A Triadic View of Truck Driver Satisfaction

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Driver turnover has persistently plagued for-hire truckload (TL) motor carriers since deregulation in 1980. Many trucking firms have tried higher wages, bonus programs, family incentives, guaranteed time-home schedules, and a variety of other plans, but the problem persists--drivers switch firms or leave the industry, a process that costs trucking firms $6,000-$15,000 per driver lost (Min and Lambert 2002; ATA 2007). Although driver turnover fluctuates, on average it has risen to 121% average for large TL firms and 102% for small firms (annual revenue of $30 million or less) (ATA 2007). Some large firms have turnover rates above 200% annually. To put this in perspective, the annualized turnover rate for all jobs in the U.S. was 23.7% in 2006 (BLS 2007).

Driver turnover adds to the cost of consumer goods, cuts profits for trucking firms, and lowers logistics productivity. In 2005, Ozark Motor Lines reported a 66% annual turnover rate for 750 drivers. They hired 495 drivers that year, estimating the turnover cost to be $2.5 million (Paz-Frankel 2006) and those costs were likely passed down the supply chain.

As the U.S. economy faltered in 2008, an influx of workers from other industries alleviated the driver shortage and slowed turnover (CSCMP 2008). The trucking industry welcomed the new hires, but experienced managers know that bringing in new drivers puts additional pressure on training and education. New, less-experienced drivers are more likely to miss customer appointments and disrupt operations. Even experienced drivers can create these problems when they are new to a company and unfamiliar with local procedures.

An important gap in the literature revolves around understanding the differences between experienced drivers and new drivers. Managers often struggle to understand drivers' perspectives and attitudes concerning job satisfaction. But no research to date has compared different perspectives between new drivers, experienced drivers, and managers. What attitudes do they share? What attitudes are different? Does management understand one group better than the other? Understanding the difference between these groups and how management perceives this situation is important for retention strategies.

The purpose of this research is to compare job satisfaction for new drivers and experienced drivers, and then to compare to them to perceptions of management. In short, we will attempt to answer the following question: For different job satisfaction attributes, are there differences between new drivers and experienced drivers, and managers' interpretation of driver satisfaction?

To reach these objectives, we report our findings of a literature review. Then, we discuss our research method and analysis, followed by our results. Finally, we discuss both theoretical and managerial conclusions, and outline the next steps to further this research stream.

TRUCK DRIVER TURNOVER RESEARCH

Research on turnover has taken three primary approaches: 1) surveys of managers that focus on characteristics of the firm and how management decisions affect turnover; 2) surveys of drivers that focus on attitudes, job satisfaction, and how they impact retention; and 3) surveys of drivers that focus on career commitment and the likelihood of staying in the industry. This research will bridge the gap among these different research streams, bringing together research results of both managers and drivers, comparing and contrasting the results.

Surveys of Managers

Southern et al. (1989) analyzed 148 responses to a survey questionnaire sent to managers of truckload (60%), less-than-truckload (21%), truckload and less-than-truckload combined (10%), and other (9%). The questionnaire asked personnel directors what methods they used to recruit drivers, what benefits they stressed in recruiting, and what experience and other qualifications they demanded of drivers. …

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