Skip to content

As originally distributed by the Federal Motor Center Safety Administration

It has been documented that the trucking industry has experienced a shortage of qualified drivers. In the past, this has been attributed to growth in business, drivers who retire or leave the profession, and fewer young people choosing commercial driving as a career.  However, in recent years, the most significant factor contributing to the shortage of qualified drivers is the result of job-hopping.  Also known as “churning,” high rates of turnover in the industry account for as much as 80 percent of the demand for commercial operators experienced by some carriers at any given time.

In addition to the substantial costs in the areas of recruitment and training that are borne by the industry that result from high job change rates among commercial drivers, the greatest impact of job-hopping may be in the area of safety. The purpose of this FMCSA study, therefore, was to gain a better understanding of the extent to which truck crashes during long-haul, over-the-road operations can be linked to churning among commercial drivers, and to identify strategies with the greatest potential to improve driver retention and safety.

Study Design

Three activities were undertaken to meet the goals of the study.

1)       To plan and carry out analyses of data found in the Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) that could quantify the relationship between job change rates and crash experience among for-hire drivers engaged in interstate commerce.

2)       A comprehensive review of the technical literature was conducted to update the state-of-the-knowledge about why drivers change jobs, and how job-hopping might be reduced through strategies other than simply an increase in driver compensation.

3)       Case studies with major stakeholders in the industry were performed to ensure that diverse points of view and as many sources of potential solutions as possible would receive consideration in this work.

MCMIS Analysis

By comparing the Commercial Driver’s License program database with the MCMIS database, the analyses succeeded in quantifying a relationship between a driver’s annual job change rate, monitored over a period of at least two years, and his level of crash experience. It was found that a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver with two or more different jobs had a higher risk of being crash-involved than a CMV driver with less than two different jobs or a more stable employment history. This increased risk is gradual at first, then accelerates as the job change rate increases. For example, if a driver has averaged three or more jobs with different carriers each year, during an employment history that is two years or longer, the calculated odds of being crash-involved reached a level that is more than twice as high as they are for drivers with lower job change rates.

Literature Review

The literature review identified six areas where specific changes hold the potential to improve driver retention and safety: selection and hiring, training procedures, dispatch operations, working conditions for long-haul operators, safety-related rewards and incentives, and improving perceptions of the truck driving profession.

Selection and Hiring

The tremendous demand for qualified truck drivers has placed a burden on companies’ recruiters. It has been reported that there is such a demand for truck drivers that some recruiters will hire unqualified drivers, if the alternative is having trucks sit idle in their lots. The literature review also suggests that drivers attain satisfaction from a sense of achievement and recognition, and that key factors influencing how long a driver remains with an employer are steadiness of work, level of pay and benefits, company support while on the road, genuine respect from management, and amount of home time. While all these efforts are time consuming and expensive, in the long run they are more cost-effective than having to recruit and hire again.

Driver Training Procedures

Companies have provided training programs for many years. However, the practice is evolving and becoming more far-reaching as the needs of the drivers change and standard-setting organizations become more involved. The most progressive training programs offer drivers the potential for advancement to other positions in the company, whether it be in management or sales. If drivers receive training that allows them to advance in a company, they are less likely to change jobs. Although driving may remain a driver’s primary task, other jobs such as training or crash investigation could be a part of a career path.

Dispatcher Operations

Dispatchers, often called fleet managers, are responsible for finding and assigning loads to drivers and providing the logistics to coordinate loads from origin to destination for their assigned fleets. Dispatchers are measured by their performance, and the only way to achieve successful performance is for each dispatcher to work as closely as he can with his assigned team of truckers.

There is, however, a high turnover rate among dispatchers that creates a situation in which dispatchers often do not know the drivers personally. Furthermore, available research indicates that the behaviors of dispatchers are a key influence on a driver’s satisfaction and likelihood of remaining with a particular carrier.

A recent study tried to identify the variables associated with dispatchers who have lower turnover among their drivers. They used drivers’ exit interviews to identify dispatchers’ attitudes, behaviors, personal demographics, and job characteristics. Results of the study suggested that dispatcher responsiveness, that is, the degree of action taken by a dispatcher to follow through and resolve driver issues, is important for reducing driver turnover.

Carriers should be encouraged to reevaluate the number of drivers that can effectively be managed by a single dispatcher. Finally, training for dispatchers should incorporate human relations issues to better understand both the truckers’ concerns and their job demands.

Safety-Related Rewards and Incentives

Research indicates that a commitment to safety from management carries over to drivers. Companies surveyed said that since their safety incentive programs were initiated, the incidence of commercial auto insurance claims, workers’ compensation claims, and crashes have been reduced by 65 percent.

The features carriers include in their safety programs vary widely, and can include incentives in the form of monetary rewards (e.g., savings bonds), bonuses, gifts, discounts at truck stops, and recognition programs (e.g., patches, pins, plaques, etc.).

Conclusions

It may be concluded from the results of this research that a significant relationship exists between job change rate and crash involvement. There is evidence that fleet drivers, whose (verified) employment history indicates that they have averaged more than two jobs with different carriers each year for a period of two years or more deserve special scrutiny during the hiring process to determine whether there are mitigating circumstances that have placed the individual in an increased-risk category.

Because of the more specific information about risk factors that could be provided, the most useful guidance for industry in selection, hiring, and training would be expected to result from follow-on analyses including, though not necessarily limited to, temporal sequencing of critical events, cargo type, and vehicle type and/or gross vehicle weight rating.


This information is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice.  Should you have any questions or would like to discuss your risk exposure with your company’s commercial auto insurance, please contact the insurance pros at ARCW Insurance.  We are here to help.