Which drivers will go?

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Updated Jan 11, 2013

New research suggests that truck drivers between 25 and 35 years old, and especially those who have never married, will not stay at one company for long. And if they’ve had a disagreement with a dispatcher recently, their departure date will be even sooner.

Now that you have been warned, here’s the explanation.

Stay Metrics, a research-based company that manages rewards and retention programs for carriers, recently released some initial findings from satisfaction surveys it has conducted among hundreds of drivers since July 2012.

Drivers between the ages of 25 and 35 only made up 10 percent of those who participated in the survey. But almost half of the drivers who quit — 40 percent — came from this age group.

The driver satisfaction survey was developed with the advice of Dr. Ying Cheng, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame. Stay Metrics is located in a research park adjacent to the university campus.

The survey asks drivers more than 80 questions on topics ranging from long-term career goals to satisfaction with managers and dispatchers.

In analyzing the survey results, Dr. Cheng was able to contrast characteristics of drivers who quit against those of drivers who didn’t.

That analysis shows results consistent with the age finding. It also showed that marital status is another indicator. Drivers who had never married were twice as likely to leave. “Since the younger group is predominately single, this also is likely to be related to age,” Dr. Cheng said.

Drivers also were asked to predict where they would see themselves in five years.

“There are many answer choices, including stay in trucking but work for another carrier; go back to school; start a business; retire,” Dr. Cheng explained. Among answers from the turnover group, returning to school, changing careers, and starting a business show up more frequently than in responses given by the general population of drivers. Those answers are consistent with the age findings.

The survey results also yield important clues about why drivers leave and suggest ways carriers may target and retain at-risk drivers.

Drivers are asked if they intend to stay with their carrier for another year.

“The group that quit are twice as likely to say they intend to leave,” Dr. Cheng said. “However, when asked if they had thought about quitting in the past six months, the ‘yes’ rate isn’t nearly as high,” Dr. Cheng added. “That suggests the decision to leave may be driven by an event.”

Asked what would lure them to another carrier, drivers gave expected answers including higher pay, better benefits and more vacation time.

“In the turnover group, drivers cited more respect, better career advancement opportunities and more time at home,” Dr. Cheng said. “Advancement and career opportunities didn’t turn up at all in the general population, but did turn up in answers from those who quit.”

“We are learning a lot relating to this age group,” she said. “They are single. They desire more time at home. They are interested in career advancement.”

Taking 10 measures of job satisfaction, drivers in the turnover group scored lower in all 10. “They find the job to be less interesting, less challenging, with more physical and psychological stress, and report more strained relationships with dispatchers,” Dr. Cheng said.

“We found quite a lot of dissatisfaction with dispatchers,” she continued.

Dr. Cheng suggests that this measure of driver-dispatcher relations is one of the key predictors of drivers at risk of leaving the industry.

“If I were an employer or manager of a carrier, I would follow responses to these questions and identify those drivers who are having strained relationships with their dispatchers,” she said. “They may find that they have a dispatcher problem, not a driver problem, especially given that the decision to quit may be event driven.”

Eventually, Stay Metrics expects the survey to produce a scale that can be used to predict each driver’s level of risk. That tool will evolve over time as more carriers and drivers participate.