The Long Haul

Solid waste managers should strive to retain safe drivers.

Editor's note: This is the final article in the driver safety series that appeared in the April 2007, June 2007, September 2007, November 2007 and January 2008 issues. Previous articles focused on driver selection, screening, orientation and training, supervision, and ongoing education.

SELECTING, TRAINING AND SUPERVISING a crew of safe drivers requires a substantial investment of time and money. To make this investment pay off, waste firms must not lose sight of the importance of retaining good drivers.

There always has been a correlation between driver turnover and accident frequency rates. Waste companies with high driver turnover inevitably seem to suffer more vehicular accidents. While many factors contribute to this correlation, the main liability seems to be recent hires struggling to juggle vehicles, routes and job duties that are new to them. Driving a garbage truck comes with a learning curve, and mistakes often are part of the learning process.

Most waste companies have struggled with the issue of driver retention and turnover at one time or another. Factors outside of a waste company's control, such as the economy, employment rates and geographic location, impact a firm's ability to attract and retain drivers. However, waste companies should focus on areas that they can control to maximize retention.

Drivers and managers routinely identify wages and other monetary compensation as vital to driver retention. Other factors include:


With the ever-increasing cost of health care, it is becoming more common for employees to weigh a benefits package equally against wages. A good benefits package can help keep a driver from jumping ship, even if the wages are slightly higher elsewhere.

Equipment and Maintenance

The truck is the driver's office for eight hours a day. Providing drivers with a clean and safe work environment will help with retention. A waste company does not need to furnish every driver with a brand new truck, but they do need to keep up with truck maintenance. Drivers should be given assurances that if they document a maintenance issue, the problem will be fixed immediately.

Following Through on Commitments

Nothing can get a waste firm into hot water with its drivers faster than broken promises. Whether addressing an incentive program, bonus program or work schedule issue, managers should not promise anything that can't be delivered. When employees lose faith and trust in the company they work for, they are likely to walk away at the first opportunity.


This issue is a two-way street. The firm needs to clearly communicate performance expectations, company policies and safety rules to its drivers, so that there are no surprises. Meanwhile, there should be a way for drivers to discuss issues and concerns with management. When a driver feels that his or her input and concerns are being ignored, there is little incentive to hang around.