Holding On

Companies must do a better job of keeping new hires and seasoned drivers.

By Kent Ferguson and Steven Spencer

Transportation companies are bullish about growing their companies, according to the 2017 HireRight Employment Background Screening Benchmark Report, with 72 percent reporting they expect to grow their workforce. But with that growth comes challenges: 55 percent of truckers are 45 or older, and that aging workforce is starting to think about retirement – particularly those drivers who struggle with health issues, such as sleep apnea, which may affect their ability to retain their CDL.

The industry also continues to grapple with “hire and retire” syndrome. According to analysis by Stay Metrics, 33 percent of drivers quit within 90 days of being hired and another 22 percent have departed by the 180-day mark. To effectively grow its workforce, companies must do a better job of retaining new hires and seasoned veterans alike.

Recruitment Strategies

If your company is seeking to attract millennial drivers and women drivers, you’ll need to rethink your recruitment strategy, while also focusing on job benefits that appeal to these demographics.

Forget about the tools and techniques you used to recruit Baby Boomer drivers. Instead, connect with millennials using channels they are familiar with, such as Snapchat, Instagram and other social media sites. Encourage your drivers to share photos they’ve taken on the road, and post pictures that showcase ways in which your company seeks to retain drivers – such as driver appreciation events, the company’s fitness facilities and its state-of-the-art fleet.

It’s also critical to articulate the job benefits that appeal to your target candidates when advertising positions. To appeal to younger drivers, that may be technology that makes driving easier and safer, systems that allow drivers to connect with other drivers and their families, and long-term career options. And both women and millennials will be attracted to jobs that offer flexibility, with less time away from family.

An independent contractor model has helped Landstar attract more women drivers. “Recruiting women truck operators is different at Landstar because the individuals are independent contractors – truck owner-operators – who can control their own businesses,” says Sandi Edwards, Landstar’s vice president of capacity qualifications. “Some of the key issues that traditionally keep women from being truck operators for a company, like unreliable equipment and the ergonomics of the truck, have already been addressed in the choices she made when buying her own equipment before leasing to Landstar.”

Finally, to help ensure you hire drivers likely to stay on the job past that critical 180-day mark, consider predictive personality surveys as part of the hiring process. During the background and reference checks, you’ll also want to be alert for possible red flags: Does the driver have experience with the kind of equipment your company uses? Is the driver a serial job hopper? Are there any other red flags?

Retention Strategies

Retaining new drivers also may mean making fundamental shifts in how your company operates. During the onboarding process, consider:

• Initial surveys to get a better sense of the driver expectations, along with follow-up surveys to measure how well the company is meeting those expectations.

• Longer orientation and training periods, which give drivers more time to get acclimated to the position.

• Driver liaisons or mentors who help new drivers get oriented during the onboarding process.

Companywide, you’ll want to consider changes that make trucks easier to drive, and give drivers more time at home. For example, consider implementing a relay system that allows drivers to choose how many segments they drive and better control how much time they have at home. Also, invest in technology such as in-cabin video, smart adaptive cruise control and lane assist, which is more likely to appeal to new drivers.

Your company also should promote a healthier lifestyle to your drivers, which increases the likelihood they’ll get a two-year card and reduces the likelihood of retirement due to chronic health conditions.

“We do all we can to promote a healthy lifestyle for all of our employees,” says Melissa Stephan, recruiting manager at Melton Truck Lines. “We have on-site health and dental clinics and a full time personal trainer on staff that provides tips for healthy eating and working out while on the road. Additionally, we offer many health incentives such as weight loss competitions with cash prizes, smoking cessation programs and rewards for people that complete a biometric screening.” Implementing these changes may come at a cost, but pays off with lower employee turnover and higher driver job satisfaction.

Steven Spencer is the vice president and managing director for the transportation and heath care business lines at HireRight. He brings more than 25 years of experience in business development, operations, sales and product innovation. He joined HireRight in 1999, where he created the account management program for the transportation division and was responsible for building deeper customer relationships and driving revenue growth.

Kent Ferguson is the director of transportation solutions at HireRight. He joined HireRight in 1986 and has since contributed to innovative product development, strategic market analysis and product implementation. He is responsible for the management and maintenance of HireRight’s background screening products for the transportation industry.