Carriers Must Compete With Other Industries To Attract And Keep Drivers

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Last year, freight executives were having near-constant conversations about retaining drivers in a hot market. Driver retention issues are not limited to tight markets, though. The market has settled in 2019, but carriers still struggle to attract and keep qualified drivers. 

Gulf Relay Chief Operating Officer Scott Auslund attributed a portion of the struggle to competition for talent from other industries like construction. 

“We tell drivers that they’re going to be on the road six days and home one,” Auslund said. “Being able to swing a hammer and be home with your family is possibly going to win in that situation.”

In order to compete with other industries, carriers need to offer drivers a way to get what they are looking for out of the job, whether that is home time, upward career movement or ownership opportunity. Auslund talked about what carriers can do to keep their drivers and make them feel valued at FreightWaves LIVE Chicago on Wednesday.

“Probably 98% of our drivers are company drivers. The vast majority of our company is on the road,” Auslund said. “Keeping in contact, keeping them engaged and making sure we communicate that we appreciate how much they do is always a challenge.”

Gulf Relay offers three different career paths intended to help drivers reach their goals. 

In addition to its traditional over-the-road fleet, the company operates a local day cab fleet that pays on an hourly or adjusted per-mile basis and gets drivers home each night for skilled drivers who value home time.

While most of the company’s drivers are employees, they do work with a small number of owner-operators. Auslund said Gulf Relay has a path to help these drivers remain autonomous while building up their business and still getting company freight.

Auslund made it clear that integrating more technology into a fleet is not a substitute for addressing driver satisfaction issues. Drivers need to be taken care of regardless of how much technology a truck is running.

“You can’t just replace a human being’s intuition and tribal knowledge with a piece of tech in the cab,” Auslund said.

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