This industry routinely spends millions of dollars per year on driver recruitment. But in my experience, this industry often overlooks providing driver-centric services that address the social isolation drivers face, help them manage their daily dose of stress, improve their health and wellbeing, and achieve better work-home life balance.
Back in the pre-pandemic days, I had lunch with a Human Resources director for a midwestern trucking company at a transportation conference. We discussed the challenges she was facing with driver health and driver turnover. They were substantial and complex challenges. Midway through our lunch, the HR director had to excuse herself to take an urgent call. When she returned, she apologized, and it was apparent her mood had changed from upbeat to subdued. I asked if anything was wrong. She said it was.
The challenges of professional driving
She explained that the call she just took was from one of the carrier’s most valued drivers: a long-time employee and a safe and experienced driver. She had hired him years ago and knew him well. He was calling to quit. He said he had had it. He was more than frustrated while sitting in a Houston traffic jam, feeling his blood pressure rise and his headache increase. He had hardly slept the night before. He was going to be late for a delivery and he had just had a negative interaction with his “*#!@ dispatcher”.
Impact on the family
Worst of all, he was having a heartbreaking family crisis. He had spoken to his wife early that morning and she had told him that she was fed up being a “single mom” (or so it felt to her). She was sick of being stuck with sole responsibility for parenting their two teenaged sons, one of whom was a special needs child. And she was tired of having to manage their bank account, the household, and even caring for his elderly mother completely on her own. She said she needed a full-time husband, and she had insisted he quit his professional driving job and come home…or else.
Sitting in traffic in the Houston heat, stewing on the conversation with his wife- he had reached his limit. He was calling to quit. The HR director said, “Honestly, Norman I always get anxious when one of our veteran drivers calls me directly. This stressful lifestyle puts all of them just a phone call away from quitting.”
The growing problem of driver turnover
Her driver turnover rate was “only” 40% per year. That’s pretty good in an industry where many carriers experience 90%+ turnover annually. Unfortunately, with a national shortage of drivers – particularly safe drivers – turnover is getting worse by the day. This industry routinely spends millions of dollars per year on driver recruitment. But in my experience, this industry often overlooks providing driver-centric services that address the social isolation drivers face, help them manage their daily dose of stress, improve their health and wellbeing, and achieve better work-home life balance. All of these could be addressed at a fraction of the cost of recruitment.
Addressing driver’s wellbeing and health
It’s no surprise that many drivers are indeed only a call away from quitting this difficult yet vital occupation. Or could we change that to be only a call away from assistance, both physical and mental? Depression and anxiety are ongoing issues for the trucking industry. Common stressors usually occur from financial stress and/or sleep disturbances. These common stressors can also take a toll on a driver’s physical health. These poor outcomes can lead to at-risk fleet safety issues such as crashes, or in this example, a phone call to quit.
There are options that carriers can take to invest in their driver’s wellbeing and physical health, such as:
- Providing drivers with financial success programs.
- Providing services that offer remote, immediate talk-therapy for drivers and their families.
- Offering experienced health coaches to help drivers make healthier choices while on the road.
- Schedule routes that encourage drivers to sleep at the same time each day.
- Providing means for drivers to conduct self-check-ups: checking blood pressure and weight.
- Offering workout and fitness tips during their routes. And challenging drivers to keep up with a fitness routine during breaks.
- Providing workout equipment that drivers can take anywhere to use at any location.
Each of the examples above is necessary for the trucking industry. If you are responsible for supporting the wellbeing of drivers and you want to avoid that “one call away” situation, it’s time to take care of our essential drivers.
About the Author
Norman Winegar, LCSW, CEAP, NCAC II is the Chief Clinical Officer at Espyr For over 30 years, Norman has practiced in mental health, substance misuse, and EAP settings. He has also worked in leadership positions in both public and private sector behavioral health organizations. An author of four books, he is frequently called on for presentations and as a panelist to share his expertise and experience as a mental health professional.
For over 30 years Espyr, has provided innovative mental health solutions – solutions like our AI powered chatbot, TESS – to organizations operating under some of the most challenging conditions. Espyr’s portfolio of customized counseling, coaching and consulting solutions help people and organizations achieve their full potential by providing mental health support and driving positive behavioral change. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.
Driver turnover rises…
Heavy Duty Trucking
Dec 16, 2020