For many American businesses, workforce diversity has become a corporate mission. For too many truck fleets, it's becoming a do-or-die proposition.
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. said that about leadership in World War II. He could just as well have been commenting on the value of diversity in today's workplace, including why fleets should be recruiting more minorities to work as truck drivers.
Trucking's growing like wildfire but the labor pool from which truckers have long been drawn — native-born white males — is drying up but fast. (See “Behind the numbers” box on page 16.)
That means recruiting members of minority groups is the only way trucking can employ enough CDL drivers to meet present and future needs. That means seeking out white and non-white women, African-American and Hispanic-American males, and recent immigrants from the four corners of the globe to join trucking's driving force.
In many ways, recruiting drivers from minority groups is the same as recruiting them from the majority population. The key difference is getting the fleet's recruitment message where it will be seen, heard and acted upon. That and being sure not to do anything that could drive minority prospects away.
It's not rocket science. It's competitive fishing — casting the widest possible net over the most promising streams to haul in the best catch as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Those who agree may stop cutting bait right here and commence some serious angling on these six solid steps:
Determine where minority populations may geographically dovetail with driver recruitment needs
Address minorities where they are — media matters (including the Internet)
Utilize potential allies — minority organizations and community groups
Speak the language — Spanish vs. English only etc.
Leverage the value of personal referrals — and a corporate reputation for diversity
Avoid legal pitfalls that could derail even well-intentioned efforts
Know who's local
Finding new faces requires looking in new places. It also means knowing who to look for. One problem with discussing minority recruitment is that while there are official determinations, such as those used by the U.S. Census, of who's a minority, in practical terms the definition can vary depending on who you're talking to and where they are.
For the purposes of this article, a minority driver recruit is anyone who is not a U.S.-born white male and who is capable of meeting the criteria to hold a CDL. Clearly, to reach everyone in this country who fits that description is a daunting task.
But if the job-marketing ‘scope is calibrated to take into account who makes up the largest minority groups in specific geographic areas, then recruitment efforts can work more like a rifle than a shotgun.
For example, if a fleet needs drivers who will be domiciled in the Southwest, they should make a pitch to Hispanic Americans, especially the large number of Mexican Americans who live in that region.
Likewise, if a fleet needs drivers to work out of a major city, they should reach out to African Americans and recent immigrants as well as Hispanic Americans.
When it comes to Hispanic Americans, it is important to understand they are not a monolithic ethnic group. Kim Judd, vp-North American operations for truckload carrier CR England, points out that “the Hispanic population is segmented and cannot be broadly targeted.” There are native-born Hispanic Americans as well as recent immigrants from countries running from Mexico to the tip of South America.
Moving to gender, bear in mind there's no place women can't be recruited to become truckers, either as team or solo drivers.
Mike Norder, spokesperson for truckload carrier Schneider National, points out that the fleet has benefited from a recent “up tick” in the number of female drivers joining its operations, drawn from all over the country.
“Women seem to especially like our ‘Home Run’ program,” Norder advises. “It allows either three teams or three solo drivers to operate two trucks on a schedule staggered so that everyone works two full weeks and then is off for one full week.”
Once you figure out who you're trying to reach, you have to figure out how to reach them. For most fleets, that means determining which media outlets in a given area will deliver the minority audience for reasonable cost.
Buying media is a profession in its own although many fleets handle this task in-house. Generally speaking, it can involve placing newspaper or magazine ads or securing air time on radio or TV. These buys should be made only after thoroughly considering both the “reach” (audience size) and “tone” (editorial content) of the media in question to ensure cost-effectiveness.
Whatever message a fleet puts out to attract drivers should be crafted not only to appeal to members of one or another minority group but to not come off offensive or exclusionary to anyone else.
Media outlets to consider include publications, produced in English and other languages, geared toward specific ethnic groups or residents of individual cities or even neighborhoods. TV and radio stations that broadcast only in Spanish are also good bets in many urban areas.
The NAACP and Monster, which runs the mega jobs site monster.com, have an online recruiting partnership up and running that they say delivers “diversity recruiting solutions for employers and targeted jobs and content for diverse job seekers.”
The co-branded website is featured prominently as the “career channel” of the NAACP web site, enabling it to attract visitors from monster.com, the NAACP site and its branches. Certainly, it makes sense to post job openings where minority prospects are likely to be checking.
Human resources expert Paul Falcone writes in his book, The Hiring and Firing Question and Answer Book (AMACOM, New York, 2002), that the Internet can be effective only “if you target those Web sites dedicated to reaching minority and female populations.”
Falcone notes that EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) auditors will expect that jobs offered online also be posted internally and be advertised in traditional print classifieds “so that the widest population of potential applicants is reached.” So even as you are reaching out, be sure not to leave anyone — in this case, those lacking computer access — out of the running.
Speaking of trying to reach everyone possible, it may pay to do the homework it takes to also locate media that caters to recent immigrants who are likely to have arrived here with English proficiency.
Jeff Hart, vp of CPC Logistics, whose services include driver sourcing for private fleets, says that along with using Spanish-language media, the firm has placed driver advertisements in Polish-language publications circulated in Chicago to draw in new arrivals from that Old World land, many of whom already speak English as a second language.
Work with partners
Minority prospects can be reached by forging links with job fair and training programs operating under the aegis of minority advocacy or community development organizations around the country.
For example, the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) has spearheaded a multi-group effort to help its members find and train bilingual Hispanic Americans to become truck drivers.
Dubbed the Latino Careers in Trucking Pilot Project, the program is a partnership between TCA and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) a Hispanic advocacy group, along with two driver-training schools and two carriers, Carlisle Carriers Corp. and Werner Enterprises.
TCA director of public affairs Nancy O'Liddy says the goal is to “provide truckload carriers with a new, reliable and significant source of CDL drivers by recruiting qualified bilingual Latino drivers.”
The pilot is being implemented in Philadelphia with funding from the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corp. A local NCLR affiliate, Congreso de Latinos Unidos, will manage recruitment, screening and referrals of applicants who sign up to take part in the program.
Hurdle language barriers
Although Hispanic Americans are now the largest growing minority in the U.S. does not mean recruiting them to be truck drivers has to be done solely or even mostly in Spanish.
To begin with, every truck driver of course has to know English well enough to secure a CDL. Secondly, the umbrella terms “Hispanic” is ethnic but not lingual. There are Hispanic Americans who speak no Spanish as there are those truly bilingual or who speak English more than well enough to be truck drivers.
On the other hand, those for whom English is a second language may welcome being approached initially in their native tongue-be that Spanish or Polish. Non-English advertisements also have the advantage of attracting the attention of friends and relatives.
Hart says CPC Logistics does not rely on a large bilingual staff when recruiting minority truckers.
“It helps, Hart notes, “but it's not necessary for these positions” as English proficiency is expected of drivers.
Herb Schmidt, president of Contract Freighters Inc. (CFI) says the truckload carrier is currently taking a “blanket approach” to recruiting and not focusing on minorities per se but does run driver ads in both English and Spanish. “Someone whose primary language is Spanish will just be more comfortable reading an ad in Spanish,” he observes. “Any distinctions we make [in recruiting] are more language-related than anything else.”
According to CR England's Judd, the carrier has been focusing more efforts on recruiting Hispanic American drivers over the past six months. He says that when it comes to recruiting these drivers, language skills can be something of a sweet spot that is hard to hit dead on.
“To be a CDL holder, you must speak a fair amount of English,” says Judd. “But if a minority person speaks English as a first language or is truly bilingual, chances are they can get a job anywhere and may not consider trucking.”
Despite not wanting to give away “trade secrets,” executives with several carriers did indicate having at least some bilingual support staff, especially in dispatch, payroll and maintenance, to aid drivers who are more fluent in Spanish than English will only help their efforts.
“We have had to work very hard here to make changes internally to better support” minority drivers, notes CR England's Judd. “It's important to break down barriers [to communication] if they exist.”
Leverage positive reputation
It's common sense but fleets known for having an ongoing commitment to a diverse workforce, such as UPS and Ryder, are going to have an easier time attracting minority applicants regardless of the positions that need filling.
In the same regard, personal referrals from minority drivers already on board — and satisfied employees — can be a powerful draw to attract other members of their minority community.
So don't discount the value of referral bonuses says CPC Logistics' Hart. “Our drivers are the best source of new driver recruits, be they Hispanic or African American or women.” To encourage such referrals, he says CPC pays a bonus to the referring driver that can run from “a couple hundred to $500 depending on how acute the need is at any given time.
“It's important to have the mindset that it's not just a matter of finding more workers,” Hart continues, “but that your firm values a diverse workforce. That ends up getting known and that will get you more drivers. It is just good business to be diverse. Having that mindset to the corporate culture will come through.”
Norder says Schneider National is working hard to be known as a fleet that welcomes minority applicants.
“Schneider National is 100% committed and has devoted more resources in the last 18 months than in previous years and certainly expects to hold a leadership position in minority driver recruitment,” he states.
Keep legal issues in mind
According to a white paper by the Chicago law firm Meckler Bulger & Tilson LLP, “most employers are aware that they should not indicate national origin, religious or sexual preferences in job advertisements… any advertisement or public description of the available jobs should be designed to attract the most qualified individuals.
“The ad should simply describe the nature of the job including essential functions, relevant salary information, and other such information. The employer may also include a statement to the effect that it is an equal employment opportunity (EEO) employer that does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, marital status, disability, or any other reason prohibited by applicable law.”
The firm points out that while recruiting by referral may be advantageous, “employers should be weary of this approach, because, as the EEO Commission has recognized, employees normally advise people of their own races and gender and often their own relatives, about job opportunities.
“As a result, such a practice may lead to the exclusion of individuals from different minority groups, which are not already represented or which are under-represented in the workforce. Thus, while hiring by word-of-mouth may be advantageous, it should not be used as the exclusive means of recruiting.
“The bottom line,” the firm adds, “is that employers should focus their recruiting efforts in a way that does not result in the favoring of any particular class of individuals over other groups.”
Behind the numbers
The number of Americans describing themselves as Hispanic grew by almost 60% in the 2000 U.S. Census. These citizens now total 35.3 million. Hispanics, or more broadly, Latinos, comprise the nation's fastest-growing minority.
According to the Census Bureau, Hispanics, who may belong to any race, are persons whose ancestors are from Spanish-speaking countries. About two-thirds of American Hispanics are of Mexican descent.
Census 2000 shows that the Hispanic (all races) population is now 12.5%, up from just 9% ten years ago. What's more, Hispanics are now almost numerically equal to African Americans.
Government statistics also show that as of 2001, 12.6% of truck drivers are of Hispanic origin. That means the Hispanic representation in this job is keeping pace with the group's position in the population.
Census 2000, which excluded from its “Black” category persons who identified with two or more races, shows that 12.1% of the population (33.4-million persons) is now African American, up just a bit from the 11.7% recorded in 1990.
However, the government says African Americans accounted for 14% of all truck drivers as of 2001. That means they are slightly better represented in the driver population than in the general population.
According to Census 2000, of the nation's total population of 281.4 million, 143.4 million (50.9%) are women. Yet only 5.3% of all truck drivers today are women.
The number of women in the labor force is projected to grow at a significantly higher rate than men. There will be 9% growth in the number of men but 15% in the number of women.
Ten years ago, men accounted for 55% of the labor force. They now equal 53% and will fall to 52% by 2010. Correspondingly, women accounted for 45% in 1990. They are now at 47% and will reach 48% in ten years.
By 2010, white (non-Hispanic) workers will still account for nearly 70% of all workers. But BLS projects that they will record the slowest labor force growth rate (6%).
Workers of Hispanic origin (any race) will increase at a much faster rate ( 36%). Those of black, non-Hispanic origin will increase less rapidly (17%) But even that pace will be nearly three times as fast as what it will be for whites.
When it comes to growing and benefiting from diversity, the Golden Rule may be the best to one to apply. Treat others as you'd like to be and they will like to work for you.
“This is nothing new to us,” remarks Schneider National's Norder. “We have been committed to serving the minority community and having a diverse workforce for years. Our associates welcome diversity and embrace it on the job.”
“We feel we have a real mixture of cultures — that we are multicultural,” says CFI's Schmidt. “As does everyone else, minorities see us working in their communities day in and day out; we're a fixture in their lives.
“When you get right down to it,” he adds, “all the basic issues that impact drivers are human, not cultural, ones. All drivers want good pay, time at home, and to be fairly treated” by their employers.