Drivers are more than just a body behind a steering wheel. Our drivers are our interaction with our customers; they are our frontline sales people; and they are the strength of our company. A well-trained and educated corps of drivers is critical to a company as well as the industry. In short, the success of Saia’s relationships with its shippers relies upon its drivers.
Where have all the drivers gone?
In order to bring back drivers and retain them, it’s important to understand why their numbers are dropping in the first place. For starters, there are major perception issues that surround driving jobs, particularly with people new to the profession. The idea that drivers lack time at home is certainly a factor, but in reality our line drivers typically have two days a week off and our city drivers are home every day or night. The perception of salary is skewed as well. Most do not expect to hear that these positions can pay in the area of $70-$85,000 a year. On top of that, the benefits offered by a company such as Saia can be generous.
While the industry can present excellent wages, there is no one-size-fits-all rate for national markets. Saia is proud to offer a comprehensive benefits package, which provides employees with compensation that is calculated by benchmarking our pay and more against other transportation companies as well as the area in which employees work. Larger metropolitan areas present a plethora of job opportunities within close proximity to potential drivers so it’s important to offer competitive wages and benefits. Ignoring the need for a market-based pay scale only leads to an increasingly smaller candidate pool.
So while the difficulties of filling these driver positions is numerous and exacerbated by the many industry misperceptions, Saia is then faced with the additional challenge of reaching candidates and keeping them onboard as drivers.
Building the Saia Workforce
Saia has made great efforts to recruit drivers across several diverse groups such as women, military veterans, and those new to the workforce in order to grow the potential driver set. Saia’s efforts are marked by its participation at numerous career fairs and trucking conferences, its strong social media presence as well as its strategy across major job boards.
Once a relationship with a new Saia employee has begun, great lengths are gone to, to make our drivers feel valued. Our commitment to the community, our employees’ personal growth and their well-being is proven by just an 11% turnover margin amongst Saia employees.
While Saia offers strong sign-on bonuses and competitive wages and benefits, it is initiatives like our Dock-to-Driver Program where new hires without industry experience are mentored, that helps set Saia apart. Through these programs Saia can educate, grow and more easily retain its own workforce. New hires with minimal or no driving experience can begin in our terminals before moving through the ranks of commercial driver, pickup and delivery driver, and linehaul driver. This offers our shippers the added benefit of well-trained, knowledgeable and experienced drivers.
If Saia, as well as other companies throughout the industry, can find ways to retain their new drivers for one or two years, there’s a better chance of that employee turning their truck driving job into a career. However, the challenge of supporting these careers then falls to the companies themselves. Supporting areas such as innovation and safety become essential to shaping the views that both employees and customers have of a company.
Upgrading safety features such as lane deviation alerts, enhancing driver comfort through better cruise control technology, or the inclusion of Bose Easy Ride vibration cancelling seats are the type of improvements drivers want to see. Staying ahead in areas of innovation and providing favorable conditions for drivers is also necessary to retaining seasoned drivers.
The current driver shortage the industry faces is certainly a challenge, but it’s one that Saia has met head-on and will continue to tackle. Through stronger recruiting practices and exceptional training programs, Saia will continue to deliver quality service from our professional drivers.
To learn more about Saia’s Dock-to-Driver Program, be sure to read our previous blog, An Inside Look at New Driver Training, on Saia’s InfoIntersection. Driver position openings, as well as all other current job openings at Saia, can be found at https://www.saiasecure.com/employment/default.aspx.