By Suzanne Elliott on Jun 12, 2019
Driver retention is a hot topic in fleet, with the industry currently suffering from an unprecedented shortfall in lorries drivers.
The Road Haulage Association says it is short of over 34,000 drivers - a figure which looks set to increase further with an ageing workforce (nearly half of HGV drivers are over 50 years-old). 
As recruiting new people is so difficult, it’s more vital than ever to hold on to the employees you have.
But long distance trucking is hard. Lorry driving can be a lonely, tiring, unhealthy, stressful job. The hours are long – more than 60 hours a week is common according to the Office for National Statistics. Drivers are away from friends and family for large chunks of time. Wages are low (average hourly wage in road-freight transport is £10.44); conditions on the road are tough with healthy food and good showers sometimes hard to find.
While some of the factors are out of a fleet manager’s immediate control, there are several ways you can help retain drivers by supporting their wellbeing at work. A good start is to find out drivers’ biggest concerns and address them before they hand in their keys.
Not enough time at home
Unsurprisingly, with all those hours on the road, drivers value keeping in touch with family and friends highly. Shell’s UK and Mediterranean Health Manager Dr Marianne Dyer’s Care for Driver session at Make the Future 2017 suggested fleet managers follow these steps to address this pressing issue:
- Draw up work schedules to enable work/ life balance
- Partner with providers for free wifi spots
- Ensure emergency contacts are available and drivers know how to access them wherever they are
- Have an emergency SOS policy in place so drivers can get drivers home
in case of urgent need (eg birth, illness)
- Have a SOS road assistance programme drawn up and well disturbed among your drivers
Lack of privacy and rest
With frequent nights spent in a cab and long hours on the road, drivers naturally value quality of sleep, rest and privacy among the most important factors to their wellbeing.
To address a driver’s need for privacy and rest, Shell’s Dr. Dyer suggested implementing the following approaches:
- Get a Fatigue Risk Management system in place
- Ensure a route offers quiet resting facilities where drivers can take a nap if possible
- Create awareness and provide information on importance of sleep and managing fatigue
- Put a stop work policy in place
A lack of healthy food on the road
Truck driving usually means relying heavily on convenience and fast food – sometimes the only option at service stations. This is a harder area for a fleet manager to oversee but there are still several measures you can put in place to help support your drivers. These can include:
- Promoting awareness and information on healthy nutritional food
- Encourage employees to plan ahead before they hit the road so they have more control over their diet
- Provide drivers with a place they can store food hygienically
Not feeling safe and secure
Driving for work carries with it its own risk. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that up to a third of all road traffic accidents involve somebody who is at work at the time.
Helping drivers stay safe and feel secure, goes beyond ensuring you don’t set unrealistic (and possibly illegal) delivery schedules or deadlines, which may encourage drivers to exceed speed limits or take shortcuts or other risks. Taking preventative measures can help drivers feel more confident and secure in their role. Steps you could consider include:
- Defensive driving course
- Incident reporting and learning
- First aid and emergency response
- Shift work acclimatisation programme
There’s no one solution to dealing with drivers’ problems and concerns, but the key to understanding why your drivers leave, is to understand what’s important to them. Putting in place a few measures to address their biggest worries and help facilitate your employees’ happiness (and consequently increase your company’s success) will go some way to ensuring they feel invested and secure in their role.