Driver retention is a headache the trucking industry just can't seem to shake.Now, two truckload carriers are testing an unusual remedy: giving drivers a say in their pay and benefits.
When they prepared to merge their operations this fall, Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI) and Con-way Truckload saw an opportunity to not only gain drivers' support for the merger but also to boost their retention rate. The carriers had differing policies on pay, scheduling, time off, and other benefits. But instead of having executives choose what should stay and what should go, they asked the drivers to decide.
At meetings with some 750 drivers nationwide, managers outlined the differences between the packages. "We explained how much we had available to spend and asked them 'How do you want to see it distributed?'" says Director of Safety and Driver Retention Tom Hatfield.
The responses were illuminating. "They were not interested solely in money. They showed a lot of concern about the rest of the fleet," Hatfield says. "It was not all about me and what I want."
So what did drivers care about most? Bigger, more comfortable trucks topped the list. Flexibility was another priority: 85 percent voted for CFI's flexible home-time policy over Con-way's more generous allowance. "They earn a little less time off for the number of days out on the road," Hatfield notes, "but they have many more choices on how to use that time, which was extremely important to them."
The new package, which CFI President Herb Schmidt describes as "designed from behind the wheel, not from behind the desk," also includes a switch from twicemonthly to weekly pay, faster raises for student drivers, full compensation for drivers called to military service, taxadvantaged health savings accounts, detention pay for stops longer than three hours, and higher premiums for hazmat loads, stop-offs, and travel into Canada.