Trucks at Work

Straight up

"Those who know how to win are far more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories." -- Polybius.

Might seem a little strange to quote this famous Greek historian in reference to today's truck driver recruiting practices, but I'll boil down the reason why I'm doing it here in two words: Mitch Bookbinder.

Mitch is the head of driver recruiting and retention for L.J. Kennedy Trucking in Kearney, N.J. (he's got another title, too, that just cracks me up -- 'minister of culture') and I've had the good fortune to talk to him more than a few times about the driver shortage issue. Mitch also gets asked to give a lot of speeches on this topic from time to time, so if you see him the agenda at a trade show or industry conference, make sure you grab a seat and listen to him -- you may not agree with everything Mitch says, but I guarantee you, it'll get you thinking.

His perspective is that most of the industry keeps going about recruiting drivers all wrong -- focusing on just keeping the seats filled and the wheels rolling, without regard to the actual people behind the wheel. Not that Mitch is a softie, mind you: he believes in playing it straight up. As L.J. Kennedy is a flatbed carrier that makes a lot of runs into the heart of NYC, he needs drivers that can handle a fair amount of physical strain and traffic stress on an ongoing basis -- and he lets all prospective hires know about those demands right up front.

“The driver interview is the key to knowing if the driver you are hiring is going to fit the job you have to fill,” he's told me more than once. “It's a two-way street: You have to level with them about what the job will require of them, and they have to be honest with you about their driving and work history, job likes and dislikes, etc.”

Bookbinder said the key is to listen to the applicant for 80% to 90% of the interview time, which allows you to get a much better “feeling” as to how the applicant feels about the job. “For example, at our company, our drivers have to deliver to all five New York City boroughs, are not allowed to have passengers in the cab, and must manage a 130-lb. tarp to cover our flatbed loads,” he said. “That upfront candor is a good thing -- it will let them know what the job is really like and whether they can live with that or not.”

This is the mindset of someone who's definitely out not just to 'win' in the driver recruitment game -- he wants to make sure his hires stick around for a long, long time, so he doesn't have to keep constantly filling seats. That's the mark of a person and a carrier that knows how to make good use of victories.