Driver turnover is a perpetual concern for carriers, with rates regularly hovering around 90%. As driver demand increases, carriers are exploring new ways to keep drivers in their trucks.
Carriers have spent years trying to answer one age old question: Why do drivers leave? The answers, however, are as nuanced as the individual drivers themselves.
Regardless of why a driver leaves, replacing them is costly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics places the average replacement cost per truck driver at somewhere between $12,000 and $20,000 — and with approximately 50% of drivers leaving their companies within 6 months, many carriers are desperate to offset the attrition costs.
Some companies have found success by taking a unique approach to the problem. Those organizations are abandoning the age-old sleeper cab – or at least reducing their dependence on it.
When carriers reduce or eliminate sleeper cabs, they typically end up putting their drivers up in motels. While this seems like an expensive solution on the surface, it could actually drive cost savings by promoting retention and reducing other costs, like wasted fuel.
For one thing, lodging helps carriers take on systematic issues that their employees frequently encounter. The New York Times highlighted the experience of Jon Knope, a trucker whose cab lost heat, forcing him to sleep in freezing temperatures for days at a time. That would never happen in a hotel.
Hotels also contribute to drivers’ sense of safety. Overnight truck parking is in short supply, and safe overnight truck parking is even more limited.
“The ATA said there are 11 truck drivers for every one parking space,” FreightWaves Editorial Director Rachel Premack wrote in a 2022 article. “In 2009, truck driver Jason Rivenburg was killed after parking overnight at an abandoned gas station.”
For some, the privacy and safety that hotels and motels provide is enough to recommend them as a viable effort toward retention — but the truth is that they have a lot more to offer to truckers’ overall wellbeing.
Free breakfasts, fitness rooms, laundry facilities and truck parking –– when truck parking overall has become so scarce –– mean that drivers are not only able to get a good night’s sleep, but they’re also able to take care of themselves in ways that can make a significant impact to their mental health and career satisfaction.
Large trucks accounted for 9% of all fatal crashes in 2021. A good night’s sleep could make all the difference.
Even from a short-term financial perspective, providing lodging for drivers makes sense. When trucks idle all night, they may use up as much cash in burned fuel as a motel room costs — and possibly even more now that fuel prices have risen exponentially.
Idling is a non-negotiable for drivers bedding down in sleepers. They usually need to let their trucks idle or run climate control systems to maintain a comfortable temperature in the cab. Otherwise, they risk being in Knope’s situation.
If a carrier goes all-in with the approach and replaces their sleeper cabs with day cabs, fuel savings will climb even higher.
“As you may imagine, sleeper cab trucks are significantly larger and heavier than day cabs,” Sarah Harris reported on FreightWaves Ratings. “Extra fuel will be required to push them through the oncoming air and keep them at speed.”
Ultimately, providing motel lodging options for long-haul cuts idle hours, drives down fuel costs and increases driver satisfaction. While it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly why drivers leave, it is clear that drivers who feel appreciated by their carriers stay longer than those who do not.
In today’s transportation environment, that kind of retention is priceless.
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