In this second of our driver recruiting series, we decided to go to those who experience the issue of driver shortage directly; our members who offer dedicated contract carriage.
I gave you my recommendations on how to recruit qualified drivers in Part 1 of this series. Now it’s time to hear from some of our member companies on issues from the obstacles that exacerbate the driver shortage to the ways each of these companies has found some success. We were fortunate to get valuable insights from Jim Donnelly, Owner of ASL Transportation Group in Williamstown, NJ; Ken Mains, CFO, and Tom Lansing, VP of Safety and Driver Services, both of Hogan Truck Leasing in St. Louis, MO; and Shenika Oliver, Recruiting Manager, Aim NationaLease with corporate offices in Girard, OH.
What are your biggest obstacles to finding qualified drivers?
JD: Strictly speaking, the biggest obstacle is not finding drivers as much as it is not finding quality drivers. The increase in regulations, especially on the medical side, can keep good people out of the field.
KM: Definitely the driver shortage, which continues to get worse.
TL: In the past year alone, we find ourselves as an industry with a shortage of 48,000 drivers, or about 10,000 more than last year. That’s according to the American Trucking Associations.
SO: The number one reason is the driver shortage. There are so many opportunities for drivers and that means a smaller applicant pool, more difficult recruiting efforts, and higher turnover rates.
What are your most effective recruiting resources?
JD: Aside from word of mouth and referrals, 100% of our recruiting efforts are online. We use the major posting boards and our own website, but the most effective resource we’ve found, by far, is Craigslist. Our word of mouth campaign works great, too. All of our drivers get business cards with ASL’s contact information on the back. Our Facebook page offers a driver referral bonus, even if you don’t work for us.
TL: We use the job boards, but have also found Craigslist to be very effective.
SO: We have several major recruiting resources. We are proud to say that employee referrals account for nearly 25% of our driver hires. We also have a robust media strategy with most of our dollars invested in online and mobile media, but we do some print and radio occasionally. Lastly, our recruiters are active in the field, attending job fairs, visiting driving schools, and continuously staying in touch with our applicant database via email, text, and voicemail blasts.
What are the most effective points you make in both advertising and interviewing that seem to make a prospective driver sign on with you rather than the competition?
JD: We find that money is still the big opener, but if you’re just competing on pay, that can be tough since someone can always up the ante. What appeals to so many prospects is our company culture. I tell all my people that without drivers, we wouldn’t have a job, so we treat them with the respect they deserve. That makes a huge difference. We also give bonuses throughout the year and other important perks. Plus, we try to accommodate lifestyle where possible. If the drivers want a home life, we try to balance the drivers’ needs with our customers’ needs.
KM: We must differentiate our company from the competition – culture, tradition, history, family atmosphere, etc.
TL: Having the right fit for the driver is very important; home time and drivers knowing what they are doing day in and day out. This gives them the opportunity to plan a life outside of work. Money may not be the number one reason but it is always a factor.
SO: At the starting point, it’s still the money that initiates the call, but at the interview, we relate the perks and benefits package and that seems to seal the deal. We find that the appeal to join the Aim family depends on the driver’s lifestyle and matching them with the right customer/account. For example, a single driver may be more motivated by money and willing take a regional route with more miles and less home time.
What qualities (besides competence) do you look for in a driver?
JD: Honesty is our #1 requirement in all of our employees, including drivers. After that, we look for a good appearance, flexibility, a positive attitude, and good personality. Remember, the drivers are the ones who interact directly with our customers, so this is really important. We teach all of our drivers that things are going to happen that you may not be prepared for. Just be honest and straightforward. We treat all of our drivers as self-managers who are entrusted to make good decisions. We’re rarely disappointed.
KM: Attitude and demeanor are important, as in many cases the drivers are representing our company or our client company, and that impression that they make, day-in and day-out, may be the key to repeat business opportunities.
SO: We first look for someone who understands the job. Nearly all of our company drivers are dedicated to an account/customer. We try hard to match the right driver with the right account/customer. Depending on the needs and training opportunities in the area, we may need to look for drivers who are more knowledgeable about specific freight/load securement and HOS rules; for other accounts, we may look for drivers who are flexible, willing and able to work through unexpected situations.
What changes in regulations might help more people decide to become drivers?
JD: As I said earlier, these regulations are really undermining the industry when it comes to drivers. And as the regulations on medical issues increase, I’m concerned that drivers may just give up on the industry completely.
SO: Our biggest concern is, as the regulations get stricter, even more drivers will leave the industry completely. We have drivers in our database who have just stopped driving all together. It would be great if the age of entry for drivers was lowered, but honestly, if the insurance rates for younger drivers don’t stabilize/decrease along with the age requirement, it won’t make sense for our bottom line.
Is newer technology helping or hindering your search?
JD: We’re pretty tech oriented. In fact, we made a decision five years ago to transition completely to automatic transmission. We got pushback from our older drivers, so I asked three of our most senior drivers to test the vehicles first. They loved it. We train all of our drivers on all our technology, and it sometimes is a longer training period for older drivers, but not by much. The younger drivers take to the new technology very quickly.
SO: The answer to your question depends, to a great extent, on the tenure of the driver. No one likes change; they usually like things to stay the way they are and that’s often true of tenured drivers. The millennials have no problem with the technology. It’s attractive to them and can be a perk when recruiting this younger generation.
Whether it’s finding new ways to recruit millennials, women, and minorities, we’re all looking for the “silver bullet” that resolves this ongoing problem. Until then, fleet managers are going to face the issues of not only bringing people into the profession, but keeping them in the profession.
Read Part 3 of our series to discover how to retain the good drivers you have.