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articles image_0046_64.jpg“Burnout” and Other Factors Cause Higher Turnover in the Transportation Sector

August 6, 2019

The trucking industry has long been romanticized in media and movies. Scenes of the open road and the freedom long-haul truckers experience in these fantasies is far different from the reality of the transportation industry. Long hours, crushing boredom, and numerous safety risks are some of the many reasons why there is high turnover plaguing the industry. Add in myriad complex regulatory factors and the picture becomes even clearer why the transportation industry is facing many challenges. U.S. Risk Underwriters, a leading provider of specialized insurance programs for the transportation industry, knows that “burnout” is a leading factor in employee turnover. In the following article, we will explore several ways that transportation companies can slash turnover by reducing driver burnout, helping to improve efficiency and to maintain profitability.

Increasing Demand, Dwindling Driver Numbers

According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), there are approximately 3.1 million truck drivers in the United States. This number sounds like a lot of drivers until one sees the statistics associated with driver shortages.

In 2018, the ATA reported that the trucking industry was short over 50,000 drivers. That driver shortage is expected to grow dramatically in the coming years; by 2025, the number is estimated to be 174,000 drivers short. 

In addition, according to the 2018 Transportation Spotlight Report:

  • 69% of trucking executives responding to a survey reported that recruiting drivers is the biggest challenge they face.
  • 54% of survey respondents indicated that retention of qualified drivers is a serious issue in the transportation industry.

At the same time, freight delivery demand is growing, with the ATA estimating that 900,000 new drivers will be needed within the next decade. How can a thriving industry have increasing demands and dwindling driver numbers – or driver recruitment numbers that are far outpaced by new delivery demands? The answer lies in the factors contributing to burnout.

What is Driver Burnout, and How is it Affecting the Transportation Industry?

Burnout is a combination of physiological and mental factors that manifests in different ways in different individuals. This condition goes far beyond sheer exhaustion; it often includes indifference and cynicism about one’s job, a loss of confidence in one’s abilities, and a bleak outlook on life itself. It can be extremely difficult to recover from burnout, and many who find themselves struggling often quit their jobs to find any sort of relief.

In the transportation industry, driver burnout accounts for staggering losses, both in personnel turnover as well as in lost efficiency. Trucking companies attempt to stem burnout by looking for the signs of an impending problem in their drivers, then implementing strategies to provide recovery. This can mean giving truckers more time and resources to complete tasks, providing mental health counseling and training, and offering stress-reduction processes to ease the strain of a difficult and demanding job. If caught early, many truck drivers are able to reverse the effects of impending burnout, allowing them to continue working at minimum and gaining a new lease on their lives in ideal outcomes. 

Employee engagement and recognition programs can also help to slash high turnover rates, ultimately saving trucking companies money by reducing the need for expensive driver recruitment initiatives. Employee engagement seeks to gather the input of drivers and to reward them for their work – a driver who feels as if he or she is part of a team that values their contributions is less likely to leave employment and is at a lesser risk of experiencing burnout. Such programs can include components such as:

  • Offering competitive salaries and perks to attract top talent and to retain existing talent.
  • Recognizing contributions through rewards systems such as bonuses.
  • Engaging with drivers by involving them in corporate decision-making processes; their insights into the industry can be extremely valuable, and drivers may have many great contributions to improve efficiency, safety, and job satisfaction.

U.S. Risk Underwriters and other specialty insurance program providers know that the transportation industry is filled with risks and challenges. Preventing burnout in driver employees is the key to maintaining on-the-job efficiency. Better yet, it can improve safety on the road. By implementing strategies to help drivers remain engaged, companies can increase productivity, boost profits, and reduce employee absenteeism. ◼


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