Want to Attract More Drivers? Get Driver-Centric

Drive past any company truck on the interstate and you’re likely to see some variation of DRIVERS WANTED. Most trucks also feature a platitude like ‘We Love Our Drivers,’ which apparently is supposed to make drivers want to do a Jason Bourne-style leap from their current rig into the truck with the reassuring language on the side.

Of course it takes more than nice words to attract, recruit, and retain drivers.

What Does ‘Driver-Centric’ Mean?

Charities that rely on donors to survive are wise to be donor-centric. Businesses that sell things should be customer-centric. In the same way, recruiters should be driver-centric in all their activities.

What does that entail exactly? It’s more than just being nice and making fluffy promises.

Becoming truly audience-centric requires active listening to common suggestions, developing communications on their terms and turf, and providing things that matter to them. That’s true whether you’re talking customers, donors, or drivers.

Let’s have a look at the communication aspect of being driver-centric.

‘More Than Words to Show You Feel…’

I stated above that it takes more than words to attract and recruit drivers. What I didn’t say is that words don’t play an important role in driver recruiting.

The trick is crafting messaging that resonates with the people you’re trying to reach, and addresses the things they care about most. The other trick is getting your message in the right place. That means communicating on their turf, where you’re most likely to find them.

Increasingly for drivers, that’s Facebook. One study we conducted found that 96 percent of company drivers have a Facebook account. How you reach them on Facebook is up to you, though targeting ads to custom audiences is a great place to start.

Communication can run the gamut from video, infographics, email, slideshows, to white papers, but the key is to remember who your audience is and what they prefer. Your team might think you need a slick promo video, but it’s not worth the expense and effort if it doesn’t lead to conversions.

Prioritize communicating with drivers the way they prefer to be reached, in venues where they’re comfortable. Of course in order to know this information, you have to ask.

Active Listening, and Responding

It’s easy to get carried away with various initiatives and campaigns to get more applications flying in the door. But when’s the last time you asked candidates what’s important to them? Money is just one part of the equation.

The driver shortage has sparked a surge of studies and rafts of research devoted to unlocking the mystery of what drivers really want. There’s no recruitment/retention silver bullet obviously, but a common theme revealed by industry research is that overall treatment, expectations, benefits, and onboarding rank right up there with compensation in terms of importance.

Trincon, a trucking industry consulting firm, produced the following suggestions for recruiters, based on driver feedback:

  • Looking at drivers as “professionals” and as employees looking for a long-term career path
  • Providing compensation packages that rewards skills, experience and tenure in addition to productivity
  • Establishing defined expectations, goals and recognition, plus consistent communication with drivers
  • Defining processes that hold drivers accountable
  • Build deeper relationships between drivers and key personnel from the outset, such as driver managers, dispatchers, and others
  • Make it easy to understand compensation and benefits from the get go and how both improve over a driver’s tenure

So yes, signing bonuses are great, but for most drivers, it’s about more of a complete package. Respect, trust, and relationships are important as well.

Are you considering all these things when you communicate with drivers? More importantly, do you intend to follow through the promises made in your ads and on your website?

Active listening starts with soliciting feedback and advice.

Empathy, Understanding, and Exceeding Expectations

The linchpin of being driver-centric is actually delivering on promises you make in your communications. A major contributor to trucking turnover is expectations — most often, of the unrealistic, misleading, unmet nature.

If you guarantee in your recruitment process a certain amount of miles, or nights at home per week, then you better make that happen. If you offer a signing bonus, be upfront about how that gets paid out (lump sum, over the course of 6 months, etc.). Be clear about what key performance metrics drivers will be judged by, and how exactly your payscale works.

If you’re playing the short game of luring drivers in with smoke and mirrors, you’ll reap the long-term whirlwind of high turnover and negative reviews online. Good luck getting rid of those.

The golden rule of customer service applies here: You need to meet, and exceed, expectations.

Being driver-centric means going above and beyond to make your drivers happy.

As you’re making a plan to exceed driver expectations, it’s helpful to consider the broad criteria used to identify the ‘Best Fleets to Drive For’ (which are nominated by employees):

  • Total compensation package – including base pay, bonuses, vacation, and sick day allotment
  • Health benefits
  • Pension plans
  • Professional development opportunities (training, coaching programs, etc.)
  • Career path/advancement opportunities
  • Commitment to employee personal growth, including work/life balance, driver family support, and employee-directed charitable contributions
  • Commitment to continuous improvement, including dispute resolution processes and inclusion of driver feedback in policymaking
  • Team building and driver community development activities
  • Annual driver turnover rate
  • Fleet safety record

How would you rank yourself in the categories listed above?

In addition to fair compensation, the most driver-centric thing you can do is offer an empathetic, responsive work environment where drivers are respected and given every opportunity to thrive.

It’s easy to get people in the door. Anyone can play the lip service game and write any glowing thing they want on their trucks. But getting drivers to stick around requires tangible strides toward being driver-centric.