AUSTIN, Texas — Trucking firms can successfully recruit and retain young drivers by presenting an honest, cohesive image of their companies, according to a panel of industry experts.
The industry suffers from a widespread driver shortage. Elizabeth Lotardo, vice president of project management for McLeod and More, said the shortage is expected to surpass 63,000 drivers in 2018. The shortage once again ranked No. 1 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s critical issues report, which was released Oct. 29.
Lotardo moderated a panel of industry representatives at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition here Oct. 29. She said the industry needs to hire 900,000 drivers through 2026 to keep pace with freight demands.
Lotardo (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
Panelists encouraged companies to take pride in and share the stories of their foundation and leadership. Gary Johnson, director of risk and compliance management of Lytx, said that people are inspired from stories of achievement and that firms should teach potential hires about their history. Seth Becker, director of operations for marketing firm Randall-Reilly, pointed out that many people searching for jobs use websites such as Glassdoor, which allows employees to leave reviews of workplaces.
“[The] important thing to realize is, if you’re not telling your story, someone else is,” Becker said. “When drivers look for a position, the first thing they’re usually doing is Googling it. You need to get out in front of it and tell your story.”
Becker divided the hiring process into attracting, recruiting and retaining. He said more emphasis needs to be placed on how to turn prospective candidates into committed drivers. Becker also recommended recording recruiters’ phone calls with potential hires and using the recordings to further train those recruiters.
Becker (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)
“People talk about how to attract and retain, but [there’s] not a lot of discussion of how to funnel and hire,” Becker said. “So few in the industry are actually training the recruiters on how to speak to different types of drivers.”
Joyce Brenny, president of Minnesota-based Brenny Transportation Inc., emphasized the importance of making company expectations clear to prospective drivers. Brenny Transportation’s training program for new recruits lasts a year. The company’s retention rate is 86%. The truckload fleet driver turnover rate in 2016 was 81%.
Brenny said an important part of her company’s retention strategy is showing potential drivers an unvarnished glimpse at what truck driving looks like as a career. She cautioned recruiters against selling the glorified part of the job, such as promises to see the country.
“I don’t think that’s a great recruiting tool,” Brenny said. “Driving that truck is one tiny, small part of what they all need to learn. We help them overcome and learn how to make decisions for their safety and to learn how to be a professional truck driver.”
During an awards luncheon Oct. 29, ATA Chief Operating Officer Elisabeth Barna stressed the need to present trucking as a clean-cut, family-friendly industry.
Johnson, like Barna, emphasized the need to present the values of trucking to prospective drivers. He described the industry as one in which people can build long careers. Becker said that clear demonstration of company values can be especially appealing to the younger generation.
“Tribalism has never been bigger,” Becker said. “This younger generation wants to belong to something. They want to have purpose.”