An article in Automotive Fleet noted how the labor shortage across all industries creates a “double whammy” for fleets:

The labor shortage in transportation…is part of an even broader post-pandemic trend encompassing other industries, particularly in service and hospitality. Double whammy: Fleets are now having to compete with other job types that are pulling workers out of the driver pool.

Winter combines the worst of every driving and work situation: bad visibility, long hours, high expectations, slick conditions, larger loads and hordes of amateur drivers who don’t know how to handle bad weather. One long-time manager told us: “I spend most of November and December muttering to myself, ‘how are we going to survive this?'” Driver burnout is real, but it’s NOT inevitable. You can prioritize driver retention, even during the toughest season.

Download Our Free Winter Driving Safety Guide! 

What Fuels Fleet Driver Burnout?

Research shows you’re more likely to lose drivers who have been around for six months or more (not new hires) this time of year. Let’s dig into how and why that happens.

According to research published in FleetOwner, there are three factors that cause fleet driver burnout:

  • Physical and mental exhaustion
  • Cynicism about the job
  • Loss of confidence in abilities, self-doubt

During winter, drivers spend a lot of time in the mental “red zone”:

  • Longer hours, grueling deadlines and unpredictable conditions lead to mental exhaustion
  • Fatigued drivers make mistakes that create a cascade of disappointment and self-doubt
  • After an incident, the driver may feel frustrated with the dispatcher, the company and/or themselves, leading to to cynicism and burnout

More importantly, the article notes that “burnout…doesn’t happen overnight. It’s more effective and easier to deal with the causes of burnout before they occur.”

Why Fleet Safety Training Is Critical

Think about the last time you tried to use a new product that didn’t come with directions or had to fix something without the proper tools. It’s frustrating, right? Asking a driver to deal with unexpected problems on the road without guidance or instructions feels the same way.

Training gives drivers the tools they need to handle stressful situations and steers them away from incidents and burnout. For example: if one of your drivers is out on the road when weather conditions turn treacherous, should they keep going? Do they know how to install tire chains quickly and safely?

Or, let’s say one of your drivers feels so mentally and physically exhausted they can barely keep their eyes open. What should they do?

Training reassures drivers it’s okay to make safe choices. This reduces uncertainty and frustration for the driver and can help your fleet avoid expensive incidents.

You may be thinking, “sounds great, but we don’t have time for training.” We get it. Balancing productivity and safety is tricky, especially this time of year. But before you rule out training for being too expensive or time-consuming, take a moment to calculate:

  • The time and expense of hiring replacement drivers
  • How long it will take for new drivers to reach the productivity level of experienced drivers
  • The cost savings of retaining 10-30% more drivers every year

In case you don’t have this number handy, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates the average cost to recruit and hire a new employee is $4,129, and Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ) estimates the cost to hire and onboard a new truck driver is $10,000.

Take The First Step Towards Creating a Successful Driver Retention Program

You can’t cancel the holiday madness, bad traffic or rotten weather. What you can do is prepare drivers to deal with winter stress. When drivers know what to expect and how to handle unexpected delays, it keeps them out of the mental red zone where they’re most likely to quit.

Ready to elevate retention across your fleet this winter? Download our comprehensive Winter Driving Safety Guide to jumpstart your winter safety program and confirm your existing strategies will properly equip and prepare your team.

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