In August 2020, an under-the-radar safety research organization called the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence published a new research report titled, Examining the Relationship Between CMV Driver Retention and Safety. Before you stop here and say to yourself, ‘Well everyone knows that better retention results in better safety,” please read on because this research is a bit different.

Indeed, previous research has found that driver turnover is associated with higher crash rates. However, until this new study, it was unclear if drivers who voluntarily change jobs have higher crash rates compared to drivers who stayed in the job or are released due to recent crash involvement or safety violations (i.e., involuntary turnover). This study investigated that gap in knowledge—the gap between voluntary and involuntary driver turnover – and how this difference might impact safety performance. More specifically, this study examined the relationship between continuous employment, voluntary turnover and involuntary turnover, and involvement in future FMCSA-reportable crashes and moving violations.

After evaluating data on more than 12,000 drivers that started with a single large carrier and were studied over a 3-year period, this study found that crash and violation risk:

  • Was lowest for drivers that stayed with the carrier over the full 3-year period
  • Rose for drivers that voluntarily separated from the carrier (without a recent crash or violation)
  • Was the highest for drivers that left the carrier following a crash or violation in the previous seven days

These results support much of the previous research showing a relationship between high turnover rates and higher crash rates. In turn, they provide additional evidence of the reverse—carriers that maintain high levels of driver retention experience lower crash rates (and, we at STC add, presumably lower CSA scores). If you need help convincing your boss or the owner to spend more on driver retention programs, this study might be helpful to your case.