February 20, 2020 3:00 PM, EST

First Impressions, Earning Drivers’ Trust Key to Recruiting, Expert Says

Scott DismukeScott Dismuke by John Sommers II for Transport Topics

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The condition of the truck a new hire is assigned to makes an important impression on that driver, according to Scott Dismuke, director of agents for the Professional Driver Agency.

Based in Brentwood, Tenn., the agency offers recruiting programs meant to help professional drivers find the right fit in a trucking company. Dismuke addressed attendees at the Recruitment and Retention Conference on Feb. 20. Conversion Interactive Agency, an advertising firm that specializes in recruitment, hosted the event in conjunction with Transport Topics and American Trucking Associations.

Dismuke compared a recent hire’s assignment to a piece of unkempt equipment to an office worker’s placement at a desk that’s dirty and covered in cigarette burns. According to Dismuke, the two biggest smell-related complaints he hears about truck cabs are smoke and urine.

“The first impression you’re making that matters is the status of that truck when they get hired,” Dismuke said. “This is not only your driver’s office. This is your driver’s home.”

Dismuke said the Professional Driver Agency maintained accounts with 15,000 drivers in 2019 to collect data on the biggest issues they were facing. The group connected with drivers by phone. The drivers worked for all sizes of fleets, including those that specialize in dry van, hazardous materials, over-the-road, flatbed and household-goods hauling.

One of the top issues related to equipment was general maintenance, such as incorrect repairs, issues with auxiliary power units and slow shop repairs. Dismuke cautioned that equipment issues — such as keeping a truck in the shop for an extended period of time — can lead to other issues.

“Equipment issues are part of the industry. It’s impossible to avoid,” Dismuke said. “Equipment problems are a big deal because they cascade into other problems. It will become a compensation problem. Or a home-time problem.”

In addition to equipment, the group’s data reflected that the top issues for drivers in 2019 were company issues, home time, operations and compensation.

Dismuke said the main focus of the Professional Driver Agency’s research was reaching drivers during the beginning of their time with a company, noting that 60% of driver turnover occurs within the first 180 days of employment.

Host Seth Clevenger went to CES 2020 in Las Vegas and met with Rich Mohr of Ryder Fleet Management Solutions and Stephan Olsen of the Paccar Innovation Center to discuss how high-tech the industry has become. Listen to a snippet above, and to hear the full episode, go to

He reminded orientation officials and recruiters to spend time teaching drivers about more administrative items, such as pay stubs and scheduling.

“We’ve got an issue with drivers not really knowing how to manage their hours of service,” Dismuke said. “We have an issue with drivers that really don’t know how to properly set their [estimated times of arrival] and [projected times of availability].”

Dismuke also encouraged recruiters to mirror a driver’s communication style. He pointed out that some drivers won’t answer a call, but they’ll respond to an email.

Establishing trust with drivers helps build “relationship capital,” which Dismuke said is useful in case a carrier needs to ask a driver to make a change to his or her schedule.

“Not every broken promise is a route adjustment, but every route adjustment is a broken promise,” Dismuke said. “If you’ve built that relationship with that driver, you have the ability to overcome that route adjustment. If you’ve made deposits into the relationship bank, you can overcome the occasional home-time hiccup or pay hiccup.”

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