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How To Attract and Keep The Best Drivers

The beating heart of your fleet is your team of drivers, the men and women on the road that ensure your cargo is moving safely and efficiently to its destination. A great group of drivers can be the difference between a thriving, growing trucking company and one struggling to maintain the status quo. Making sure you have systems in place to recruit and train new talent is absolutely necessary to keeping your fleet healthy and strong.

Just as important to attracting and developing new drivers is making sure you keep your current team engaged, happy, and committed to your fleet. To do this takes more than competitive salaries - there are many aspects to retaining your drivers. Making sure they’re happy to get behind the wheel day in and day out is crucial. Let’s take a quick look at how to make sure you’re recruiting the best talent and keeping them on your team.

Building a Dream Team

In a survey recently published by National Retail Systems Inc., 79% of drivers polled nationwide agreed that the most important thing when choosing a job was salary. Obviously offering your potential drivers a competitive wage plus an attractive set of benefits goes a long way towards attracting them to your fleet.

Making sure your starting rate is in line with industry leaders can help make sure potential drivers consider your organization, but actually hiring and training drivers can take more than just a great salary offer.

For example, as long haul driving has become less lucrative due to greater down time requirements, local jobs with more home time have become a bigger draw - in fact 64% of drivers rate it as the factor that most attracts them to a job. In the same study, 52% of drivers list benefits as the most important factor - another area that fleet operators ought to pay close attention to in order to remain competitive.

“The job – regional operation, hourly pay, home most nights – sells itself,” says Jim Pack,  president of KF Express in Columbus, Ohio. “Getting in front of the driver is the hard part.” Making sure your marketing yourself effectively can be the difference between making great connections and just spinning your wheels.

National advertising campaigns in magazines or on the radio have a broad reach, but they can cast too wide a net. Focusing on local or regional solutions like craigslist ads or word of mouth among drivers can be especially useful, according to Keith Tuttle, president of Motor Carrier Service Inc. of Northwood, Ohio.

“Over the next 30 years, we’re going to be relying on trucks – and truckers – to move more than 40 percent more freight than they currently do,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The Federal government has formed a 26-member committee to investigate establishing minimum training requirements for truck drivers, indicating that this area continues to grow in importance. Helping new drivers to prepare for and obtain their driving credentials is a great way to start your relationship early on and build a strong foundation.

What’s Driving Driver Retention?

Driver churn is a major concern for fleet operators, who can spend $12,000 to $15,000 to find, hire, train and equip a new driver.  Of course some driver turnover can’t be avoided, but losing a valuable team member to a competitor who offers better benefits, hours, or equipment can be a major blow to any fleet. What can you as a fleet operator do to keep turnover as long as possible? Focusing on safety, reducing or streamlining drivers’ administrative responsibilities, and making sure your drivers feel a sense of cooperation and teamwork are three great places to start.

Paperwork and administrative tasks aren’t any driver’s favorite activity, so the less they have to endure to do their job, the happier they’ll be. Finding innovative technological solutions to this problem can be a great way to make your driver’s happier.

For example, using in-cab scanning to allow truckers to quickly complete and turn in POD paperwork from the comfort of their cab after making a long run can be a welcome change from the old method of waiting in line in a truck stop to scan and turn in your paperwork.

Fostering a strong team atmosphere amongst your drivers is a more subjective process - there’s no one easy solution. What is key however is considering your drivers’ wants and needs in your plans, and being as transparent as possible with any business decisions that will directly affect them. Tres Parker, VP of Ops for Boyd Bros. Transportation, says that "when you create a good working environment for your people and you reduce turnover company-wide, you build a knowledge-based system that can handle all situations."