Attracting and Retaining Drivers

February 1, 2005
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Attracting and Retaining Drivers
David Kolman  
Finding good drivers and keeping them on board has always been a challenge. Nevertheless, there are things that can be done to better deal with this continual struggle.
A good starting point is to determine the appropriate qualities, skills and competencies that make for successful drivers in your operation. Make sure your recruiting people are trained and that you have in place formal systematic recruitment procedures and selection techniques. Too many companies use informal methods, and these are not effective.
The best recruiters usually are people who come out of fleet operations because they know what the driving job is really like. The better recruiters are at doing their job, the better they will be able to select drivers who are a good personal fit to your operation and will be an asset.
Methods for getting prospective drivers to call your company include: ads in newspapers and driver publications, your Web site, online driver recruiting services, employment agencies and word-of-mouth recruitment from your drivers and other employees. The key to improving the quality of calls received is carefully worded advertising.
The recruiting process is a driver’s first contact with your organization. Drivers like a company that responds quickly to their concerns and needs. Moreover, moving qualified drivers rapidly through your screening, application and job-offer process helps ensure that your company won’t lose a good driver to a competitor.
Breaking them in
Orientation of new drivers is too often viewed as a necessary evil. It is an important step in the driver retention process. Orientation needs to take a positive approach, with drivers made to feel wanted and needed. It should also provide drivers with a true picture of what it is really like to work for your company.
Orientation is a good opportunity for training and providing new drivers with the tools, information, policies and procedures they will need to succeed.  Since most drivers are typically not classroom learners, it is best to do hands-on training with the equipment and paperwork they will be using.
Experience has found that a new driver’s first 30 days with a company are critical. If they don’t go well, you may lose a driver before you have recouped your investment in hiring him.
It’s a good idea to find something positive to say about a driver during his first 30 days, as well as at regular intervals thereafter. Drivers, like everyone else, appreciate a kind word. Too many drivers say they hear from management only when they screw up.
Never assume that your drivers — new or “old” — know you appreciate the job they do. Sincere “attaboys” can work wonders for driver morale and job satisfaction.
So, too, does treating drivers as professionals and as integral members of your team. Provide them with safe and comfortable driver areas. Make training materials and resources available.
Be in touch
Open communication to management is another key element to retaining drivers. How easy is it for your drivers to get access to a manger to discuss a problem, concern or frustration?
Beyond that, drivers’ observations, suggestions and opinions can be very valuable. They are the ones dealing with customers every day. Get drivers involved. Ask them for their ideas, listen and act on them.
Don’t wait for drivers to come to you. Bring them in on a regular basis in small groups for “chat sessions.” Drivers want to know what’s going on in the company and they want to feel that their input is welcomed and appreciated.
Drivers who are treated as valuable individuals and are made to feel a part of your organization will be more likely to stay. A “happy” driver is a more productive driver and may be a good recruiting tool for you while out on his rounds.
Beyond pay
Obviously, good pay and benefits are important, but so is the equipment drivers will be operating. Consequently, selection and specifications of vehicles for enhanced driver comfort and convenience features, as well as improved performance, economy and serviceability, takes on greater significance. Driver comfort and alertness translate into driver contentment and productivity. Among equipment considerations:
  Cab interiors that are quiet, comfortable, easy to clean and able to withstand the wear and tear of drivers constantly getting in and out.
  Suspensions that provide reduced vibration and a smoother, softer ride.  
  Quantity and placement of grab handles and deep, wide, non-slip steps for easier, safer cab ingress and egress.
  Door openings that are wide, safe and secure.
  Built-in radio/CD/cassette player. This avoids having drivers provide their own audio equipment which could be a safety hazard if not secured.
  Specs for increased driver safety (back-up alarms, rear- and side-facing radar, large and wide-angle convex mirrors, etc.).
  Cabover or conventional? Each offers certain advantages in terms of visibility (forward and side), cab size, wheelbase, maneuverability, driver access, under-cab space for chassis components, etc.
The better your organization becomes at “selling” your company to potential drivers, the more selective you can be in the drivers you hire. You will save time, resources and money as driver turnover is expensive. And a lower driver turnover rate may help reduce the rate of growth in insurance premiums.

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