U.S. Xpress reduces turnover with tuition payment employee benefit

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U.S. Xpress Enterprises debuted a tuition assistance program two years ago that recently celebrated its first graduate, and the experiment is starting to pay off big: The freight shipping company scored a 25% reduction in turnover this year.

The company started the program in September 2018, and the recent landmark is notable because the freight driving industry has one of the highest turnover rates of any employee group, and keeping talent is an especially big headache for the transportation and trucking sectors. Indeed, the turnover rate has reached an annualized figure of 96%, according to the American Trucking Associations. To combat this issue employers have had to get creative with their benefits and offer options that will keep drivers with the company.

“The industry is really fragmented. U.S. Xpress and all of our top competitors have about 6% of the total market share,” says Amanda Thompson, the chief people officer with U.S. Xpress. “We really wanted to develop a program that helps provide some stickiness for those drivers, where we can attract and retain them and keep them a little bit more long term.”

There are several factors that contribute to driver turnover, according to a survey conducted by Driver iQ, a background screening company for the trucking industry. Drivers are often incentivized to leave one company for another for better compensation, less time away from home, a lack of consistent communication with their current company and the unpredictability of their paychecks — drivers are paid by the mile. Additionally, the proliferation of sign-on bonuses exacerbates this problem as drivers hop from carrier to carrier.

“With truck tonnage expected to grow more than 31% over the next decade, attracting and retaining talent in the trucking industry remains critical to meeting the freight demands of our expanding economy,” Chris Spear, CEO of American Trucking Associations, said in a statement.

The tuition assistance benefit at U.S. Xpress, known as the Full Ride program, offers free online college tuition for drivers, technicians and up to two dependents through online classes with Ashford University.

“All of these employees are working full time and they are able to take classes online and work at their own schedule and pace,” Thompson says. “Employees will be able to obtain that degree for themselves and their children debt free.”

Employers recognize the value a tuition assistance program can have for employees. Fifty-six-percent of organizations offer a tuition assistance program, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Some of those include the Walt Disney Company, Hulu and Taco Bell.

“The cost of college prevents a lot of people from doing many things as it relates to financial wellness and offering this benefit, we felt like it was just really important to our employees and their dependents,” Thompson says. “We have seen positive responses in employee morale and engagement with this program.”

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