How to Attract and Keep Safer Drivers

Shortages are in the news – and that includes vehicles and drivers. When fewer are available, you get a more competitive marketplace. Vehicle shortages in the trucking industry continue to increase, mainly due to the rise in e-commerce deliveries and supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vehicle and parts manufacturers simply can’t get supplies they need to build new vehicles or repair the ones already on the road.

On top of that, the driver shortage keeps rising, especially in the longer-haul market. The American Trucking Association estimates that in 2021 the truck driver shortage will hit a historic high of just over 80,000 drivers. This figure is the difference between the number of drivers currently in the market and the optimal number of drivers based on freight demand. At current trends, the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030.

But the hard truth is – drivers and vehicles determine the survival of your business.

In the transportation industry, these are tough challenges with no easy solutions. So, we called in “the big guns” to calm the storm and provide solid advice. With 50 years of experience in the transportation industry, Fleet Response safety program director Sandy McClure shares his knowledge and hard-earned wisdom on how to attract and keep safe drivers in this difficult market.

4 PEARLS OF WISDOM ON HIRING

Sandy grew up in a small town in Georgia and got hooked on the trucking industry as a young man. He began loading Roadway Express trucks on weekends and then started driving for UPS. But he didn’t stay in the driver’s seat for his entire career. He advanced to supervisor, manager, and eventually became a safety and training professional, in a career that has included 23 years at UPS and 25 years with Fed Ex before joining Fleet Response in 2019.

“There’s a huge amount of advancement possible in the industry. You have to work at it and be consistent,” he says.

Sandy shares this advice on attracting and keeping safe drivers:

-Do a better job educating potential hires about the opportunity to grow and advance in a recession-proof industry, because goods will always need to be sold and delivered.

-Attract younger drivers with the message that you don’t need a college degree to enter or advance in the industry. Vocational or technical training in truck driving can lead to a good job in less time.

-Pay a competitive wage with good perks and benefits.

-Get creative in promoting the industry and attracting new drivers – from sign-on bonuses to flexible schedules.

SLOW DOWN…AND HIRE GOOD PEOPLE

“First things first. I’ve seen far too many companies compromise safety when they panic in an effort to get somebody into the driver’s seat,” says Sandy. “In their rush to hire, they end up with bad employees who don’t come to work or who quit, because they know they can get another driving job at a different company the same day.”

When looking to hire safe drivers worth your investment, follow these “golden rules” of hiring:

-Conduct quality interviews that go beyond qualifications to assess character.

-Look at the driver’s motor vehicle report and previous crash records and violations.

-Never bypass a drug test to get drivers on the road quickly.

-Set high expectations for driver safety to protect your company’s reputation and people’s lives.

When companies in the small package industry say they can’t find good drivers to hire, Sandy recommends attracting and training good people who have no driving experience. Fleet Response offers a “Graduated Qualification Program” so that entry level drivers can take online and on-the-road training to get qualified in a smaller vehicle with no previous professional driving experience.

“Someone who is a good quality candidate with no driving experience can be trained to be a safe driver. Then they can advance to being qualified and approved on larger vehicles,” explains Sandy.

Fleet Response training begins with the L10 program for vehicles under 10,001 pounds, requiring no DOT qualification. From there, the driver can take further training and qualify on a larger vehicle.

TO KEEP GOOD DRIVERS – BUILD A SAFETY CULTURE

Sandy has learned that when companies invest in training and safety, they reap the rewards in fewer accidents and happier employees who stay with the company. That happens when you create a corporate culture of safety.

“If you want to have a sustainable safety culture in your organization, train people very well from the beginning. It’s tried and true. People who are trained well by their company will stay with you. They feel they’re in a good place, with a company investing in and training them to be not only safe but productive employees. That’s why it’s so important to start by hiring people of good character.”

Building that culture of safety often comes through partnership with experts. “At Fleet Response, we are safety advisors,” says Sandy. “We advise transportation companies on issues and problems, and we help resolve those problems.”

“We help companies understand how to build a sustainable safety culture in their organization. In any industry, a better qualified, better trained, more appreciative workforce does a better, safer job. Fleet Response is here to help owners understand how to achieve that, and how to continually motivate and develop their employees.”