Applying Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” to Driver Retention

By: Ray Haight
Creator, Driver Retention Masterclass

Download BrochureSome time ago, I was at a truck dealership speaking to a driver who was new to the industry and determined to become an owner operator. He was eyeballing a conventional that was tricked out. Beside it was parked a conservative aerodyne truck with much less bling.

As I watched him, I felt compelled to impart my years of wisdom. I threw a lot of things at this new driver to help shed light on his decision. We discussed MPGs, ease of maintenance, capital expenditure, cash flow, and payload. I suggested the net profit of the more aerodynamic vehicle would pocket the same net dollars in four years that it would take him to earn in five years in the bling mobile.

He looked at me and said, “Yeah, but I have a young son. I’d like to enter into some of the show and shine events with him this summer.”

What could I say?

I wished him well as an owner operator. He knew what he wanted, despite it being way more than he needed.

As I recalled our conversation, I pondered how it applied to Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” and driver retention in the trucking industry.

If you’re not familiar with the Maslow’s pyramid of needs, it has five tiers:

1. Food and Shelter

2. Safety and Security

3. Belonging

4. Esteem

5. Self-actualization.

Applying the Hierarchy of Needs to Driver Retention

In the case of the new truck driver at the dealership, his decision to purchase a truck with all the bling fell into belonging and esteem.  He had already met the first two levels of the pyramid and was able to meet additional needs by purchasing a truck with all the bells and whistles.

Not every truck driver, however, is so lucky.  Understanding the needs of your drivers and being able to meet them is a key to improving driver retention at your company.  As I work with companies with high driver turnover, I typically see it is because they haven’t failed to help their drivers meet the “tier one and two” or “food, shelter, and safety” needs of their drivers.

Do Your Drivers Feel Safe at Your Company?

At the base of the pyramid, your drivers need to know their food and shelter are taken care of.  This means their career must provide a steady income. With that steady income, a driver buys food and shelter for his family. Companies who cannot supply regular work or miles for their drivers will see a higher turnover as drivers seek out stability.

Next, your drivers need to know they are safe on the road. They must be able to trust their equipment and know they have a safe work environment.  You can help provide this by ensuring your trucks are well maintained, by creating a safety culture, and by ensuring the lanes, customers, an fuel spots your drivers interact with are all safe interactions.  If you drivers do not feel safe, they will leave your company.

If you’re a company who does not yet have the first two driver’s needs nailed down, you are likely a company with very high turnover.

Do Your Drivers Feel Like Part of Your Company?

While many companies do meet the first two needs of their drivers, they still see high driver turnover.  I believe it is because they do not make folks feel like they belong to a community.  Companies who succeed at this level communicate with their drivers on a regular basis through newsletters and social media.  They involve their drivers’ families and hold social functions where the drivers and staff come and participate together.

If you’re doing these things, your driver turnover is probably manageable.  You’re probably okay with your turnover numbers because they are at or around published industry averages.

Do Your Drivers Feel Valued at Your Company?

Companies who have low driver turnover numbers do so because they have mastered the fourth and fifth levels of Maslow’s pyramid.  They value their people and recognize them on a regular basis.  They assist their folks in becoming more in their careers, in their lives, and in their relationships. Your true strategic advantage in the marketplace is your people.

So what are your next steps?

Remember, at a minimum drivers need a steady income and safety.  But if you really want to win at driver retention, you also have to recognize that drivers need to belong.  They need to feel valued, and they need to know you care about helping them develop as professionals. Self-actualization is where the game is won by best in class companies.

If you’re struggling to implement these things at your company, I have good news.  I was in your shoes once, too.  The company I was leading had 120% driver turnover, and in two years, using the principles outlined here, we were able to reduce our turnover to 20 percent.  I have put together the step-by-step process to help you do the same thing.
Checkout the Driver Retention Masterclass to learn more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ray Haight | Driver Retention ProgramRay Haight is the creator of the Driver Retention Masterclass.  He has spent his entire life in the trucking industry.  He inherited the small trucking company his dad built. He logged over one million accident free miles as an owner-operator.  Over the course of 16 years, he grew the company to a fleet of 50 trucks, primarily focused on refrigerated freight.  He then found himself with a unique opportunity to merge with another company.  After the merger, he became the President and COO of a fleet of 300.  And like many trucking companies across the nation, the fleet faced a growing epidemic … driver turnove

As the President and COO of that company, he recognized that contrary to popular beliefs in the industry, driver turnover is not systemic to the occupation of driving a truck.  He believed it was the result of poor company wide human relation policies and until those were fixed, all of the Band-Aid type solutions the company was implementing weren’t going to alleviate the driver turnover problem … which for his company was sitting at 120%.

Sitting in a boardroom, surrounded by a team of leaders, he asked one question, “What’s it going to take to reduce our driver turnover by 50% in the next 12 months?”  That question kicked off a two year project where the leaders of the organization did deep dive self-examinations of their departments. This lead to creating and implementing real strategies that made drivers not only want to come and work for them, but also made those drivers want to stay long term.   Within 2 years, they’d reduced their driver turnover to 20%.

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