Does it seem as though we’ve had a truck driver shortage since the diesel engine was invented? Where did all the truck drivers go?
This shortage actually began back in October 1986, which is when the Commercial Drivers License (“CDL” for short) became effective. The CDL program was enacted to prevent drivers from holding several licenses from different states. It also required that drivers be able to read, write, and speak English well enough to communicate with law enforcement officers. The CDL also required a medical certification that prohibits drivers with some medical conditions from operating a commercial motor vehicle.
At about the same time, in November 1986 to be exact, I-9’s became effective. I-9’s were part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which prohibits employers from hiring workers who are not authorized to work in the United States.
These two changes created a real challenge in the trucking industry. Many truckers couldn’t pass the CDL exam, couldn’t pass a medical exam, or couldn’t prove that they were legally authorized to work in the United States. Since then we’ve had a slew of other regulations come into play that also limits the number of available of drivers and the hours they can work:
• FMCSA enacted a Pre-Employment Screening Program that scores drivers based on their driving record
• Sleep apnea and other medical conditions are more closely monitored
• Hours of service limitations means we need more drivers to move the country’s freight
• Career truck drivers are aging out of the system as boomers retire
So how do we recruit the next generation of healthy, happy truck drivers? Here are three strategies for placing your recruiting collateral:
1. Differentiate yourself.
If you listen to country radio anywhere in the US, you’ll hear ad after ad for truck drivers. What do they all have in common? They require navigating to a website to complete an application. According to Snagajob, lengthy desktop employment applications have a 97% drop off. If you're using a long form application, this could be one of your recruiting bottlenecks.
Drivers are busy and keep tight schedules. Since they’re always on the go, almost all have mobile devices or tablets, but they rarely carry computers with them. It's a real nuisance for many driver candidates to go to a desktop version of an application. Make it easy for them to apply by advertising a text number instead of a link to a website. Then make sure that the link takes driver candidates to a short form application with just the basic information you need to see if he or she will be a good fit.
Finally, don't ask for a drivers' license, social security number, or date of birth right up front. Many candidates — including truck drivers — are rightfully wary about giving out sensitive personal information. Asking for this on an employment application is like trying to kiss someone on a first date before you even buy them a drink. So slow down and build a relationship with the candidate before you ask for this sensitive information.
By asking for limited information on an application and deferring sensitive, personal information until after you actually speak to the driver candidate you'll be doing something a lot of other companies don't do: treating the truck driver applicant like a real, live human being. You will differentiate yourself in the market just by making this simple change.
2. Get creative with QR codes.
Local drivers are often the hardest to recruit since their jobs require so much physical labor. Soft drink and beer distributors are always looking for help.
I recently attended a festival and was surprised to see our local beer distributor pouring craft beers. I’m sure they won a few new customers, but they certainly missed an opportunity to recruit drivers and warehouse employees. It’s easy to build a recruiting campaign around a great product. Simply put QR codes and/or text numbers on cups, coasters, business cards, and other and promotional items.
3. Appeal to spouses
Don’t underestimate the influence a spouse or significant other has on a driver’s decision to work for your company. Drivers may be too busy to find your ad, but you can recruit them through their spouses.
Appeal to spouses by placing flyers at day care centers, car washes, laundromats, grocery stores, churches, and other places that people visit to take care of their basic needs.
If you offer local or regional work, stress that your drivers are home every night or every weekend. If you offer over-the-road work, make sure you advertise that you have a family ride-along program.
4. Get Social
Don’t forget about social media. Drivers and their spouses often spend a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms. Manage your social platforms thoughtfully and regularly. If it’s done right, these platforms can become an excellent communication tool for your employees, customers, and potential candidates.
Social media advertising can also be quite effective. We have resources that go far beyond typical social media targeted advertising, so please contact us if you would like some innovative methods to recruit truckers on social media.
It’s increasingly difficult to recruit truck drivers as the regulatory environment continues to evolve in the trucking industry. Employers need to think outside the box and become more creative in their sourcing strategies. Many drivers love technology, so don’t be afraid to use QR codes and texting in your sourcing efforts. Think about a driver’s family life in your recruiting efforts, and place your recruiting collateral at places they’re sure to visit. Finally, social media advertising, if done effectively, can also help you fill those empty seats.
Image credit: Scania Group