Turnover Up . . . Safety Down?

In-n-outTruckload Carriers’ Turnover is Up


The annualized turnover rate for large truckload fleets rose two percentage points in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 102%, the second straight quarter it was at least 100% – the first such streak since 2012.  — ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello, April 25, 2016 Press Release.

Insurance companies are interested in an organization’s employee turnover for a number of reasons. High turnover can indicate employee dissatisfaction — never a good thing. High employee turnover can indicate lower levels of productivity and profitability. Mostly, high employee turnover can indicate potential safety issues and, therefore, more risk. Turnover is a measure of safety.

In my 40 year safety career, I’ve found that companies with the lowest turnover rates in their type of industry usually also have low accident rates and excellent safety cultures.  While there are certainly more precise and scientific measures of safety culture,  I believe that turnover rates provide the best quick, easy, and cheap “snapshot” of an organizations’ culture. — Dave Weber, a former Safety and Environmental Manager and founder of Safety Awakenings

What is Turnover?

Turnover (also known as the attrition rate or churn) is sometimes measured as . . .

the annualized number of drivers per 100, who voluntarily or involuntarily leave (terminate) employment with the employer.

Turnover is easy to calculate. If you had 100 drivers last year and 11 left their jobs or were terminated, your turnover rate was 11 percent. This was the 2015 turnover rate at less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers. The 2015 truckload (TL) turnover rate was about 93 percent, but jumped in the last two quarters to 100 percent.

Top Tip: The turnover rate should be calculated on a quarterly basis for top management review.

Employee departures will occur from time to time as part of the employment process. But when turnover percentage increases, management needs to look to identify applicable improvement opportunities to reverse the trend.

Turnover is Expensive

Direct costs of replacement hiring include:

• Recruiting (sourcing)
• Interviewing
• Hiring expenses

On-boarding costs include:

• Orientation/training of the new employee
• Acculturation to the culture and organizational expectations

Hiring costs are conservatively estimated to be 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year) or around $8,000. Part of that cost is the opportunity cost of lost revenues from having an idle vehicle.

Studies show that an organization’s efforts put into orientation/training and acculturation are sound investments that can result in greater employee longevity and higher productivity.

First Year Employee Turnover

Another turnover metric to look at is first year employee turnover.

To calculate first year employee turnover . . .

Divide the total number of employees who leave in less than one year by the total number of employees who leave in the same period (multiply by 100).

For example, if 4 of the 11 employees who left employment were first year employees, the first year employee turnover would be 4 / 11 = .3636 *100 or about 36.36 percent. Compare this number to the industry standard for turnover, or to organizations in your local area. Your state industry association may track these numbers to help you compare your findings.

Knowing your first year employee turnover rate is another tool that can help indicate to management if a review of your hiring or on-boarding process is necessary or even overdue..

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Accidentally— On Purpose: The Angry Truck Driver


Angry truck driver

This truck driver laid on the horn before getting dangerously close to the vehicle ahead and locking up his brakes — all caught on video camera.

Danny Leonardo Gonzalez, 50, says the reason he ran a dozen vehicles, including two loaded school buses, off of the northbound lanes of I-65, near exit 112 at 6:30 AM Friday morning (February 12, 2016), was because he snapped.

Gonzalez hit one truck, then repeatedly rammed a Cadillac, pushing it out of the way. After leaving I-65 at exit 121, “he allegedly ran over street signs and a stop sign, before his truck became stuck in a field,” according to WDRB. He was ordered out of the truck at gunpoint and placed under arrest.

“He looked like ‘this is my road and I’m taking it,’” said one of the bus drivers who swerved out of his way.

Gonzalez  was “charged with wanton endangerment, criminal mischief and leaving the scene of an accident.” A puppy was found in the truck, resulting in an additional investigation of animal cruelty.

Who is the Angry Truck Driver?

The angry or “high-anger” truck driver is part of American lore. There are angry truck driver jokes, even angry truck driver video games.

Often known as road rage, it’s a problem that seems to be increasing year to year and is responsible for hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. Road rage is:

When a driver “commits moving traffic offenses so as to endanger other persons or property; an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of one motor vehicle on the operator or passengers of another motor vehicle”. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


One study by psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher, PhD, found high-anger drivers:

  • Engage in hostile, aggressive thinking. High-anger drivers report more judgmental and disbelieving thoughts about other drivers than low-anger drivers do. For example, they’re more likely to insult other drivers or state disbelief about the way others drive. They also have more vengeful and retaliatory thoughts about other drivers, sometimes plotting ways to physically harm them.
  • Take more risks on the road. High-anger drivers in his studies report more risky behavior in the prior three months than low-anger drivers do. They more often speed–usually 10 to 20 miles per hour over the speed limit–rapidly switch lanes, tailgate and enter an intersection when a light turns red.
  • Get angry faster and behave more aggressively. High-anger drivers most commonly reported the following aggressive behaviors: swearing or name-calling, driving while angry, yelling at the driver or honking in anger. They were angry slightly more than two times a day and averaged just over two aggressive behaviors per day, whereas low-anger drivers were angry slightly less than once per day and averaged less than one aggressive behavior per day. This pattern held for low- and high-anger drivers who drove equally as often and an equivalent number of miles.
  • Have more accidents. In driving simulations, high-anger drivers have twice as many car accidents–either from a collision with another vehicle or off-road crash. They also report more near-accidents and receive more speeding tickets. However, the two groups are equal in the number of accidents they have that involve major injuries; Deffenbacher speculated that’s because these types of crashes are a rare occurrence anyway.
  • Experience more trait anger, anxiety and impulsiveness. High-anger drivers are more likely to get in a car angry, which may stem from work or home stress. They generally tend to express anger in more outward and less controlled ways as well as react impulsively.

Real Life Examples Abound

As anyone with a cell-phone can make a video, there are many behavioral examples of angry truck drivers on social media platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. They are simply out of control and have no control of their own behavior or of how they operate their vehicle.

But even more troubling is the fact that even when they have not reached their flash-point or trigger spot, high-anger drivers drive aggressively, speed excessively, drive impulsively, have more collisions and rack up more tickets. They may confront and even try to punish other drivers by insults or aggressive driving.

How to Help the High-Anger Truck Driver

Use any available vehicle telematics to monitor for sudden braking or erratic driving.

Investigate any collision, no matter how small.

Pay attention to outside reports of aggressive driving, verbal confrontations with other drivers, or a string of tickets or collisions.

Have crystal-clear policies and standards in place covering driver expectations. (This is a big problem area in my opinion).

Do thorough background investigations and ask former employers if they would ever hire the driver again.

*Indoctrinate drivers to:

  • Allow more travel time to get to your destination. It reduces stress dramatically.
  • Come to a full stop at red lights and stop signs.
  • Never run yellow lights.
  • Let other drivers merge with you.
  • Obey posted speed limits.
  • Don’t ever follow other drivers too closely.
  • Resist the temptation to teach someone “a lesson.”
  • Concentrate on driving, not on any electronic devices, the radio, passengers, eating, or other distractions.
  • Remember that you can’t control traffic, but you can control yourself, your driving, and your emotions.

*FHWA Smooth Operator Tipsheet

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Driver Verification Fees

Running man

Is it legal to charge a fee for verification of a prior drivers employment/accident/drug history? I have heard yes and I have heard no.

Charging a de minimis fee for driver verification is a long established industry practice. Some carriers charge and some do not.

De Minimis, by the way is an abbreviated form of the Latin Maxim — de minimis non curat lex — or “the law cares not for small things.”

Guidance from the DOT says:

§40.25                                                                                 11/03


May the previous employer delay sending an employee’s drug and alcohol testing information to the gaining employer pending payment for the cost of the information?


• No. Part 40 specifically requires that previous employers immediately provide the gaining employer with the appropriate drug and alcohol testing information.

• No one (i.e., previous employer, service agent [to include C/TPA], employer information / data broker) may withhold this information from the requesting employer pending payment for it.

If rehiring a driver who failed a drug test . . . ?

If rehiring a driver who failed drug test in 2011, then completed his SAP program and aftercare (I have two letters from the SAP confirming this), other than the release for prior testing history, need I obtain anything else? Or have to do anything going forward? I have not ever rehired anyone who has went through a SAP program.

A CDL driver is disqualified to drive any commercial motor vehicle (over 10,001 pounds GVWR or requiring a CDL to drive), or preform any safety-sensitive functions (loading, inspecting, etc.), until he or she re-qualifies by attending a program set up by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).

The SAP has to require at least six follow-up tests.
The driver must also be in a random testing program.
Random tests do not count as follow-up-tests.
An employer cannot exceed the SAP’s recommendations.

The regulations say in § 40.297:

Does anyone have the authority to change a SAP’s initial evaluation?

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no one (e.g., an employer, employee, a managed-care provider, any service agent) may change in any way the SAP’s evaluation or recommendations for assistance. For example, a third party is not permitted to make more or less stringent a SAP’s recommendation by changing the SAP’s evaluation or seeking another SAP’s evaluation.

Bottom Line: Follow the SAP’s return-to-duty report exactly. One employer had a driver who was suppose to do a follow-up test within the first 30-days but the driver missed the test by two days because of a delay on the trip. The employer was later fined by FMCSA.

Federal DOT Auditors look at any positive tests or refusal to undergo drug or alcohol testing for the previous five years when they conduct any investigation, so make sure you always follow the SAP’s requirements and federal regulations for any positive tests or refusal to test, as the DOT will carefully examine these records.

What if rehiring the driver from another company?

The testing schedule set by the SAP will carry over with the employee. Even if he or she were to go work with another company, the SAP’s requirements follow the driver.

A driver who has failed a drug or alcohol test needs an SAP evaluation and release. Before performing any safety-sensitive functions, the driver must undergo a return-to-duty drug test, and then at least six more follow-up tests, as specified in the SAP’s evaluation.