Building a Driver-Centric Culture
When the focus of recruiting is simply to fill an empty truck, it is easy to overlook the truck driver. A driver becomes nothing more than a number to your fleet when you focus on their capability to deliver a load and ignore their well-being, future at the company, or the state of the environment they work in. This, unfortunately, is a common culture in trucking and, as you can imagine, is not attractive to drivers. We have seen proof of this in our own driver research.
According to our research, a lack of respect and appreciation is the second thing drivers dislike most about their job (the first being the hardships caused by regulations). We’ve also learned through our research that majority of the reasons drivers believe fleets are having trouble finding drivers are centered around a lack of care for drivers:
You can have the most personalized and humanized advertising and recruiting process out there. But if in the end, your fleet does not reflect the values implied in your advertising, you will lose those hires. If you want to acquire and keep good drivers, it is best to begin by making your fleet a place where drivers want to work. How do you do this? You must build a culture that puts drivers first.
There are fleets out there who have created such a culture and are currently reaping the benefits. We spoke to one of those fleets and they gave us an in-depth look at how they built a driver-centric culture for their company.
The Client: Hirschbach
Hirschbach is a privately owned carrier based in Dubuque, IA that specializes in regional, dedicated and over the road refrigerated transportation. Over their 80 years of operation, they have built a reputation on being environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient, but most importantly, have cultivated a family atmosphere within their company.
According to Hirschbach’s Chief People Officer, Jessie Burnette, the fleet started out with 1 truck in 1935. By the time Jessie became a part of Hirschbach, they had around 400 trucks. Anyone who qualified to work for the company was invited to orientation. Whoever showed up and passed the minimum requirements was hired. The change in the company’s culture began after Brad Pinchuck and Tom Grojean, Jr. purchased the company from Tom Grojean, Sr. in 2012. With new ownership came a new vision to always put drivers first. They worked to cultivate this vision within the areas of their business that directly affected a driver.
Where the Driver Works
With the majority of a driver’s career taking place in a truck, Hirschbach wanted to find a way to make their workspace conducive for the long hours spent there.
Implementing the new vision started with getting newer trucks and keeping them well-maintained. It also meant providing amenities to make the trucks feel more at home like free DirecTV, XM Radio, fridge, APU, inverter, etc.
Who the Driver Works With
Hirschbach knew that if they were going to change the culture of their business, that would also mean changing the way the people who worked in their office saw drivers. So they hire staff who are invested in taking care of their drivers, people who will fit into the culture of the company.
How People Relate to the Driver
One of the biggest changes to Hirschbach’s culture (as mentioned above) was how staff interacted with the company’s current drivers. According to Jessie Burnette, the staff focused on building sincere bonds with drivers where they got to know the drivers beyond their work environment e.g. learning about drivers’ families. As a result of this bond, they were able to involve drivers in the hiring process.
How the Driver is Treated
In addition to building relationships with drivers and making their work environment more comfortable for them, Hirschbach works hard to respect their drivers.
What’s Important to the Driver
Tapping into what matters to a driver was an important element in learning how to relate and cater to drivers.
As a result of cultivating a new culture, Hirschbach has seen a great change in their hiring process. The company has shifted from finding it difficult to find hires to having multiple choices of applicants for every open position. They’ve cultivated a culture of hiring people who want to be there, people who have found a place to belong — a home with Hirschbach.
Their new culture had a positive effect on their driver retention rate and has caused their fleet to grow to approximately 2,000 trucks. They are currently enjoying close relationships with their drivers and continue to have a strong referral base, thanks to Hirschbach drivers.
The current culture of Hirschbach or as they call it, ‘the Hirschbach way’, can be summed up in this statement: