“The challenges presented in 2020 have left carriers questioning what truck drivers want and examining whether their offerings fit the bill,” said Conversion Interactive Agency recently in a tweet. As the trucking industry continues to experience the ongoing driver shortage, studies are showing that financial security is a top factor in trucker recruitment and retention.
“There’s been a lot of carriers that have looked at different pay models, bonus models, and incentive pay, so we were really interested in seeing what the drivers thought,” said Professional Driver Agency operations director, Scott Dismuke. “What we hear from drivers on a daily basis is really about predictability, and the predictability of pay for their own security and for that of their families.”
In a recent survey conducted by Professional Driver Agency and Conversion Interactive Agency based on responses from 1,197 participants, a majority–81.1%–of drivers prefer a guaranteed pay model, with fewer respondents preferring a pay-per-mile model and even fewer preferring incentive-based pay.
“Whether they use a pay-per-mile model or guaranteed pay model or if they incorporate sign-on bonuses, I think that the key is they have to deliver on the expectations that the driver has,” said Conversion Interactive Agency vice prescient of marketing, Priscilla Peters. “So, they have to deliver on what they’re selling.”
Drivers overwhelmingly preferring guaranteed pay isn’t a surprise, Dismuke said. Truckers typically want a sense of pay security, a desire which has only grown stronger with the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know a lot of carriers are having trouble finding drivers right now,” said Dismuke. “Schools are shutting down for the most part, and you don’t have a lot of new drivers entering the market. So keeping drivers you have right now, in particular, has become super important.”
Also important for truckers in regards to industry incentives–adequate time at home (50.8% of truckers think equipment problems hurt their work-life balance), and sign-on bonuses, which 42% said would be a great perk in the on-boarding process.
“From a recruiting standpoint, increased competition and drivers choosing opportunities with better home time [are current challenges],” said U.S. Xpress vice president of driver recruiting, Jacob Kramer. “Retention-wise, carriers across the board are increasing pay, so we’re seeing more drivers jump to a higher rate. The industry-wide driver shortage has exacerbated both challenges.”
Now, with a smaller-than-usual number of new drivers, and with training programs closing or social distancing, the applicant pool is limited and demand is higher than ever.
“I would contend that earlier on in the year, what we saw was unease,” said Schneider senior vice president and general manager of van truckload and dedicated, John Bozec. “Then, as the year unfolded, we started seeing things like driver schools close permanently or on a temporary basis.”
Schneider is currently working to deploy new technology to make sure fleets have high-quality equipment to make a trucker’s job easier and make retention more likely.
“All of that combined together is designed to retain our existing drivers,” said Bozec of the strategy. “Pay always matters. Pay matters to us. It matters for really everyone. But it has to be everything. To attract new drivers, we have to continue to tell the story of why this is a great industry.”
Equipment issues can also lead to a trucker having less time at home or having to log fewer miles, which could decrease retention rates as well, according to Dismuke.
“It’s so important from a retention standpoint to know the drivers that are having issues so you can go in and address those,” he said. “Because, if you don’t, they’re going to be gone.”
U.S. Xpress’ Kramer, though, explained that his company may have found the golden ticket to recruiting–using innovative technology to connect more easily with drivers and to create more strategic recruitment methods.
“Even during this challenging time, we’re surpassing our recruiting goals week-over-week compared to 2019,” he said. “We’re doing that through improved technology and innovative media strategies, including artificial intelligence, to recruit new drivers. Our approach is to meet drivers where they are.”