Whether one tackles the driver shortage by trying to get a handle on who is coming and going out of the industry or by seeking to decrease turnover—taming “churn”—or perhaps by following the wise course of doing both, fleet owners are learning that finding and keeping drivers really comes down to time and money. In other words, and this is surely no secret, long-haul drivers want more—and more regular—home time and, yes, they want to be paid better than they are for dealing with a work life spent out on the road.

“Generally, these factors are not so pervasive in the private fleet community,” remarks NPTC’s Petty. “With shorter lengths of haul generally and better pay, private fleets do a better job of retaining drivers than for-hire carriers. This edge will likely be retained.”

Petty reports that per NPTC’s latest Benchmarking Survey (August 2012), member carriers continue to report a retention and turnover performance far better than that of for-hire carriers.

“NPTC members report turnover of 10.9%, which is up ever so slightly from the 10.3% turnover recorded [in 2011],” he relates. “That bump-up reflects the increased number of drivers opting for retirement.

“In addition to recruiting, driver retention is likely to be an important battleground in coming years,” Petty adds.

“As the driver shortage continues to plague trucking, fleet managers are willing to look beyond traditional methods to hire and retain good drivers,” observes Chris Orban, director of operations for FleetRisk Advisors.

According to Orban, by using computerized recruiting/ retaining systems driven by predictive analytics, fleet managers can “gain new insight into their drivers’ satisfaction and, in some cases, can even prevent a talented driver from walking away.”

He says recent customer experience indicates an 81% reduction in turnover with the use of FleetRisk’s driver-retention model. “By analyzing a fleet’s historical data, FleetRisk identifies drivers who are most likely to leave voluntarily in the next 28 days by pinpointing indicative behavioral patterns. Then the fleet can offer the appropriate remediation to retain them.”

Indeed, NPTC’s Petty contends that retention doesn’t just happen. “The average retention rate reported by NPTC members is 11.58 years,” he advises, noting that that impressive number results from “building a culture of retention” at fleets.

One of the reasons why retention remains so positive among private fleets is that they continue to be selective about driver age and experience when hiring, he points out. New hires must be 23 years of age and have at least 2.5 years of driving experience.

Once hired by the carrier, Petty says pay rates (as reflected in W-2 annual wages) that continue to “lead the industry” help keep drivers onboard.

Pay, of course, is only part of a compensation package. Paid benefits, such as family medical and 401(k) retirements plans, that carriers offer are also under closer scrutiny by truckers than ever before.

In terms of offering comprehensive compensation/benefit packages, private fleets tend to lead the pack, especially when they are an arm of a large commercial concern. Petty points out that private fleets “continue to back their compensation programs with relatively generous benefit packages.”

He says some 16% of the respondents in the recent benchmarking reported offering other benefits that included discounts on corporate merchandise, profit sharing, funeral leave, vision care, and tuition reimbursement.

At least 70% of the benchmarked private fleets offer these benefits: medical and dental insurance, short-term and long-term disability insurance, paid vacations and holidays, family-leave time, 401(k) programs, and life insurance.

About 55% of the respondents also provide sick time and nearly 40% a pension plan. And some 16% reported offering other benefits, such as discounts on corporate merchandise, profit-sharing, a funeral-leave policy, vision care and tuition reimbursement.

What’s more, 67% of the respondents now have a driver-wellness program, up from the 57% that had one over the last two years.

Key components of these wellness efforts include smoking- cessation, weight-management, nutritional-counseling, exercise, and sleep-apnea programs. Some fleets reported also offering such health-related benefits as gym memberships, diabetes testing, mental-health counseling, and blood-chemistry testing for drivers.