Fact or Fiction: Is There a Driver Shortage?

trucker trailer on the road

I heard a rumor this week from a publishing group that I contribute to on occasion. They were seeking professional opinions about the “fact” of there being no driver shortage. I immediately asked myself, “what world are they living in?!”

This is the toughest recruiting market I have experienced in my 30 years in personnel and human resources. There are shortages of qualified available people for almost every single position. Add driving into that mix and it becomes even more difficult. It certainly isn’t a job that I could handle and I say hats off to the 3.5 million professional drivers on the roads! (State of Trucking 2017 Infographic)

As employers, we must become smarter and more efficient at our recruiting and retention tactics to remain competitive and ahead of this shortage. I don’t care what they say: there’s absolutely a shortage of drivers. Keep one of Peter Drucker’s Top 10 in mind: “What gets measured gets improved.”

Recruiting tactics and seven questions you should be asking

Our current recruiting activities should be put under a microscope. Ask yourselves (or your recruiter) the following questions:

  1. Where are we currently posting?
    • How many responses
      • How many of those are qualified responses?
    • How many are we contacting?
      • How many are responsive?
      • How many are we actually interviewing?
  1. What is our “candidate experience?”
    • In other words, how hard is it to apply to work with us?
    • Once someone applies, how professional are we in our responses?
    • How quickly are we responding?
  2. How and where are our competitors recruiting
    • What does their ad copy look like?
    • Are we differentiating ourselves from our competitors (i.e., why work for us when the same job exists down the road)?
  3. What social media channels are we using to find and communicate with candidates?
  4. How quickly are we going from candidate to new hire?
  5. Are we doing each of these activities as efficiently as possible?
  6. Where else can we be looking?

Then, once we find them: How quickly are we getting them in the seat?

Retention, retention, retention

Believe it or not, the other thing we need to consider in driver recruiting is retention. It costs approximately 1.5 times a position’s salary to replace that position. So, if a driver earns approximately $40,000 per year, every time you need to replace one you should just budget an additional $60,000.

In a recent post about the employee experience, I talked about the benefits of a good “employee experience.” The biggest complaint I hear from drivers is two-fold: a) They can’t get home when they need to and b) their Driver Manager doesn’t care. The driver feels that not being able to get home is often a pure business matter. They also feel that they deliver news that people don’t want to hear every day, and that talking about a driver’s schedule should be no different.

Dale Carnegie once said, “Seek first to understand before being understood.”

As an employer or manager of drivers, listen to your driver’s concern and truly try to understand their predicament. Then explain the needs of the business to them. Help them understand. Never end the conversation with “that’s just the way it is and if you don’t like it…”

And if it’s a valid need on their part, do try to get them home.

Four steps to giving drivers (or ANY employee) an ideal employee experience

There are four steps that should be used in any conversation to demonstrate that you truly are listening and that you do care. Professionally, I believe every manager and supervisor should read the book “Zapp: The Lightening of Empowerment” by William Byham and Jeff Cox.

  1. Maintain and Enhance Self-Esteem:
    1. You know Joe, you’ve been doing several extra runs for us lately, and the company really appreciates your assistance. We do need you to finish this run but it will have you out until Saturday afternoon.
  2. Listen and Respond with Empathy:
    1. Joe, I can hear that this is disappointing for you. Tell me more about what’s going on.
  3. Ask for Help and Encourage Involvement:
    1. Joe, let’s look at the full picture. You need to be home Saturday morning but the load on your truck is time sensitive for XYZ Company – their line will shut down if we don’t deliver. What thoughts do you have on how we could make this happen?
    2. PS – keep a few ideas in your back pocket in case Joe truly doesn’t have any ideas
  4. Offer Help Without Taking Responsibility:
    1. OK Joe – what I hear is that you’re going to drive as long as you can on Friday (until your HOS is reached.) Then, after your rest period, you’ll start again as soon as you can. That should get you to the customer at 6 AM. We’ll schedule their earliest appointment for you. You’ll watch your HOS and not violate them. That should have you home by mid-morning! Are we in agreement?

Wouldn’t it be great if it worked that smoothly? The crucial point though is the four steps. If we apply those consistently, we will consistently demonstrate to our employees that we do care about them. These questions can be applied to any business and profession, not just to drivers, too.

You’ll soon find that once our employees believe they are honestly being heard and we are sincere in our communication with them of good and bad news, your employee “experience” should improve dramatically.

What are some of the positive employee experience programs you’ve implemented to maintain a #DramaFreeHR environment?

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