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March 7, 2019 3:00 PM, EST

In Driver Recruitment, Both Old and New Media Matter

Heartland direct mail Heartland Express direct mail. (Jim Stinson/Transport Topics)

Today’s recruitment efforts to attract truck drivers, both new and experienced, have tended to lean on digital media, which can find recruits on tablets, phones or computers.

But in a sea of digital information, recruitment opportunities can be lost. That concern is why some trucking companies are returning to older media approaches for recruitment.

Jeremy Reymer

Reymer

“There was a time when everyone used direct mail, so you get lost in the sea,” said Jeremy Reymer, CEO and founder of DriverReach, an Indianapolis-based recruitment management company. “Now no one uses it, so you stand out more.”

Heartland Express Inc. has decided to use some old, neglected ways and has dropped a batch of direct mail, hoping to lure truck drivers. A spiffy piece of direct mail, which was sent to a Florida address in February, has a list of mileage rates for drivers of varying experiences.

“Are you making peak dollars for your miles?” it asks.

A Heartland official said the North Liberty, Iowa-based truckload carrier sees a need for diverse media in recruitment.

“We continue to use a variation of ‘old media’ because our target demographics are so broad and we want to appeal to the entire audience,” said Steve Feldmann, Heartland director of recruiting. “Digital advertising obviously offers more opportunities for marketing, tracking return on investment, and engagement, but only if an individual is utilizing the technology.”

The use of direct mail, a favorite method of elected officials and banks, can reach prospective drivers who may not be frequent users of digital media, industry officials said. Older media also includes TV, radio and billboards. But is diversification of methods between older and newer a new trend in recruitment?

“I’m not sure it’s necessarily a trend, but we have seen some old strategies be reimagined for today’s digital driver,” said Priscilla Peters, vice president of marketing at Conversion Interactive Agency, a Nashville, Tenn.-based truck driver recruiting firm. “Some carriers use these strategies to attract drivers, but we see these types of media used primarily in very specific and targeted geographic locations and primarily more rural-type areas. For example, we have a few clients that use local radio for some of the specific, dedicated driving opportunities they have available.”

Peters said older media such as mail and phone calls can also be used to supplement today’s recruitment efforts.

Priscilla Peters

Priscilla Peters. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

“Face-to-face hiring events are back, and there’s a digital element to them that adds value for the carrier,” said Peters. “Platforms like Indeed, HireMaster, Facebook and others are creating opportunities for these virtual and face-to-face hiring events where brands can engage with drivers. Ten years ago, when a carrier had a hiring event, it was a ‘hope and pray’ approach, tracking was limited, and advertising to those that didn’t show up was not possible. Call, text and e-mail blasts can all be used to remind individuals of the upcoming events and thank everyone for their interest. That’s just one example of how an ‘old’ strategy has been revamped for today’s digital world.”

A frequently mentioned concern is the ability to track how effective direct mail recruitment advertising has been.

“There are fewer methods to track return on print media, like billboards and direct mail, but it isn’t necessarily harder, as many of our drivers still prefer the use of tangibles to share with other drivers as a talking piece,” said Feldmann of Heartland.

Reymer said that ads, even mailers, should in some way be tracked. “You have to be able to quantify what you’re investing in.”

United Road Services Inc., which provides automobile transport services in the United States and Canada, puts more of a focus on referrals and digital media.

Amanda McGregor, recruiting and retention manager at the company, said their research and tracking found little payoff in their use of billboards and direct mail to recruit drivers. The company uses various methods, including coding in digital ads, to learn how recruited drivers found them.

“(Direct mail and TV) just doesn’t seem to be effective,” said McGregor, adding those methods haven’t been used in two years.

McGregor said the company, based in Romulus, Mich., now prefers driver referrals, which give the company about 52% of new candidates, and social media such as Facebook, YouTube and digital ads.

Heartland, too, uses social media for recruitment efforts.

“Several of our drivers are active on Facebook and Instagram, and are regularly contributing to the community conversation within Heartland’s pages,” said Feldmann.

Heartland Express ranks No. 53 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of largest for-hire carriers in North America. United Road ranks No. 51.