Hiring Truck Drivers: A How-to for Employers
Hiring truck drivers is a pressing concern, especially as baby boomers retire and employers are challenged with recruiting younger candidates to move into the driver’s seat. This is even more of a challenge with over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers who face days, or even weeks, on the road at any given time.
Although these long haul truckers may spend a lot of time on their own, they will usually stick around if they know that they’re part of a company culture based on teamwork. These drivers also want to join companies with opportunities that keep their careers on track, on or off the road. As you consider filling your next truck driver position, here are a few factors to keep in mind.
Licenses, Technical Certifications and Screenings
License and technical certifications vary according to jurisdiction. States issue commercial driver’s licenses and set renewal periods. Depending on the vehicle type, a “Class A CDL” license may be required, along with successful completion of a driving test. In addition, specialty licenses may also apply, such as those for handling hazardous materials and different types of steering systems.
As the trucking industry is highly regulated by state and federal departments of transportation, there may be specific requirements for any background check which can affect the viability of your job candidates. Any thorough background check or screening will generally look for:
- Moving violations going back at least 10 years
- Driving while under the influence (having a zero-tolerance policy may limit your pool of job candidates, but it can also limit your liability down the road)
- Operating under the influence (you may want to consider screening out candidates who have convictions for operating boats or any vehicle while under the influence)
- Compliance safety accountability records, available through the federal Department of Transportation (these provide historic records of each driver’s and each company’s performance and safety)
- Fitness and health screenings, such as indications that a candidate is at high risk for sleep apnea
- Records on driver health, safety, and working conditions compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Keep in mind that if a route crosses international lines, a license and background check may be required to comply with the applicable country’s regulations. In addition, insurance providers can also require their own form of background check or screening for OTR truck drivers, other factors that can affect your search for job candidates.
Consider developing specialized tests to screen your candidates. John Fritzius, general manager at Motor Carrier Service Inc. of Ohio, has a customized “functional capacity test” developed by a physical therapist that emulates a day’s worth of driver activities in 45 minutes that candidates must pass.
Sourcing OTR Truck Drivers
Signing bonuses help when hiring truck drivers, but they are both common and controversial. While many employers offer $2,000 or more just to win over OTR truck drivers, other employers feel that bonuses undermine employee retention especially if there are limited incentives to stay once the bonus is paid.
“Referrals from current employees work well,” reports Dallas-based Frozen Food Express Mark Rhea, director of driver resources. Employees whose referrals result in hires receive bonuses, says Rhea.
Key Skills and Traits
As a personality type, OTR truck drivers need to be independent because they spend long hours away from home — and direct supervision. Because of this you also need candidates who have demonstrated their trustworthiness. When hiring truck drivers, consider candidates who have:
- Experience maintaining accurate logs and providing accurate reporting
- A collaborative personality, and have demonstrated good communication skills with dispatchers and schedulers
- Mechanical aptitude for both troubleshooting and long-distance collaboration with mechanics
- The ability to manage and continually learn new communication, GPS, and monitoring technologies
Drivers are really multitaskers, says Duff H. Swain, president of the Trincon Group, a Ohio consultancy that advises transportation employers. But that doesn’t mean they do everything alone. Consider surveying your support staff, from dispatchers to mechanics, to identify the truck driver skills they find most valuable.
What to Cover in Interviews
Ask truck driver candidates interview questions that encourage them to reveal their expectations and aspirations about the job. A thorough discussion of expectations around home time is an essential part of the in-person interview. Some employers are reorganizing their logistics to minimize the amount of time OTR drivers must spend on long hauls to make themselves more attractive to candidates. Here are a few other topics you may want to cover:
- Ask the candidate how he or she handles unexpected situations such as mechanical breakdowns
- See how the candidate feels about real-time monitoring, including communications systems that constantly stream feedback about truck location and activity
- Ask how the candidate deals with stress and fatigue on long hauls
Also, consider inviting the driver’s spouse or partner to the final interview so they can understand the scope of the job and ask questions about benefits and the scheduling of home time.
Ashley Distribution Service, the Wisconsin-based division of Ashley Furniture, is evolving its hub-and-spoke regional distribution system to require more one to three day drives, says Kevin Mullen, Director of Transportation Safety. If your company is reorienting its operations to ensure more home time for drivers, be sure to outline this to candidates in the interview.
How to Retain Truck Drivers
Start employee retention from day one with an effective onboarding process when hiring truck drivers. Then continue recruiting them with opportunities to advance their careers.
Top drivers want consistent feedback about their technical performance and also want to be kept abreast of evolving career options off-road. Regularly conduct employee surveys to assess employee satisfaction. Tell OTR truck drivers about advancement opportunities, which may include information about additional and/or advanced certifications, company paid or subsidized training opportunities, or team leadership development.
Also, remember to keep your truck drivers informed about related home-based jobs that may open up, such as:
- Dispatcher positions
- Operations and logistics management positions
- Safety, maintenance and training technical positions
Motor Carrier Service (MCS) closes the deal with candidates by outlining how they will be oriented to the company. Their drivers are given a week-long orientation that includes an opportunity to provide feedback on how their first week went, if they feel as though they fit in, and their expectations around teamwork and accountability. “It’s about being treated with respect,” says Fritzius. “And respect goes both ways.”
Hiring Truck Drivers for Your Business? Monster Can Help
From certifications, to key skills, to retention benefits, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to finding and keeping the best truck drivers for your business. But that’s where we can help. Monster has decades of experience in finding qualified candidates for businesses, both large and small. Reach out to us today to see how you can post a job for free and find employees who can take your business to the next level.