Drivers ranked logistics challenges as a top concern in 2019 but viewed fellow drivers and other staff as one of the most positive aspects of the job, according to an overview of top trends impacting driver retention and how carriers can improve for 2020.
The analysis, presented during a conference call Friday by Stifel and WorkHound, a driver feedback platform, is based on 39,800 comments from 16,300 drivers working for 55 carriers that operate at least 60 trucks.
In addition to logistics and staffing, equipment, pay and communication were among the five most common themes.
Here are few highlights from the report:
The biggest change between 2018 and 2019 is the focus on logistics, a category that shows up in 10,254 of the comments, noted Max Farrell, WorkHound co-founder and CEO.
Logistics refers to all the processes necessary to complete a job and includes scheduling, downtime and planning.
Forty-nine percent of the logistics comments were negative, while 13.6% were positive. Waiting for a load was a concern for about 20% of respondents, with around half of those commentators citing wait times of four hours or more.
Drivers also reported a prevalence of bad information and a lack of clarity on policies and procedures.
Farrell and WorkHound special projects director Paul Castronova speculated growing interest in logistics was a function of slackening freight markets that gave shippers the upper hand. "There wasn't the wealth of opportunities" that defined the market in 2018, they said.
Just over 8,000 of the comments fell under the "people" category, with 35.4% ranked as positive and 41.4% negative. This category was the most positive, according to Farrell, who noted that drivers are quick to mention staff in positive ways.
At the same time, comments that referred to people were also deemed more "urgent," meaning drivers were more likely to leave the company if their concerns were not resolved.
Unsurprisingly, a majority of the comments mentioning pay — 55.7% — were negative. Here again, nuance is important, Farrell observed.
"Pay is really a communication issue," he said. Most of the comments were less about pay rate and more about prompt and accurate payments.
During a Q&A following the presentation, one listener asked if the spate of carrier shutdowns had generated fear in the driver community.
WorkHound does see "a ripple of concern" from drivers about "not getting transparency from their company about company health," Farrell said.
Lack of communication amplifies that concern. WorkHound, he said, coaches clients to be as open as possible and talk to drivers about their market and financial positions.
Although the majority of respondents were company drivers, WorkHound received a substantial number of comments about AB5, the California law that would restrict carriers' ability to hire owner-operators.
Most of those comments revolved around driver frustration regarding lack of transparency and what steps they needed to take to remain compliant.
In an industry with 95% turnover rates, one of the key takeaways from the driver feedback analysis was the importance of taking action on driver concerns. "One of the key metrics in driver retention is how did the company address driver issues," Farrell said.
Citing a case study, he said, 98% of drivers who had their issues addressed were still working for the company one month later.
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