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truck driver recruitment

Best fleets don’t play games when recruiting drivers

The serious professionals, who are looking for a place to build a career, walk past the circus shows and look for companies with real information about the job and potential.

When I walk around trucking trade shows, I pay attention to fleets that have driver recruitment booths. One recent show must have had 60 booths – with one trying to outdo the next one to “attract” drivers. I had to shake my head as I thought to myself, “enough already with the games, spinning wheels, putt-putt golf contests and free hats! Get serious about driver recruiting!”

In our 11 years with the Best Fleets to Drive for Program, we’ve found gimmicks don’t work.

When you treat recruiting like a carnival or circus, what kind of person does that attract? Serious professionals, or unserious amateurs? 

The people who respond to “bells and whistles” are the same kind whose job search is limited to asking how much a fleet pays and about the sign-on bonus. The serious professionals, who are looking for a place where they can build a career, tend to walk past the circus shows and go to the quiet booths that provide real information about the company and job. In many cases, they’ve already researched the companies before they get to the show.

In other words, the circus act attracts people who don’t do research, don’t have a clear sense of what kind of fleet is a good fit for them, and don’t want to think too hard before making a decision. That’s not a recipe for a successful career, so those applicants often don’t work out. They end up leaving the company, the fleet’s turnover numbers remain high, and management continues to struggle with a driver shortage. They get increasingly desperate, ramp up the circus tactics even more, and the process repeats itself.

Photo: Aaron Marsh/ Fleet Owner

Attendees stop by the ONE20 booth at the 2018 Mid-America Trucking Show.

The most successful fleets aren’t playing these “games” because they don’t have to. They recruit with a purpose.

If you’re adamant about being at a truck show, spend time evaluating the strongest and weakest performers in your fleet to develop a clear picture of the characteristics that lead to success. Then think about the values that your company wants to convey (stay away from clichés like “family,” “open door policy” and “name not a number”). Put all of that together into a package that reflects your unique characteristics through booth branding, messaging, and staff presentation. It will definitely attract fewer people, but it will also attract people who are a better fit. 

A better roadmap

Stop relying on pay as the sole motivator for a driver to come work for you. Sure, it’s important, but hiring drivers is like selling a product or service – if you have to compete on price it’s generally an admission that there’s no differentiator. Some of the best recruiting ads and booths at trade shows never mention pay. Good examples are Challenger Motor Freight and Bison Transport. Challenger has its “first-class experience” campaign, while Bison’s campaign features its safety culture.

If your fleet has been recognized or has won awards, make it known! Drivers serious about building a career will want to work for a company that has a strong workplace environment, and one recognized in the industry.

Word of mouth is another great way to attract talented drivers. Are you confident that your workplace is top-of-the-line and that your drivers are happy? If so, encourage your drivers to jump on social media. The personal connection – and honest opinions from your driver – is much more effective than a recruitment ad. Your drivers can ultimately be your best recruiters.

Truck stops are another great opportunity for your drivers to get the word out. Provide your drivers with company business cards along with a contact that can provide more information on your company.

Quid pro quo

Offering a well-structured referral bonus will get your drivers eager to post on social media or talk at truck stops. Structuring your program in a way that encourages the success of the new driver can be much more effective than a one-time lump sum referral. Some successful referral programs I’ve seen are the ones that pay the referring driver for every mile the new driver runs in their first year.

This type of program helps ensure drivers are invested in helping the new driver become successful.

Are you a premier carrier online?

When a driver is serious about looking for a new carrier, they’re going to do research.  When they come across your company's website, what are they going to find? Is your site current? Are you active on social media? Do you have good online reviews from customers or drivers?

If your website visually looks good and it provides quality information, that can make all of the difference for drivers.

Final word

Finding quality drivers isn’t something that is going to happen overnight. You have to be patient. Move away from the notion that if you don’t hire a driver the day after he or she calls in, then they’ll be hired by your competition. Making quick hires may provide you with a lot of drivers, but not the best. The most successful fleets take the time to find a driver that is the right fit for the company.

Through technology, you can screen applicants and expedite the interview process so you can find drivers you believe would be a good fit.

It may feel overwhelming to move away from traditional recruiting practices like giving away free merchandise to attract top drivers, but it will be worth it.

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