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Hiring truck drivers: A how-to for employers

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. Over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers will usually stick around if they know 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.

Key licenses and technical certifications

License and technical certifications vary according to jurisdiction. States issue commercial driver’s license and set renewal periods. Additional requirements may include:

  • “Class A CDL” indicates that the license is for driving a truck with an automatic steering system
  • Specialty licenses, such as those for handling hazardous materials and different types of steering systems, may be required for specific jobs
  • Driving tests for particular vehicles
  • Additional background checks and screening

The trucking industry is highly regulated by state and federal departments of transportation. Any thorough background check or screening looks for:

  • Moving violations going back at least 10 years
  • Driving while under the influence, because most employers have a zero-tolerance policy and don’t hire drivers with any convictions for driving under the influence
  • Operating under the influence, as some employers also screen 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 which 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)
  • If a route crosses international lines, a license and background check to comply with the applicable country’s regulations
  • Additional factors that may be required by your company’s insurance provider

Recruiter Tip:

Consider developing specialized tests for your company. 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.

How to source 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 drivers, other employers feel that bonuses undermine employee retention.

Recruiter Tip:

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 to look for

As a personality type, OTR truck drivers need to be independent because they spend long hours away from home. They also need:

  • To be consistent and truthful in reporting (i.e., maintaining accurate logs)
  • A collaborative personality, and demonstrate 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

Recruiter Tip:

Drivers are really multitaskers, says Duff H. Swain, president of the Trincon Group, a Ohio consultancy that advises transportation employers in the training, safety and recruiting of OTR drivers, among other topics.

What to cover in interviews

Ask interview questions that encourage candidates 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 drivers must spend on long hauls. Also:

  • Be sure to ask the candidate how he or she handles unexpected situations such as mechanical breakdowns
  • Discuss the candidate’s feelings about real-time monitoring, including communications systems that constantly stream feedback about truck location and activity
  • In the final in-person interview, consider inviting the driver’s spouse or partner to the interview so he or she can understand the scope of the job and ask questions about benefits and scheduling home time

Recruiter Tip:

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 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 drivers about advancement opportunities, which may include:

  • Additional and/or advanced certifications
  • Company paid or subsidized training
  • Team leadership

Tell your drivers about related home-based jobs that may come up, such as:

  • Dispatcher
  • Operations and logistics management
  • Safety, maintenance and training technical positions

Recruiter Tip:

Motor Carrier Service (MCS) closes the deal with candidates by outlining how they’ll be oriented in the company way. Hired drivers are given a week-long orientation that includes a 45-minute interview to review how their first week went and how the new hire feels he or she fits in. Candidates are asked for their feedback about the MCS operation and they also discuss in detail the expectations around teamwork and accountability.

MCS also regularly conducts internal employee surveys and most recently, learned that 97 percent of its drivers are satisfied with their jobs. The company loses less than 20 percent of its OTR drivers annually, compared to an industry average turnover of over 100 percent. “It’s about being treated with respect,” says Fritzius. “And respect goes both ways.”

It’s a long road, but somebody has to drive it — and Monster can help you find them

Truck driving can be a long, hard road without a lot of direct supervision. That’s why employers need to choose wisely when hiring truck drivers. With expert recruiting information, Monster Hiring Solutions can help you find the best drivers for your business.