How to combat the truck driver image problem and fill those seats
Why are people afraid of becoming truckers? Why are the young avoiding the trucking industry?
The answers to these questions may vary depending on whom you ask. Some are weighted by the unsure nature of the job and dealing with 80,000 lbs. in heavy traffic or having that same 40 tons of freight and metal pushing you down a steep 6% mountain grade. Other answers include the long hours, the sure boredom and loneliness of the road, and the mounting regulations being piled on the truck driver from state and federal regulatory agencies.
Many people want a life outside of their job, and the trucking lifestyle isn’t always conducive to that. Truckers also face health risks such as obesity, diabetes, sleep disorders, and back problems.
Then there’s the question of pay. While a trucker’s pay has been increasing over the last couple of years (and it’s an encouragement for current drivers to consider staying in the industry), it has yet to become attractive to the multitude of twenty- and thirty-somethings. Do they want to drive a truck? Would they rather stay with their current employer? And that means there is no one to transport the numerous loads that need to be shipped.
The largest incidence of driver turnover is in the first year from the point of hire. A company may have an overall turnover rate of 60%, but the ‘new driver flight’ can exceed three or four times that amount, up to 240% or even more.
A trucker is hired, goes through orientation, is teamed with a driver-trainer for a time, and then let loose on his/her own. Within the next few months, the driver is complaining about not being paid for the real miles he’s driving, having to wait too long to be loaded or unloaded without pay, not getting home when he needs to, and not earning the money he thought he would.
Dispatch then receives the “come get your truck” call, and the cycle starts all over again with the next driver and then the next. Unfortunately, the industry and many carriers repeat the same hiring practices while expecting to eventually hit pay dirt with the truckers they hire—and hope those truckers will actually stay. But the insanity of driver turnover continues to churn in a never-ending downward spiral.
What’s the solution? First of all, what are your needs? How can you offer a better deal to drivers than that of other carriers? Focus on providing the best driver package you can and then find drivers who see the value being offered. It all comes down to communication from the very first interview with a prospective driver.
Driver retention begins during the recruiting interview. The more information exchanged by driver and recruiter during the initial hiring process, the better the driver understands your company’s operations and procedures. Think of it more like an investigation and research into the wants, needs and requirements of both your company and the prospective driver. It’s not a question of right or wrong, but a way of determining compatibility.
The biggest complaint drivers have about the recruiting process is that they aren’t told the truth about what they’re getting themselves into with a particular carrier. Tell your driver applicants all about your operation: the good, the bad, the ugly.
How well is your company performing? What are the company’s strategic plans for the future? Communicate this information to the applicant. If the applicant has any questions, be as honest as possible as most people don’t like surprises that could potentially affect their income.
One of the leading causes of driver turnover is not explaining clearly a company’s policies during the recruitment process.
A driver has three key needs that must be fulfilled. These are reasonable compensation for all hours required to perform the duties of driving, loading and unloading a truck; consistency in pay from week to week; and scheduled home time.
But the most important task you can perform in finding the right driver is to listen carefully for information.
- What are this driver’s needs and wants?
- What is his family going to expect and need?
- What are his expectations in terms of money, time at home, type of equipment, and amenities?
- What are his career goals in the next year, three years, five, and beyond?
- What are his personal financial requirements, house payments, car payments, other debt, and personal financial goals? Are there any other income sources to cover these personal expenses in addition to the trucking position?
Compare this information to what you have to offer. Will the applicant’s needs be met by your driver package? Will he have the desired home time? Will he be able to cover all of his obligations and still have money to save for the future with this pay? Do his career goals dovetail with what you have to offer?
The more you know about the applicant’s wants, needs and financial requirements, and the more informed the trucker is about your company’s methods and policies, the stronger the business relationship will be.
Investing the time to communicate openly and honestly with each driver applicant is how your company will keep the best truckers. Forward-thinking communication builds a powerful, long-term trucker/carrier relationship.
By taking the proactive approach of honest disclosure and communication, you have the tools necessary to find the truckers you need—even in a tight market.