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Bringing The Unemployed Into The Trucking Industry (Then Keeping Them There)

03/12/09

Bringing The Unemployed Into The Trucking Industry (Then Keeping Them There)

  05:59:05 pm, Categories: efficiencies , Tags: driver recruiting, driver retention

I thought this week I'd talk a little about an issue that until recently was towards the top of every trucking industry issue top-ten list: driver recruitment and retention.

According to the ATRI (American Transportation Research Institute), the issue was in one of the top two spots of their Critical Issues In The Trucking Industry from 2005 to 2007, after which it slipped behind fuel costs and economy to #3. Ironically, it's likely that the economy has actually helped this situation, driving people that have been forced out of their jobs to find work where it's easy to find, especially given the relatively short training time to get a steady pay check coming in.

According to Department Of Labor, the nationwide unemployment rate for February of 2009 was 8.1%. There are more people looking for work right now than there have been in recent memory. How may the trucking industry draw some of these unemployed people into the fold, and then retain them?

Please allow me to throw out a few ideas.

Drawing Them In

Contact Your Local Unemployment Agency

A phone call to your local unemployment agency could be the easiest way to find driver candidates, and is surely the cheapest. There are many displaced workers at the moment, many of which may simply have not thought about truck driving as an option they have. Your local phone book will have the phone number for your local agency, or use an online resource such as www.whitepages.com.

Local Advertising Campaigns

Your local newspaper or radio station could be a good resource for placing an advertisement for a driver opening. They may even make you a deal, given a probable lack of content for their help wanted sections.

There's always the online sources, and if your not set on having drivers that reside locally, they're probably even more effective than conventional means. I personally stay away from most of the big online recruiters because of their high listing fees, but a bit of browsing will reveal other sites that have decent visibility and a reasonable price.

Referral Program

I've talked to some trucking companies that have started an incentive program for current drivers that bring on new help. You may or may not be in a position where this would be effective or affordable, but it may be worth some thought. There are many ways to structure this without having to raise the referrer's pay rate, such as credits that go towards hotel stays, electronic goods, etc.

A Miniature Job Fair

You could have a day a month where you welcome people that are interested in exploring a driving career to your office. Give them a tour of your facilities, provide a light lunch, maybe even have a driver take them for a short ride around town in one of your nicer trucks, insurance company willing of course. The one-on-one time that the interested parties would spend with a driver would likely arrest any uncertainty they may have regarding the career, and your existing driver would probably enjoy the time as well.



Keeping Them

So one or more of the above methods works, and you've hired yourself a brand new driver or two. Now what, how do you keep them from leaving the truck at a truck stop in Timbuktoo and taking a plane ride home?

Train Them Well

Get the new driver started off on the right foot. He or she need to be told what they should expect from their new career, as well as exactly what you expect of them. Everything from time away from home, to layover potential, to the difference between a lot of lizards and a lot lizard, should be explained to them in detail.

When done correctly, no new surprises should regularly be sprung on your new recruits, although there will certainly be exceptions that you cannot prepare for in advance. When do you expect them to check in with you? What situations merit verbal communication with their dispatcher? Frustration on both sides will be alleviated if the ground rules are set at the get-go.

The necessity to train your new drivers on the safe operation of their equipment goes without saying.

Communicate With Them

Let your drivers know how good of a job they're doing. Or just talk to them occasionally. Keep in mind that humans are social creatures, they need a little bit of conversation from time to time. You're busy, but 5 minutes here and there will keep up that rapport that could mean the difference between a happy driver, and one that is trying to decide if he is going to quit when he gets back to the office or not.

When trying to decide if it's worth the time you'll need to invest in the driver, keep in mind the time that it takes to get a replacement into the truck.

Bring Them Home

With some exceptions, most drivers would like to have a little time at home occasionally to rest, take care of personal business, etc. If possible, keep track of how many consecutive days your drivers have been away from home, attempt to route them in a way that gives them a day or so home at a somewhat regular interval. Good trucking software can help you track how often this needs to occur, as well as how often you're hitting this goal. (ALMOST made it through the post without a shameless plug.)

Reduce Their Downtime

Doh! Nobody likes the truck to be sitting, especially the driver. When this is unavoidable, at least keep your driver honestly informed about how long it will likely be before he's back on the road. The typical driver dislikes being stuck somewhere slightly less than not knowing how long they'll be there, and the feeling of being given the runaround that accompanies that.

Improve Their Lives

There are some perks that can be given to your drivers that will likely not effect your bottom line, or very little at least. A little consideration here and there could go a long ways. Recognition of how hard they're working for you, whether formal or informal, makes them feel like they're an invaluable part of your team (they are!).

If nothing else, give them the address for the TruckMaster Fuel Finder™ and let them choose a truck stop every once in awhile that has some fun amenity that they'd like to try out (last shameless plug, I swear!).


I'm certain that none of these ideas are novel, but hopefully spelling out a couple helps someone at some point think of something that they haven't before. If so, we've done our job.

Greg Dodson
President
TruckMaster Logistics Systems, Inc.
TruckMaster Your Trucking Company™

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