Opinion: Recruiting Should Be a Top Priority

This Opinion piece appears in the Feb. 15 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

By Philip Klein

Rental Sales Manager

Trudell Trailer Sales

Communication and team building are two ideas or points of emphasis that all successful transportation firms need to understand and utilize.

In today’s world, companies face many hurdles and roadblocks. If the modern carrier wants to compete and grow, its executives will need to understand the value of recruiting and developing talent and adapting its use of that talent to market demands.

One of the biggest concerns that you will hear from many different carriers is recruitment of drivers. Carriers constantly are fighting to find new drivers and develop them to meet their customers’ ever-growing needs. American Trucking Associations estimates that the current shortage of drivers is in the range of 20,000 to 25,000 in the for-hire truckload market. The scary thing is that it also expects this number to grow to almost 250,000 over the next decade.

This fact is evident at almost every carrier I have spoken with. The supply and demand curve for safe professional drivers has made recruiting a larger, more important part of our industry.

To find out what the new candidates are looking for, I took the time to question Jonathan Rymer, curriculum director for the Riverland Truck Driving Program — part of Riverland Community College, which has three campuses in Minnesota. Rymer provided a composite of what his students look for.

The recent explosion of sign-on bonus offerings is not piquing the interest of his top students, Rymer said: “The bonuses tend to be spread out and hard to collect. They are generally considered negligible by new drivers.”

In place of sign-on bonuses, Rymer’s top students are looking for carriers offering terminals close to their homes. They also are interested in companies where they are called by name and not treated as a number.

In recent years, the advent of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability, or CSA, scoring system and its effects on individuals has made recruits put more value on the state of a carrier’s fleet. New drivers are looking more than ever for carriers that have fleets with late model and legal equipment. Rymer also mentioned that, if drivers had a five-day workweek with two days at home, they were more likely to stay with the carrier they sign on with.

An important piece of wisdom Rymer offered to carriers hiring new drivers: “For most folks entering the industry, just learning to drive the truck is a huge step. I think career planning is too much to grasp for most entrants to the industry. They generally lack direction in their lives.”

With this advice, carriers that are expanding may want to offer career mentoring or other forms of help to develop their drivers.

Knowing what candidates are focusing on today, I reached out to Wendy Bartz, director of recruiting for Bay and Bay Transportation in Rosemount, Minnesota. Bay and Bay was voted a top 20 best fleet to drive for in 2015-2016 by Truckload Carriers Association.

Bartz shared some of what Bay and Bay focuses on to keep its recruits coming in the door and staying there. The most effective tool in the process, Bartz said, has been to stay proactive with social networking. Landing top talent also has been aided by adapting and moving their lanes to more profitable and warmer locations.

Asked about our industry’s desire for more professionalism, Bartz said: “It has to be quality over quantity of finding drivers to work here. Recruiters are building relationships and asking more behavioral-based interview questions to ensure the driver will be the right fit for us.”

Bay and Bay has focused on building its team with solid professionals rather than anyone who has a CDL and a pulse — and it shows.

Bartz also said that communication is the key to keeping Bay and Bay drivers happy. It is clear that drivers want to see change when they bring up issues, and this is an issue where Bay and Bay has found surveys to be beneficial.

The final piece of advice that Bartz gave was to be honest in the recruitment process. Drivers appreciate hearing blunt information about the company upfront. It also will help find the more committed candidate.

Knowing that we will continue to see competition for quality talent increase over the next decade, it will be interesting to see how industry associations help their carriers call more young professional drivers to the industry to fill positions. With drivers able to earn $55,000 to $70,000 in the first year with a carrier, the transportation community should be able to compete with other vocations in attracting quality talent.

Klein has been a rental sales manager for Trudell Trailer Sales for four years, covering Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Trudell Trailer Sales is a full-line Great Dane dealer with more than 45 years of experience. The company has five locations across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.


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