Nearly every sector of the economy is struggling with the same challenge: workforce shortage. One of the most important industries that both literally and figuratively drives much of the economy has been hit especially hard by unsustainable worker trends. Since 2005, truck drivers have been on short supply, and the trend isn’t changing; the average age of drivers continues to climb (up to age 55 in 2014), prompting the necessity of savvy recruiting to attract new and younger drivers. According to estimates, 330,000 new truckers will be needed by 2020.
Considering that nearly 70 percent of freight tonnage is moved on the nation’s highways, bringing in new employees is critical. But recruiting (and retaining) truck drivers is not simple. That’s because truck drivers are a unique breed of employee. They spend a vast majority of their time alone, understanding that the solitary nature of the job contributes to a larger goal for the company.
Let’s start with what your company needs to offer potential drivers:
- Great pay
- Flexible schedules that allow for family time
- Enticing benefits
Surprise, surprise, salary is important to truck drivers. It should be. A great paycheck can entice someone to spend his days amid a sea of angry, passive aggressive drivers. In addition to a fat paycheck, drivers also want to be able to spend time at home. In a 2014 nationwide poll of truck drivers, 69 percent reported that being at home was the most attractive quality in a potential job. More than 50 percent cited benefits.
Say you do offer all of those things and you have a workforce replete with all the drivers your company needs. How do you keep them?
- Respect them.
- Ask them for feedback (and listen to it).
- Address issues respectfully and quickly.
- Be realistic about expectations.
Truck drivers perform an often thankless job, so if you treat them well and include them in important conversations, loyalty will soar.
“You’d be surprised at the number of companies we talk to that don’t do any active asking of their drivers, whether it’s a formal or informal way,” said Mark Murrell, president of CarriersEdge. “Those companies that do are the ones that have much higher driver satisfaction rates.”
Respecting drivers enough to ask them for feedback on a variety of issues also means addressing issues they encounter seriously and promptly. Communicate to your drivers that they need to speak up about problems, rather than head out the door. Tell them that managers can’t read minds, so drivers have to take initiative and voice concerns. Even if the problem can’t be immediately resolved, drivers will feel empowered by having their insights listened to and considered.
Finally, being a truck driver is hard. Consider paying recruiters flat fees or salaries rather than commission on individually hired drivers; that will help eliminate a revolving door of potential employees who haven’t been prepared properly.
Don’t sugarcoat the reality of driving truck for potential or new employees. Be straight with them about the challenges and communicate the desire to see them succeed. Bringing drivers on without giving them a complete picture of what the job will entail only compounds the problem.
In the end, truck drivers are looking for a great company—one that will take care of them and compensate them for the important work they complete. If your company can combine all the characteristics listed above, you’ll be headed in the right direction when it comes to finding qualified, competent drivers who will keep the economy and your company’s progress moving forward.