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Pete Hanley
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September 27, 2016
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Driver Shortage Accelerates Risk for Trucking Companies

The trucking industry is facing a major problem that is putting freight carriers at risk. A severe driver shortage is prompting many trucking companies to recruit and hire whomever they can find – some even making job offers to students who have been in commercial driver’s license (CDL) training for only a matter of days.

This often means that experience and good driving habits aren’t major factors in the hiring process. Before hiring the first available applicant, we urge you to pump the brakes and consider several strategies that could help you find and retain quality drivers. This extra effort can go a long way toward building a stronger fleet and reducing your overall risk.

truck-on-roadway-driver-shortage-impact

Hire Smart
With a limited pool of candidates, making good hiring decisions can be a challenge. However, offering a position to a driver for the sake of filling a truck cab can be a reckless and costly decision. It is important for fleet owners to stay ahead of their peers and utilize the latest hiring tools available. This can often be as simple as turning to your organization’s social media outlets to communicate with a targeted audience. Truck drivers have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and developing regular posts that illustrate how great your company is can help steer quality applicants in your direction. Rather than advertising an open position, sell the organization first. By highlighting the things that set your fleet apart from the rest, you are enticing candidates who value good employers and are looking for longevity in their careers – not just a quick paycheck.

While it is important to be upbeat and positive about the company on social media, it is equally important to be honest about the job. Sugarcoating a position might seem like a smart way to attract potential candidates; however, if you recruit new hires by providing unrealistic expectations, they probably won’t stick around. Not only does this leave you short on drivers, but it saddles you with additional turnover costs related to onboarding and training. Furthermore, a revolving door of new hires can lead to bad word-of-mouth about your company. While being forthright and honest about a position may mean that you have to spend a little more time finding the right candidate, this strategy can help prevent unnecessary turnover expenses by securing a driver who is happy with the terms and conditions of the job.

Smooth Transition
Finding and hiring quality drivers is just the first step. Once you have them, you want to keep them. It is important to have a solid onboarding plan. New driver orientation should cover more than just the procedures, rules and regulations applicable to the position. This is the time for fleet managers to schedule lunches with new drivers and get to know them. This one-on-one time can show new hires that they are going to be treated with respect and that their voice matters. This is also the time to introduce new hires to the people they will be working with and foster a camaraderie among co-workers. Since most turnover happens within the first 60 to 90 days, it is also helpful to assign mentors who are available to show new drivers the ropes and discuss any issues that arise early on.

Incentives and Balance
Offering competitive pay is often a key component to finding and retaining good hires, but many people believe that driver pay isn’t what it should be. Most carriers are simply unable to offer pay raises without a significant increase in freight rates. To get around this, fleet owners have introduced pay packages that reward drivers for habits that positively influence the company’s bottom line, such as better fuel mileage and positive inspection reports. Since the majority of drivers are paid based on the number of miles they drive in a week, some companies are also offering a guaranteed minimum number of miles to drivers. This guaranteed minimum means that drivers can count on a steady paycheck, and this predictable pay sometimes outweighs a higher wage that is less consistent.

In addition to steady pay, many drivers enjoy the promise of a steady schedule that fosters a healthy balance between work and personal time. Fleet operators can work toward achieving this by teaming up with shippers to better coordinate delivery and wait times, or by developing relay operations among the drivers. They can also invest in more sophisticated routing and planning systems that optimize each driver’s time on the road. This additional effort and expense can go a long way toward attracting and retaining quality drivers.

Cut Problems Off at the Pass
Once hiring and onboarding issues have been addressed, it is important to stay ahead of any other potential problems that could negatively impact your ability to hire and retain good drivers. Many fleet managers are enlisting the help of industry consultants to use predictive modeling as part of their recruiting and retention plan. Predictive modeling is a type of data analytics that recognizes relationships among complex data sets, which then become predictors of certain outcomes. In the trucking industry, this data can come from driver information, GPS, maintenance records, etc. Predictive modeling can help fleet managers identify a driver who is more likely to have an accident before one occurs, as well as a driver who is more likely to quit because they are not getting enough time at home or getting assigned enough miles. Armed with this data, fleet managers have the opportunity to address issues with drivers before they become larger problems, ultimately creating a stronger and happier workforce.

Big Wheels, Big Risk
Operating an 18-wheeler is an enormous responsibility. Money, products and lives are hanging in the balance every time a driver sets out on the open road. It is critical for fleet owners to hire good drivers and to keep those trusted individuals behind their wheels. With the present driver shortage, it has never been more important to be proactive with your recruiting and retention plans. Resources are available to help fleet owners manage this exposure. For more information, contact SilverStone Group’s Transportation Risk Services Team.

This article originally appeared in the 2016 | ISSUE TWO of the SilverLink magazine under the title “Driver Shortage Accelerates Risk.” To receive a complimentary subscription to the SilverLink magazine, sign up here.

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