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Regulations Simplified - Recruiting & Retention

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Recruiting

Motor carriers must use a variety of resources to keep their trucks filled.  The driver shortage is impacting all companies that have a fleet of commercial trucks. Statistics show that the industry is currently short commercial drivers by over 53,000. 

The need is expected to quadruple by 2025.  The average cost to recruit a driver is between $3000 to $7000 per driver. 

Retaining quality drivers starts with hiring quality drivers. It is important to have hiring standards and adhere to those standards. Quality drivers will decrease your losses and turnover and save the company money.

Recruiting Drivers

What are the best practices from successful recruiters and companies who hire drivers?

Below are the most common and successful processes in driver recruiting. 

    • Make sure your online hiring process includes an initial short application to gather the applicant immediate contact data. 
    • Your hiring process should be streamline and quick process.
    • Contact the applicant within five (5) minutes of receiving the submitted long or short application.
      • Success rate jumps to 90% if contact is made within that 5 minute window.
  • The first call is critical, recruiters should.
    • Show excitement in the applicant.
    • Have a conversation with the applicant, don’t interrogate.
    • Ask about the applicants life, be engaged and interested in them.
    • Find out why the driver is leaving or has left previous jobs, give them a solution to that problem.
    • Be appreciative of what they do and who they are.
    • Have a sense of humor.
    • Close the sale by setting the orientation date.
  • Have the dispatchers contact the driver prior to orientation to express the companies excitement to have the applicant.
    • This will help minimize drivers who do not show up for orientation and will make the applicant more comfortable.

Where does a motor carrier find commercial truck drivers?

The driver shortage is causing shippers and carriers significant problems.  Finding and hiring drivers is a problem for every fleet private and for-hire. Below are how companies are finding drivers in todays tough market. 

  • Pay for referrals from other drivers, this is the best way to find drivers.
    • Give your drivers business cards to hand out.
    • Ask drivers to get the potential new hire name so the company can contact them verses waiting for the driver to contact the company.
    • Pay referring driver for leads.
    • Pay referring driver for the referral
  • Advertise in truckers’ forums. (i.e. thetruckersforum.net, truckingtruth.com, roadtrucker.com, truckingboards.com).
  • Trucking schools if you can partner or at least present opportunities to their students. (i.e. community colleges, trucking schools)
  • Advertise online job sites. (i.e. Indeed, Simply Hired, Monster, Craigslist)
  • Facebook advertising has been very successful for motor carriers.
  • Local job fairs.
  • Open a trucking school (that is what the large trucking companies have done, then you can offer free training in return for a time commitment).
  • Advertise in print (local newspaper or magazines).
  • Utilize a recruiting service that specialized in truck drivers.
  • Temporary or temporary to hire companies (see Products & Services- Driver Staffing).
  • Offer current drivers’ bonuses for bringing on other drivers. There have been many studies that have shown referrals are the best way to get drivers.
  • Provide your drivers with business cards showing recruiter and company information to give to other drivers. It is easy for a driver to hand a card out and say give my recruiter a call. Attach a dollar value to each hire from those cards handed out and pay the driver for his referral.

What are motor carriers doing to hire drivers in such a competitive marketplace?

Motor carriers have started to be creative in their hiring packages to retain and hire drivers in such a competitive market. Below are some of the tools carriers are using to attract and keep driver talent.

  • Offer hourly pay or salary’s verses per mile pay.
  • Offer a competitive benefits package (401k, health care, paid holidays, and vacation).
  • Up you per mile rate or salary to complete with companies offering large benefit packages if your company can’t compete in with benefits.
  • Reward for safe driving. Offer financial incentive for safe driving and timely delivery of loads.
  • Offer rewards systems that engage the drivers family. Think out of the box on family perks and unique bonus plans. Engage the family to create an attachment to your company.
Onboarding Commercial Drivers

What are the steps that a motor carrier should follow to onboard a driver?

Onboarding drivers efficiently can be simplified with a standardized process.  Motor carriers may move these steps into a different order to streamline their process.

  1. Have a short form application to immediately get contact information.
  2. Have applicant complete an online application to speed up the vetting process.
  3. Get releases signed by the applicant when obtaining the job application so you can legally start your due diligence.
  4. Interview the applicant.
  5. Pull the applicants motor vehicle report,  PSP, criminal background report, etc. (See CSA for how to get a PSP)
  6. Make a conditional offer of employment.
  7. Send applicant for pre-employment drug test. (CDL driver only unless your company has a drug free workplace policy)
  8. Start the safety performance history checks for the previous three years of his commercial driving employment. (DOT requires this to be started within the first 30 days of employment)
  9. Set start date and orientation.
  10. Do required training and cover company policies and procedures.
  11. Assign truck and electronic logging device login information.
  12. Before your candidate starts driving for your company make sure you have:
    • 7 days previous hours log
    • Negative pre-employment drug test
    • Compare medical card to motor vehicle report for medical examiner verification
    • Verify proper endorsements
    • Copy of CDL front and back
Driver Retention

What types of programs are motor carriers trying to lower driver turnover?

Keeping drivers is more challenging the hiring drivers. Annual turnover rates for most for-hire fleets is around 120%. Private fleets around 10%.  The goal is to keep drivers from moving company to company.  Below are some of the things fleets are doing to retain talent.

  • Tiered bonus programs should be based longevity to encourage drivers to stay with your company. The longer the driver stays the more money or reward he/she could receive in safety bonuses and operational bonuses. However, never create a bonus program that the goals are unobtainable or difficult to understand or it will discourage verses encourage drivers.
  • As stated above in “How do I get drivers to come to my company?” fleets should offer unique bonuses that not just the driver, but the family can benefit. Paid vacations, discounts on trips, and gift cards. If the family likes the company, the driver will more likely stay.  This can be particularly important with small fleets who can’t afford to pay for a good benefit package.
  • Small fleets who can’t provide health insurance or 401k should have a community resource for drivers. Provide a resource for the driver to get the benefits.
  • Focus on driver friendly culture. Drivers who feel included and valued will stay with a company longer. Leadership should try to learn names and visit with drivers when an opportunity arises.
  • Have drivers complete a personal information card upon hiring and know their birthday, anniversary, favorite restaurant, favorite sports team, wife’s name and birthday.  Send cards for anniversaries, birthdays,
  • Driver manager should focus on communications style. The statement “people quit bosses not jobs” is true of any industry including transportation. An older driver may want to talk on the phone to the driver manager, but the younger drivers may prefer to text. It is the job of the dispatcher or driver manager to adapt to the driver’s style of communicating.
  • Be aware of a bad driver manager, that will cause high turnover in drivers.
  • Have a driver mentor with the their focus helping the driver succeed. That mentor should the go to for helping new drivers adjust to their new company.
  • Ask driver managers to engage the driver on a more personal level. Loneliness of the road is a problem for some drivers.  Most drivers chose driving as a lifestyle, some will want to visit more than others.  Make it a point in your organization for the driver manager to talk on the phone at least once a week and ask a couple personal question. If there is a relationship the driver will more likely stay. This is also a good way to assess if the driver is satisfied with your company.
  • Have driver surveys and exit interviews. A survey can be used to find out about driver engagement and reasons drivers are leaving your company.  Do at least a couple surveys in the first 60 days to assess drivers job satisfaction. If job satisfaction is low, it is an opportunity for intervention to retain the driver. Companies like Survey Monkey are great for mobile surveys.
  • Discuss career development with drivers. Create opportunities for drivers to increase their pay or move to another role within the company. One way is by creating levels of driver’s jobs and give your drivers an opportunity to advance.  When a driver does advance make a big deal out of it and increase pay.
  • Set the company levels and how each level would be obtained, for example:
    • Journeyman Driver – base on miles or year experience with company, accidents, self-directed training, how many drivers he/she has trained.
    • Career Driver – Based on miles or years’ experience with company, accidents, training.
    • Entry Level Driver – new to industry, create a plan with the driver to move up to career driver.
  • Make it fun! Create completion between drivers by encouraging success. Do a leader board based on miles per gallon, best to worst, post the name of all the drivers who have clean roadside inspections, do trivia quizzes on a website and post answers weekly. Something to create a fun and engaging work environment.

Do surveys and driver mentors really work for retention?

It won’t work for all drivers, but statistics show that drivers who are engaged with their company will stay longer.  Turnover is most likely during the first year of a drivers employment. The highest turnover will be in the first 90 days.            Engaging the driver early and finding out how he/she feels about the job, his manager, and the company overall is becoming more and more common in the trucking industry to try to minimize turnover.

A driver mentor can make a new driver feel welcomed and part of a team.  A driver mentor should be a support person for a driver unlike the dispatcher or driver manager whose job is to service the customer and the company.  Driver mentors can answer questions that the dispatcher or driver manager may not have time or be able to answer on ELD’s, trip reports, payroll, safety, and company expectations. The mentor can play a key role in preventing a driver from leaving an organization by seeing early signs of job dissatisfaction.

Surveys in partnership with a driver mentor can be a very successful combination. Surveys should be strategically executed.   By doing surveys in the first 90 days issues can be addressed turnover can be minimized. Survey Intervals are 15 days, 45 days, 60 days, 6 months, annual.

Surveys should ask questions regarding equipment, management, lanes, pay, and on the road life. These have all been determined to be key factors in driver satisfaction.  Below are some survey questions to print and distribute to your drivers at the 15 days, 45 days, and 60 days.  All companies should do 6 month and annual surveys as well. Surveys can be done on paper or electronically via companies like Survey Monkey.

Don’t have the driver manager collecting the survey information. Have a impartial third party within your company collecting and reviewing the data (i.e. driver mentor or human resources). A driver is not going to be honest if they think their direct manager is going to be the one reviewing the results.  The review of the results should be confidential.  Their are many third party providers of employment engagement services if necessary.

Tips from Industry Professionals

Tips from recruiting professionals.

  • Evaluate your recruiters regularly. A company will see higher levels of turnover if recruiters are misleading drivers.
  • Create a written plan of success to give to the driver outlining expectations. 
  • Pay salary or hourly instead of per mile.
  • Treat drivers well. Core values of any company should be Value, Respect, and Dignity. This is how drivers should be treated.
  • Be careful about offering large sign on bonuses. Drivers will take them and move on to the next company.
  • Pay recruiters well and only provide small bonus for bringing driver on. Why would recruiters care about turnover if they make money because of high turnover?
  • Create a department that focuses on driver engagement and have them talk to drivers regularly about how they are doing and how the company can improve.
Quick Links

Go to “Products and Resources” for assistance “Driver Staffing” and “Driver Rewards Programs”

Documents & Templates

Use the following survey tool to understand areas of improvement for your company via driver feedback.

Download this file

Driver Retention Surveys

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