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How Best to Recruit and Retain Drivers

aa-9-30-16Recruiting and retaining truck drivers isn’t an impossible task – just make sure you do it the right way, a panel of industry professionals told attendees at the Intermodal Association of North America’s 2016 Intermodal Expo in Houston.

The single biggest mistake made by most fleets is their failure to create and follow a well-thought-out recruiting strategy, they agreed.

That includes making sure the applicant has a single point of contact during the hiring process, and that the process itself doesn’t drag out too long, says Karen Adcock, national sales director for the driver recruitment and retention consulting firm Conversion Interactive Agency.

“Create a brand identity that distinguishes you from other trucking employers, and keep in contact with the applicants throughout the hiring process,” she urges. “Act quickly and respond quickly. If you can’t bring in that person in a short time, someone else will.”

Brad Coffey, a driver for TCW Inc., says this is what happened to him with another company. After applying he had to deal with five people, none of them talked to each other. Not hearing anything from the company for a month, he called and was asked how soon he could start. He didn’t, and ended up driving for someone else instead.

“Be proactive and don’t let them hang on for 30 days,” urges Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Training Solutions. She says in trucking “The problem with most companies is that they only recruit people who want to be recruited. Make sure that you recruit the people you want to recruit.”

Anderson also recommends that employers deal with applicants from a central location and not leave it up to a terminal manager who doesn’t have the time because of other responsibilities.

Although he agrees that driver applicants shouldn’t have to deal with too many people, John Vesco, executive vice president of the Hub Group, stresses that, at some point in the process the driver should meet the person who will be his manager. “How many of you were hired without meeting the person you were going to work for?” he asked.

When it comes to retention many of the same rules apply, including training someone as a single point of contact with whom a driver can discuss conflicts and other issues that arise, Vesco points out.

“The driver manager has to be the one they take their problems to,” he added. “If the driver has a problem with payroll you can’t just tell him to take it to accounting.”

Anderson also was critical of the current trend of renaming dispatchers “driver managers” without making sure they were adequately trained.

“If you are going to do that, dispatchers need to be trained as managers who take responsibility for the drivers’ safety and ability to do the job,” he says.

Don’t Waste Their Time

One of the biggest mistakes trucking employers make is their failure to fully inform applicants and new drivers about everything that will be expected of them in doing their jobs, Coffey notes.

Anderson agrees. “We need mutual understanding of expectations – both yours and theirs.”

Coffey also emphasized how important it is to regularly let drivers know that their vital role as a key element in your company’s success is understood and appreciated.

That also includes showing respect for their time, something all too rare in an industry plagued by practices that do the opposite. Coffey recounted seeing in one intermodal terminal 50 drivers in the space of an hour trying to pick up the same broken chassis that hadn’t been flagged for repairs.

“We’re going to lose drivers if we don’t improve dwell times,” he says, especially when the new federal requirement for trucks to be equipped with Electronic Logging Devices goes into effect.

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