In a tough economy, where joblessness is a real problem, one profession is beating the odds. The need for quality truck drivers is greater than ever, specifically over-the-road drivers. As a fleet owner or manager, you need to know how to attract the best drivers, and how to get them to stay.
How bad is the situation? Estimates for driver turnover rates for Q1 2012 at large interstate fleets ranged from 90 to 100%! That’s not from drivers being laid off; it’s from drivers leaving the company, and in some cases, the industry itself. And it’s getting worse. The profession is aging out; the average age for over-the-road drivers is 50+. The U.S. Department of Transportation expects driver shortage to reach above 250,000 by 2013. These are frightening statistics for every business that depends on transport of goods. There are really two questions you need to ask yourself: first, how do I attract quality drivers; and, second, how do I keep them?
To find quality drivers, you first have to know where to look.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post for the NationaLease blog, talking about finding quality technicians. Many of the recommendations I listed there pertain to this situation as well. Having spent more than 15 years as a recruiter, I understand that in today’s market, it’s key that you use current technology to your benefit. Or, you could just let the experts take over.
- Newspaper advertising is so yesterday. Newspapers can read the tea leaves; so many are going digital, offering online versions of their publications. You should be going digital as well. It’s much cheaper than traditional newspapers and it directly targets your demographic.
- Online job sites abound. Use job-aggregator Websites such as Indeed.com, which scans the Internet and pulls job postings together in one Website. If you have job postings on your company Website, you can allow them to be pulled to Indeed.com—for free!
- Consider Driver Training Schools – There are a lot of them, so you’ll need to do your homework to check out how reputable they are. But it’s an additional source to consider.
- It’s who you know. According to the publication HR World, fully 30% of job openings are filled through referrals. Implement a strong, written referral bonus program within your company. Specify what you’re looking for and the requirements necessary to receive the bonus.
- Outsource it. One of the easiest routes to take is using a third-party recruiter to fill positions. The best have large pools of pre-screened candidates and they often offer you the flexibility of temporary, temp-to-hire, or permanent placements. Check out firms that specialize in recruiting drivers. They will typically have larger pools and conduct better screening since they are more in-tune with the specific skill set.
You know what you’re looking for; but what are drivers looking for?
Before you begin your search, I recommend that you go online to check out the blogs and chat rooms that drivers populate. You’ll find their concerns and complaints are very easy to categorize. They focus on five issues:
- Money – Rising fuel costs; mileage-based pay; less driving hours allowed by law…all of these contribute to a stagnant wage.
- Time – There’s never enough of it. Most over-the-road drivers spend more time away from their families than with them. Some of the biggest regrets you’ll hear are about this issue. Then there’s the lost, unpaid time drivers spend waiting in traffic or at pickup and drop-off points.
- Regulations – Drivers make money when they’re driving. Limited HOS, unfair CSA scores, and roadside inspections cut into that.
- Comfort – Try living in a box. That’s essentially what drivers do when they’re parked. Cab sleepers are so much better than they used to be, but they’re still small, confined spaces. And, sitting in one position, for hours on end, can wreak havoc on a driver’s physical condition.
- Respect – Drivers feel that they’re not given the respect they deserve…and they’re right!
Make your company a driver destination.
How your company deals with each of these issues will decide whether your business becomes a place that attracts and keeps the best drivers. Some are beyond your control; others are not.
- Money – Much depends upon the size of your company and what you can afford and still grow your business. Sometimes a signing bonus is a great way to attract good drivers. And fair pay, along with other considerations, can keep good drivers content.
- Time – Schedules have to be met; but if it’s possible for your company, try to consider the family needs of your drivers. If there’s a way to make scheduling a collaborative effort, do so.
- Regulations – Not much you can do as far as the regulations themselves. However, you can limit the amount of downtime by making sure your vehicles are well maintained and adding EOBRs and truck-specific GPS solutions which will, at the very least, minimize roadside inspection downtime.
- Comfort – Picture your own need for comfort on a long, long drive, and try to make sure the driver’s seat is ergonomically friendly. Look for good ergonomics throughout the entire cab.
- Respect – You have total control over this one. Make it clear to your drivers that they are part of the company; that the company’s success will translate into their success as well. Each company will have to decide how that works for them, based on their profits and projections.
Here’s something you need to really think about. Word of Mouth is often the most important and least considered marketing tool. If people have a good experience (whether it’s a job, a restaurant, or a hotel), they’ll tell a friend. If the experience is bad, they’ll tell everyone! And with the social networks available, a bad review from drivers can negatively impact your ability to attract and keep good drivers. Make your company a driver destination and you can mitigate your losses.