Driver recruiting and retention – Are there any keys?

February 8, 2018|Thomas Schultz

This article covers some essentials that, when done well, can help you in the recruiting and retention of today’s professional driver.

Applicants, where are they? Qualified applicants, what are they?

Finding people in this tight job market is very difficult—not to mention the added complexity when considering the unique nature of the trucking industry.

Driver pay matters—but not exclusively

Driving down the highway, billboards abound with eye-catching pronouncements like “Earn $xx – $yy the first year; nightly time at home; drop and hook freight.” All of those things look appealing to drivers, especially long haul drivers who don’t see home as often as regional, local, or perhaps dedicated private fleets.

Most professional drivers know enough to think that pay, time at home and freight rarely match up perfectly. Competing on the basis of how well you get the attention of drivers can be a shallow thing if the support structure to the driver doesn’t match. Here are some examples:

  • How do you advocate for the driver relative to the experience they have with shippers?
    • Do you leave the experience up to “chance” or are you capable of supporting the driver by providing basic information to help them unload their freight at the shipper with minimal “hassle.”
  • Do you have a means of identifying and responding to feedback from and toward drivers?
    • Few things support retention better than a well-trained driver manager who knows how to listen and respond to challenges encountered out over the road.
  • Is there a process in place to maintain equipment [best case, when they are at home]?
    • Having worked around drivers a majority of my 25 professional years, their ability to run miles without interruption is equivalently key.
  • How do you help the drivers handle their essential needs while out over the road?
    • Can information be shared about preferred truck stop chains with clean restrooms and showers? Is there a way to help ensure drivers have adequate parking when they come in from out on the road, etc?

Equipment concerns can affect driver attitudes

There is something great about getting into a new vehicle, right? While the age of your fleet can have an impact on driver attraction and retention, there is something even more essential: equipment availability and functionality. Maximizing the utilization of every power unit and container is essential to the survival of modern fleets. That being said, from listening to the driver’s perspective, nothing is more frustrating than unavailable or poorly operating equipment.

Over the years, as I traveled with drivers, the conversation often turned to equipment. While there were a percentage of drivers who always wanted a “new truck,” what was more important was that the equipment was available and working properly. I can recall one particular conversation with a driver that had nothing to do with the power unit or container at all—the driver was about to quit because he was sick of not having a two-wheeled dolly to perform his job efficiently. In his mind, if he couldn’t get a simple two-wheeled dolly (that worked), what else was he going to have to “fight for”?

The “fight” that drivers want to avoid

Driver retention is the result of a few things happening in successful combination, including leadership, reliable processes, reliable freight, and most importantly—connection. When drivers talk about a belief that they have to “fight for” the basic tools needed to complete their work, what they are saying is that they don’t see the company taking their concerns seriously. What often results are conversations with others using terms like fight, struggle, waiting, etc. These words are like a cancer to your brand and need to be quickly addressed.

Companies that provide driver managers with the resources and skills to candidly and responsibly defuse frustration and address nagging issues retain drivers in greater numbers. People, regardless of job title, want to see things being addressed at some level. If there is “no solution,” sharing that with the driver in a way that doesn’t create more frustration or a perception of indifference is critical. Ask yourself: Would the employees working closely with your drivers know how to do that?

Now is the time to take a close look at what matters to your drivers and use that information to create strategies that will help you create a work environment drivers don’t want to leave.

For assistance reviewing your driver recruitment practices, contact Thomas Schultz or another member of Schenck’s HR Consulting team at 800-236-2246.

Thomas Schultz, PHR, SHRM-CP, is a manager – HR Consulting with Schenck. He has more than 25 years of human resources experience, including building human resource systems and structures that match the changing needs of businesses. He brings a broad blend of skills in areas such as leadership coaching, employee relations, benefits, training and development, change leadership and employment law. Thomas is also a member of Schenck’s Trucking & Logistics team, and brings a wealth of industry-related HR knowledge after spending seven years in human resources at an international transportation and logistics provider.