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Penske Logistics Leader Column: Key to Truck Driver Retention is Shifting a Job into a Career

The lifeblood of a strong dedicated contract carriage operation for a third-party logistics company lies in the quality of its truck drivers. At Penske Logistics, our 10,500-plus professional truck drivers not only pick up and deliver goods and services that are consumed daily by the general public, but he or she also performs vital customer service roles when interacting with our customers.

The driver shortage was a major challenge in our industry prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, fewer new drivers are coming into the industry. However, COVID has exacerbated the issue. The explosive growth in e-commerce, along with a myriad of other supply chain disruptions, has increased the demand for drivers across the industry.

Another challenge is that due to COVID, drivers are less likely to change jobs, making it harder to recruit from other companies. The upside: Because Penske Logistics drivers are more hesitant to leave, coupled with our associate engagement efforts, we have seen a 15% improvement in our turnover statistics.

There are a number of reasons why we are an employer of choice for professional truck drivers.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. I am a big believer in this concept. Having the proper infrastructure in place to recruit a driver will lead to better retention of that associate. Here at Penske, we hope that driving for us is not just a job, but the start or continuation of a career.

In 2019 we launched a centralized driver hiring center (DHC) at our corporate headquarters in Reading, Pennsylvania. The DHC handles all administrative functions in the hiring process: Advertising, interviews, background checks, drug screens, etc. The only responsibility our field leaders have in hiring is to execute the final road test.

The DHC has freed up our field leaders to focus their energies on our customers, as well as associate engagement. As a result of the center, we have also improved the onboarding experience and shortened our cycle time to hire by 15 days.

Additionally, we introduced a new driver welcome packet. This packet is full of information that not only prepares a new driver for his or her first day on the job, but it provides a myriad of information about our driver referral award program, benefit plans, time off and other helpful information.

Creating the right environment for success. As our founder Roger Penske might tell you, the dedication to excellence is filled with hard work each and every day. It's not just one thing, it is many things. Here are a few examples:

  • We implemented a comprehensive associate engagement plan across all our locations, focusing on communications, as well as reward and recognition.
  • We launched a military apprentice program to hire veterans that are transitioning out of the military.
  • We are continuously doing wage surveys to ensure that our market compensation and benefits packages remain competitive.
  • The company has a dedicated data science team. This team developed a predictive analytics model that provides our field leaders with visibility to determine which drivers are most likely to leave. Our leaders then engage those drivers, work towards understanding their concerns, and oftentimes make changes to mitigate the turnover. We recently concluded a successful pilot and are in the process of launching this model across all our DCC operations.
  • The majority of our drivers are home each day. We feature plenty of dedicated routes, including local, regional, and over-the-road opportunities. With a diverse portfolio of DCC accounts, we are able to offer drivers a wide variety of driving options with regards to more or less demanding work, at more or less pay, as their career progresses.
  • As part of the organization's safety-focused environment, Penske's professional drivers operate safe and well-maintained late-model and top-of-the-line trucks and tractors.
  • We are a large company and there are bountiful opportunities that exist. A driver can transition out of the cab and into a different career track at Penske Logistics, work for Penske Truck Leasing, or pursue an opportunity which includes a shift into management.

At Penske Logistics, we're driven to help our customers succeed every day. We have a passion for progress, we know the power of partnership, we are guided by a deep sense of responsibility, we take pride in associate learning and we understand we're made stronger by diversity.

To learn more about truck driver careers with Penske, click here.

By Jeff Jackson
Senior Vice President Operations – Dedicated Contract Carriage
Penske Logistics