The retention of drivers has been revealed as the biggest challenge faced by transport firms, with businesses experiencing an average driver turnover of 20% in the last year, according to the Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of UK SME owners and senior management from a range of sectors.
The study also revealed that transport companies found it difficult to:
- Retain drivers following training (31%)
- Hire suitably qualified individuals to fill key roles (25%)
- Develop managers and drivers with high potential (24%)
- Attract and retain young drivers (20%)
Further analysis of the findings shows that over a third (36%) of firms in the transport sector admitted that a better salary and improved benefits were the main reason for their drivers moving on, with a further 15% saying driver churn was due to a desire for a better work life balance.
A third of leavers (33%) choose to join a larger organisation in the transport sector, almost a quarter (23%) move to another SME in the transport sector and one in five (19%) go to another small or medium sized organisation but in a different sector.
With the cost of replacing a single member of staff in an SME now more than £25,000, many transport firms say they have put a number of measures in place to prevent their best drivers from leaving. A third (33%) of companies in the sector offer drivers a competitive benefits package which incorporate bonuses, healthcare and annual pay raises, and over a quarter create personal development plans and agree a definitive career plan for their driver (28% and 27% respectively).
Commenting on the figures, John Fawcett, managing director of the Transport Division at Close Brothers Asset Finance said: “It’s clear from both the research and speaking to our customers that transport firms are facing a number of challenges that are impacting on their ability to attract and retain drivers.
“For instance, a significant barrier to entry is the cost of insuring young drivers – firms can’t afford to hire under 25’s, leading them to seek opportunities elsewhere. In turn, this means the cost of replacing drivers keeps increasing because of the paucity of skilled and experienced drivers.
“We know that profit margins are constantly being challenged on all fronts, from unstable fuel prices to new environmental regulations
“Then there’s also the issue of diversity. If you narrow down to, for instance, gender, there are very few female drivers because everything is geared towards male drivers, from facilities at truck stops to the work / life balance that being a driver offers.
“One of the main reasons for drivers moving jobs in the past 12 months was because of a better salary and benefits offered elsewhere. However, while remuneration is obviously important, recent studies show that the majority of drivers are happiest in a workplace that meets their needs and considers their well-being in terms of flexible working, company culture, corporate reputation and career progression. And it’s no different in the transport sector.
“On a positive note, if an organisation cannot compete on financial terms, it is good to know that there are other – equally vital – factors that can attract and keep drivers.
“And it seems from our figures that transport firms, in comparison to other sectors, are already ahead of the curve in realising that and doing something about it.”