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Stay Metrics report says recruiters, dispatchers are pivotal in preventing turnover

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You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That old chestnut could have served as the title to Stay Metrics’ latest white paper. Instead, the analytics firm, which specializes in driver retention, engagement and training, went with a couple of cover-page questions: “Is Early Turnover Damaging the Business? How and What Can We do to Stop it?”

The report, released July 13, is based on a statistical premise that would come as a surprise to no one in trucking: the industry has a turnover problem. It reached a “historic high” of 95 percent in the third quarter of 2017, the report says in its opening statement.

It’s also isn’t exactly a revelation that most of that turnover – 72.6 percent – occurs within the first year, with almost half of those in and out the door in three months or less.

“Considering the costs of recruitment and retention,” the report states, “one may wonder, what do we know about the leavers and what can we do to stop them from leaving?”

A research team led by Stay Metrics Chief Science Officer Timothy Judge set out to determine whether early-stage job leavers share any common characteristics, and if they do can that be used to prevent some of the turnover.

The team combined data from previous research with results obtained from Stay Metrics’ orientation surveys, which have been given to 62,000 drivers at seven days and 45 days into their employment; and its in-depth Annual Driver Survey, as well as driver turnover data provided by its 100-plus clients.

Some interesting patterns emerged from the data, said Stay Metrics Chief Executive Officer Tim Hindes.

“Every carrier’s different in terms of what the issues are, but there are some common issues,” Hindes said. “and what the hope is, is that the carriers glean through this and that they understand things like recruiter satisfaction and what that has to do with retention.”

One finding that may at first seem to fly in the face of logic is that drivers who quit in three months or less, called “early leavers” in the report, are actually more likely to recommend that company to another driver than those who depart later.

Among early leavers, 52 percent reported a positive attitude toward the company.

This can be attributed what is known as the honeymoon period, Hindes said. When people start a new job, they approach everything with a positive attitude. Even if they decided to leave, it’s with more of a “no hard feelings” attitude, Hindes said. “It’s so early they’re willing to give the benefit of the doubt, a bit, to the company that some of it might be on them.”

The Stay Metrics team also looked at which drivers tend to be early leavers. Specifically, they looked at whether age could be a predicter. Hindes said that even before this project began, he and Judge had talked about the supposed millennial problem, the popular dogma being that today’s young adults don’t have a strong enough work ethic or sense of loyalty.

“The reality is there really isn’t much difference,” Hindes said. They broke early leavers into five-year age groups. Millennials, baby boomers and every group in between were within just a few percentage points of one another in their likeliness to leave within the first year.

They also looked at whether industry experience made a difference. The study showed that veteran drivers – with “veteran” defined as a driver with more than one year’s worth of experience – were slightly more likely to be early leavers than rookies.

“The experienced driver can smell the disconnect a lot quicker,” Hindes said. If they’ve been burned before, they’re apt to come in with an eye out for red flags. If a brand-new driver senses a problem, they can’t tell off the bat if it’s a problem with the company or the whole industry. They might even wonder if they’re the one with the problem.

“The more experienced driver will be quicker to say, ‘yup, I’m cutting bait, I’m leaving,’” Hindes said.

The study concluded that driver dissatisfaction can start practically out of the gate, and that a driver’s attitude toward their recruiter and their dispatcher by their 45th day of employment are a strong signal of whether that driver will be an early leaver.

The recruiter’s role in shaping a driver’s opinion of a new company is especially crucial, Hindes said.

According to the study, drivers who expressed high satisfaction with their recruiter have a 22 percent lower turnover rate in the first three months compared to those with low satisfaction.

The importance of dispatcher satisfaction is nearly as pronounced. There was nearly a 16 percent lower turnover rate in the first three months among drivers who expressed high dispatcher satisfaction.

The reasons for the influence of dispatcher and recruiter satisfaction on drivers’ attitudes are different, Hindes explained.

Once a driver is on the road, the dispatcher is their most frequent connection to the company, and they remain an important influence throughout the driver’s employment. Data shows employees are much more likely to stay at companies where they have friends. While the dispatcher doesn’t have to be the driver’s best buddy, it makes a world of difference if they are at least work-friends.

“One of things Stay Metrics does with its clients is gauge driver satisfaction levels with dispatchers so carriers can work with dispatchers who need to up their game,” Hindes said. “What we suggest on the dispatch side is using a psychometric tool, that you can actually pair a driver with the right dispatcher.”

While the relationship with the dispatcher may be key to a driver’s long-term satisfaction, it’s the recruiter who makes that all-important first impression.  At first, that person is the face of the company to that driver, and they set the tone for everything that follows, starting with orientation.

“A lot of carriers have underestimated the value of the first impression,” Hindes said. “A lot of carriers need to stop and ask, when was the last time they looked at their orientation process. Most of them are cookie-cutter, they’re orientating their drivers the same way they were 12, 15 years ago.

“I tell carriers the most critical call a driver is going to make is the first call at break, when they’re out in the parking lot, they pick up the phone and they’re calling home. And they’re answering the most obvious question: ‘How do you like it? Did you choose the right company?’ At that point they only got experience with the recruiter, and about three hours with other people.”

Orientation, Hindes said, is where the first impression with the recruiter is tested. One of the most important things that’s going to factor into that impression is whether the driver believes the recruiter has been honest. Are the things they’re hearing at orientation matching up with what they were told when they signed on?

Something happened to driver recruiting, Hindes said, and he thinks it goes all the way back to when the CDL laws came into being in the mid-’80s.

“We’ve stopped the traditional process of screening and hiring drivers,” he said. Instead, “some carriers are almost like used car salesmen. You look at some of the marketing literature out there, some of the billboards.”

Carriers need to bear in mind that many drivers have been burned by falsehoods and misrepresentations at former jobs. You can’t even get cute with the truth, Hindes said. If they were told at recruitment they’d be driving a new truck, then at orientation they hear, “Yeah, you’re going to get a new truck, but that only kicks in after you’ve been here nine months,” drivers aren’t going to take that as a half-truth; that was a lie.

They have to hear the same thing at recruitment that they hear at orientation, Hindes said, and then that better be the way it is once they get out there.

While this report does not delve directly into the honesty-in-recruitment issue, Hindes believes the implications of the study bear out what he’s saying.

“We as an industry have to be much more transparent with drivers,” he said. “We have to stop marketing practices that are misleading, because they’re not helping you. They’re actually hurting you. That’s the biggest takeaway I’d like to see come out of this.”

To obtain a free copy of Stay Metrics’ new whitepaper, “Is Early Turnover Damaging the Business? How and What Can We Do to Stop It?” visit staymetrics.com.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. John

    August 3, 2018 at 6:29 am

    I can certainly relate. Tried going to work for Knight in Lakeland. The FIRST thing their orientation Lead asked, “Are you all stupid” ??? And he was Serious…. I immediately started to question my choice to work there….

  2. John hazlett

    August 3, 2018 at 8:56 am

    The problem lies with “OPERATIONS AND DISPATCH” ! With this “DO IT OR ELSE ATTITUDE” ! The way they schedule you, if you stop to get a cup of coffee, you’ll be late.
    Leaving you stranded at customers and unloading and your out of hours, when you re supposed to be recovering from a hard days work, “ALL DAY”, unloading on your break, and if you say something…Youll sit, you’ll never get home, you won’t get miles, and you’ll go to the crappiest places on the planet ! Why is it always the driver ? THE PROBLEMS LIES WITH OPERATIONS AND DISPATCH ! I ‘ve seen it for 28 years now ! Can’t believe Y’all can’t figure it out !

  3. Steven Hill

    August 4, 2018 at 5:09 am

    I agree on recruiting is a problem they fill position that is a piece of crap company. You go there and the lies begin. The trucker has a track record and a bulleye he/she not going to stay. So they don’t hire because of your track record to many jobs/crappie company. So a good what hire you how can we change this problem

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The Nation

Bill to prevent shutdown has benefits for USDOT

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The legislative deal passed to prevent a government shutdown contains $45.3 billion for highways honoring FAST Act funding levels for 2019, plus $3.25 billion in supplemental funding out of the general fund. (AASHTO Journal)

WASHINGTON — As part of bicameral legislative deal to prevent a second partial federal government shutdown while providing monies to build a wall along parts of the southern U.S. border, a total of $26.5 billion in discretionary funds and $60 billion from Highway and Airport and Airway Trust Funds will be provided to the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to an article in the Journal, a publication of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

The legislative deal passed both the Senate and the House by wide margins.

This legislation also contains final funding for a series of fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills for nine federal departments and related agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Some of the USDOT appropriations measure include:

  • $45.3 billion for highways honoring FAST Act funding levels for 2019, plus $3.25 billion in supplemental funding out of the general fund.
  • Of that $3.25 billion in supplemental highway funding from the general fund, roughly $2.7 billion will be apportioned to the states as if it were Surface Transportation Block Grant Program funding, while $475 million will be for a Bridge Rehabilitation and Replacement program.
  • $900 million for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development or BUILD discretionary grant program grants, divided evenly between rural and urban projects.
  • $2.55 billion for the Capital Investment Grant program, including $1.27 billion for “new starts,” $635 million for “core capacity” and $527 million for “small starts.”

“This legislation makes a significant down payment on the border wall and provides a bipartisan path forward to complete the remaining FY19 spending bills,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

“Our bipartisan efforts have been essential in securing the passage of this bill and completing the FY19 appropriations process,” he said. “It is my hope that we will all continue to work together as we turn to the FY20 appropriations bills.”

“This is not the agreement I would have reached on my own [as] there are things in this bill that I support, and things that I disagree with – but that is the nature of a negotiation,” said Ranking Member Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “This agreement funds nine federal departments and their related agencies. Everyone had to give something to reach a bipartisan compromise.”

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The Nation

Driver Ronald Feimster hopes to take the freedom of the road to the next level in 2019  

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Ronald Feimster tried working in other kinds of jobs, but he found he likes the freedom and independence truck driving offers. His goal for 2019 is to get his own truck and become an owner-operator. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

You don’t head out on the road without an intended destination, and the vast majority of the time you have a route planned out. And it’s not a bad idea to approach life goals the same way.

Ronald Feimster has begun 2019 with a clear idea of where he wants to get to within the next year.

“My goal is to be an owner-operator and to drive for Oakley Trucking,” he said.

Feimster was finishing breakfast at the Iron Skillet at the TravelCenters of America/Petro truck stop at I-40, exit 161, just outside Little Rock, Arkansas. He’d struck up a conversation with a fellow driver, Tim Plubell, who’s been an owner-operator for nearly 20 years (A story about Plubell can be found in the XXX edition of The Trucker), so Feimster’s career goals were at the front of his mind when The Trucker caught up with him.

He’s done his homework, he said. He knows a lot goes into being an owner-operator.

“I drove for a lease operator before,” Feimster said. “He was the owner-operator. And I loved it. I loved the freedom of it. I know you have to pay for your own maintenance, but a lot of these companies nowadays, they help you with the maintenance, so that cuts that in half. Then you have that fuel surcharge, so that cuts that in half.”

Feimster, who hails from Rogers, Arkansas, has also done his homework on Oakley Trucking, a subsidiary of Bruce Oakley Inc., a commodity trading, distribution and transportation company based in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Oakley Trucking specializes dry bulk transportation throughout the Lower 48 and Canada.

“And Oakley, they pay excellent, but the catch is you have to own your own truck,” Feimster said. “Pull their trailers, but you own your own truck. That’s my goal.”

Long-term, he said, at 47, if all goes as he’s envisioning it, if he gets in at Oakley, it could be the kind of situation where he could spend the rest of his career there.

Not that he’s unhappy where he’s at. Feimster drives for Southern Refrigerated Transport, popularly known as SRT.

“They’re a good company,” Feimster said. “I’d recommend them to anybody.”

He runs a dedicated route pulling reefer for Tyson Foods. His route keeps him within the neighboring states of Arkansas. But, as he explained, he generally gets home about every three weeks.

“I could get home every weekend, but you don’t make any money like that,” he said. “You have to stay out here for a little while. Unless I were an owner-operator. Then I would do it differently.”

Feimster first got into trucking in 1998. Before that, he said, “I wasn’t really doing nothing.” In other words, he had jobs, but he didn’t have a career. “I was doing factory work. It wasn’t that good. So, I got into trucking, basically, to start making more money. I went ahead and got my CDL.”

He started out hauling logs. Since then he’s “been around,” he said, gaining experience working for Panther 2, Swift Transportation and Covenant Transport, which owns SRT.

At one point, he tried to get out of trucking. “I was over-the-road, and I was tired of going through those snowy mountains” in Colorado, he said. The job wasn’t worth risking his life.

“I said, ‘I have got to get out of this,’ because I had just gotten married, and then we had our first child. I’ve got to go home and be a dad,” Feimster said.

He went back to warehouse work and even became a supervisor. But he came to realize that he just wasn’t a company-culture kind of guy. One of the best things about truck driving, Feimster said, is there’s “no one breathing over your back.” Even after having been the one doing the breathing, he hates that kind of work environment.

He said he didn’t want to publicly describe the straw that broke the camel’s back and sent him to trucking. The short version of the story is he was told to fire an employee that he firmly believed didn’t deserve it.

“I said, ‘you know what? This is not a good way to treat people,’” he said. “That was enough for me. I talked to my old lady. I said, ‘I’m going to go back to truck driving.’ She said ‘OK, that’s what you want to do?’ I said I was going to be away from home, but our kids are grown. Everything’s fine. She said go for it. Here I am.”

Trucking may not be perfect, but he needs to feel that independence.

Sure, there are a few ways the job could be better. “We would like more pay,” he said, then quickly added, “who wouldn’t?”

It also bothers him that society in general doesn’t value what truckers do.

“If trucks stopped delivering for just a couple days, the country would come to a standstill,” he said. “Why isn’t the profession held in higher regard?”

Well, there isn’t a whole lot he can do about that. He appreciates what the profession means to him, and he intends to make the most of it.

 

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A driver for 45 years, a husband for 44, Tim Plubell’s life is cruising comfortably along

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Tim Plubell started driving a log truck when he was 18, and for nearly 20 of the 45 years he’s been a professional truck driver, he’s been an owner-operator. The freedom and independence are what make it the perfect profession for him. (The Trucker: KLINT LOWRY)

One of the most accurate measures of how much a fellow’s age has distilled into wisdom is the degree to which he has learned to make life easy on himself. It can be in the way he does his job, knowing the best routes to take, the best places to stop. And it can show itself in the way he takes in the world.

At the age of 63 and with 45 years on the road, Tim Plubell has a personality as mellow as if it had been aged in an oak cask. On January 2, he was having breakfast at the Iron Skillet at the Petro Stopping Center off Interstate 40, exit 161, The Trucker’s favorite haunt for meeting drivers.

Plubell was a bit amused.  He said he’d read something on the internet about someone trying to organize a truckers’ shutdown for one reason or another.

“I thought, I do that every few weeks,” he said. “Whenever I go home I shut down for a week. I’m able to do that now.”

Home for Plubell is Frenchville, a little community of about 500 in central Pennsylvania. He was headed back east after dropping off a load in Oklahoma City. That’s about as far west as he goes anymore, he said. In 2019, he’ll have been an owner-operator for 20 years, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I work for myself, I do what I want to when I want to,” he said. “Mainly I just like being out by myself. I’m kind of a loner person.” But as he sees it, that’s one of the qualities that makes a person suited for trucking. It’s suited him his entire working life.

“I’ve been driving since I was 18,” Plubell said. “I started driving a log truck for my uncle.” He continued doing that until his uncle retired and closed his business. From there, Plubell became a company driver until 1999, when he was able to buy a truck and go out on his own.

He’s always liked the driving life, but it’s best as an owner-operator. “I got nobody breathing down my back; I got nobody forcing me to do anything I don’t want to do. That’s what I like about it.”

The only down side, as he sees it, is the amount of time he has to spend away from home to make the money he wants to make. Take this past week, for example. He was home for Christmas, but then he left the day after, and he and his wife wound up spending New Year’s Eve apart.

But even that cloud has a silver lining, he explained. A lot of relationships might be strained from spending so much time apart. Not so for Plubell and his wife, who got married about a year after he started driving for his uncle.

“When I started driving it was good for a while,” he said, referring to married life. “I was home every night. But then … being we got married young, we began fighting about a lot of stuff.” Money was the most frequent topic of conflict, as he recalls, as the young couple struggled to adapt to adult responsibilities.

“So, then I got the opportunity to go over-the-road,” he said. After that, “everything got a whole lot better. The money issues went away, and then we got along better.”

It wasn’t just the money, he said. The time apart made them value the time together even more.

Plubell said he tries to get home every weekend, though it doesn’t always pan out. That’s why he doesn’t venture any farther west than Oklahoma City. And except to get home to Frenchville, he pretty much confines his driving to the Southeast this time of year. Driving in northern winter weather isn’t worth the hassle.

It’s not that he doesn’t trust his own ability. It’s the other drivers out there, the amateurs. “Ninety percent of them that pass you are on this,” he said, holding up his cellphone.

After 45 years, he has a spotless accident record, and he’d just as soon keep it that way.

Aside from sharing the road with drivers who seem to be getting more distracted and discourteous as the years go by, the one other thing that Plubell thinks has gotten worse over the years has been all the regulations truckers have to contend with now.

“I mean, there’s a lot of pros and cons about this ELD that’s come out,” he said. “Me, I don’t mind it. It doesn’t bother me, I can work with it.” But like with a vast majority of drivers, the problem is the rigidity of the rules the ELD is there to log.

For example, a couple of months ago he was making his way home and he hit one construction zone after another. As a result, his clock ran out about 15 minutes from home. Now, in the old days, a driver could say, what the heck, drive the extra 15 minutes, massage the log entry, and who did it hurt, really?

Instead, he had to park the truck, call his son to come get him, and then go back the next morning and get his truck. What sense does that make?

Plubell doesn’t know if he’ll ever fully retire. He has a friend who’s little older than he is who has become a little choosier about how far and how often he drives, and he figures he might follow that example.

Trucking isn’t for everyone, he said, but when it is, it’s tough to imagine not ever doing it.

“I love it,” he said. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

 

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