention session held, at any event, that THEY should be the ones in the room along with their other senior managers. When ATRI (American Truck Research Institute) surveys the industry, as they do once a year, and the results have the driver shortage at #1 issue to the industry and driver retention down at #5, what I see is a complete disconnect and it starts with them – the leadership teams.

Does it ring as true to you as it does to me that suggesting that the primary issue in the trucking industry is a shortage of drivers when that same industry historically bleeds turnover at close to 100% – is it not nuts? Talk about the emperor’s new clothes.  This makes no sense!  There is a large volume of carriers who have their heads in the sand on this thing – they don’t get it and it saddens me. There are many trucking pioneers that dedicated themselves to building this great industry’s legacy. They did it by starting associations, fighting ridiculous legislation brought forward by uninformed politicians, organizing and leading. We do them no honor when we allow an environment of distrust permeate the industry between management and it’s driving force that we have named churn. This has gone on for far too long.

The other thing that riles me to the bone is that the situation is entirely fixable – been there, done that, bought the tee shirt.  You can beat it!  Where a lot of it fails is that leadership needs to look itself in the mirror and recognize that it starts with them. They need to step up and tackle the issue and make the decision to take on the challenge and beat it. I’m a huge association fan as any of you who have been reading my articles for a while know. Having said that I am also aware that associations can be a harbinger for a common lack of performance. Reports from an association come out suggesting that the latest numbers say the industry is at 100% turnover and members with their peers at industry events will suggest that their doing pretty good at 80%.  I have seen this many times. Talk about hysteria, news flash buddy – at 80% you suck, period.

The nice thing for me at this stage of my life is that I don’t need to hold back. My future does not depend on anyone’s opinion of me but my own. Telling a room full of senior executives that they need to get their heads out of the sand on this thing is kind of fun, I have to say. I don’t do it in a rude way but in a direct way, as is my nature. Did they listen, or did they tune me out?  That’s the real test and I have to say, as usual, some did, and some didn’t.  I got several business cards shoved in my hands. I talked to a smaller carrier whose turnover was at 30% and they thought it was way too high – outstanding. Then I was asked by a large truck fleet that I know has triple digit turnover if I would share a copy of my presentation with them, which I did. Then in their email to me they thanked me for sharing the content and said they would forward it on their recruiting department. Man, are you kidding? Didn’t you hear a thing I said?

At any rate, I’ll carry on. I have a couple items that I sell related to turnover that I believe have value, but I’m really neither here nor there if folks buy them. My real interest and passion is trying to get the message that high turnover is not necessary –  it can be beat; your safety record will improve dramatically, your insurance cost will go down along with your recruiting cost and guess what, your bottom line will soar. It makes me wonder what business some carriers think they’re in.

I also gave them this to think about – if you have high turnover your people do not believe what you say – they distrust you. I think this is a hard message for many of the ego’s in the room to handle but it’s true. If you are going to take this issue on it starts by self-reflection and looking in the mirror. Somehow, someway the culture in your business has turned sour, and that’s on you. If you can’t get by that then you’re in for a hard row to hoe in the years to come. Turnover will not be able to be compensated for by just hiring more volume. The tide is turning on that strategy in my humble opinion.