Driver Recruitment and Retention: A Winning Combination

Attracting “good” drivers and keeping the “best” ones are two challenges that can frustrate managers, but are the keys to success within a fleet operation. Why are these two areas so critical?

Maintaining a stable roster of drivers enables:

  • Dispatchers to move loads without delay, 
  • Sales people to bid for more loads with greater confidence, 
  • Safety managers to better ensure predictable and reasonable results as measured by DOT compliance and accident prevention, 
  • Companies to preserve a greater share of their profit margin as a profit instead of funding expensive qualification activities (i.e. drug tests, MVRs, medicals, etc.)

Additionally, attracting and keeping “professional” drivers directly influence your firm’s results:

  • Drivers are the public face of your company. Drivers interact with customers and shape their opinions of your firm. 
  • There are a lot of folks outside of your company who care about your drivers and how they behave: roadside inspectors, insurance carriers, DOT auditors. 
  • Drivers can get into trouble (i.e. infractions of regulations, crashes, etc.) and in doing so can get you and the management team into trouble, too.

There are many obstacles that keep firms from achieving strong recruiting and retention results:

  • It is difficult to find new, qualified (experienced) drivers who are willing to work long hours at “reasonable” wages (the candidate’s expectations are becoming harder to satisfy) 
  • Many potential drivers have difficulty with speaking and writing the English language which can introduce regulatory compliance and safety issues. 
  • Increased competition between transportation firms for what loads are available are leading some to pay a premium for the best drivers, but that’s also driving up their costs. 
  • Safety departments have a legitimate concern over hiring drivers who may be “at increased risk” of becoming involved in collisions due to prior collisions and moving violations; however, when this interferes with the company’s ability to move loads, it can lead to an internal struggle between managers. 
  • Many companies can’t afford lavish retention programs and anniversary bonus programs that are cash based. 
  • Many top managers don’t support their department or team leaders in practical ways that would enable more creative approaches to recruiting or retention; therefore, line managers become de-motivated to try new things that might actually help.

How can a company overcome these obstacles to find and keep productive drivers?

Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric said; “Business is like a sports team; to win, you have to field the best talent“. Some managers may be reading this and thinking, “Heck, I’d settle for fielding a ‘complete’ team let alone the ‘best’ team“. Don’t give up hope and don’t let your boss paint you into a corner by demanding results with no budget.

There are likely two issues keeping your company from achieving its staffing goals: not enough qualified candidates arriving at your door, and too many veterans leaving your company. Whether we like to admit it or not, these two issues are usually connected to each other — two ends of the same spectrum.  If you’re having trouble with one, you’re likely struggling with the other (maybe it’s not obvious or it’s still “under the radar”)

In the next couple of blog posts, we’ll look at Recruiting Strategies and Retention Strategies.  We’d like to hear from you if you agree/disagree that these two issues are linked and if you have any tips for your peers on improving retention/recruting.