How to Hire Your Next All-Star: Lessons From OTA's 2019 Driver of The Year Awards

Posted by Scott Rea on April 17, 2019 in the category Retention
2019 OTAx720

The Ohio Trucking Association (OTA) recently celebrated the 2019 Driver of the Year Award. Twelve professional truck drivers were recognized for their outstanding achievements in safety, with Dean Quellhorst of Clopay Transportation Company receiving the award. Together, the twelve nominees have over 384 years of driving experience and 96 years of service to their current employers. Perhaps most impressively, they have accumulated over 36.4 million safe driving miles during their collective careers - that’s 76 round trips to the moon and back without an incident! Not only are these twelve professionals responsible for the success of their companies, but they’re responsible for keeping countless drivers and pedestrians safe on the roads every day.

At AvatarFleet, we love safe drivers. We want a safe, professional driver behind the wheel of every truck across North America. Do you want to hire all-stars like this year’s nominees for OTA Driver of the Year? No better place to go than the source. We interviewed each of them, learning what has kept them at their respective companies for so long. Here are the top three qualities that these high-caliber drivers look for in a company.

1. Opportunities to Train New Hires

03_EDMUND J. BARRON Quote

Most of the drivers interviewed discussed the importance of high-quality driver training programs. They mentioned the value of working for a company that invests in driver training, especially for new drivers. Several of the drivers cautioned against the danger of hiring drivers fresh out of CDL school, explaining that without experience on the road, recent graduates simply aren’t ready for the rigors of professional driving. The remedy, according to the Driver of the Year Dean Quellhorst, is to provide additional training to CDL school graduates with a CDL Finishing School. Moreover, many of these all-star drivers seek-out opportunities to train these new drivers themselves. The best of the best want to work for companies with train-the-trainer models, granting them the ability to positively affect other drivers at their company.

2. Leadership Development

JEFFREY PERINE Quote

Many of this year’s top drivers discussed how valuable it is when leaders build relationships with their drivers. They want to work for companies where they know the names and faces of the leadership, and they feel as though they can bring concerns to the table. Of course, for larger companies, it’s not always possible for drivers to get much facetime with the owner. That’s why it’s important to have frontline supervisors who are empowered and trained to build and sustain a driver-centric culture. When you develop your company’s leaders, you’ll attract and retain all-star drivers. Recruiting, safety, payroll and operations need to feel empowered to put the driver first. We heard stories about dispatchers moving mountains to help a driver get home over ten years ago. To this day, that driver is still grateful to work for his company.

3. Safety Support From Top to Bottom

“[My company] is safety-oriented. Everything is by the books, if not better. They take every step possible to keep us safe.” - Nicholas Delzeith

“If you’re not dedicated to safety in the trucking industry, you’re not in business. [My company] is completely dedicated to safety. That’s what I look for.” - Jeffrey Perine

It should come as no surprise that this year’s safest drivers want to work for companies who value safety. Nearly every driver interviewed mentioned the importance of leaders supporting safety through communication and safety meetings. In some cases, the drivers expressed a desire for more frequent safety meetings. Safe drivers are attracted to safe cultures. If you want drivers like this year’s nominees working for you, you need to create a safety-centric culture and tout it.

Hire The Next Driver of The Year

Take the advice of these all-star drivers. If you create training opportunities, develop your leaders, and boast a safety-centric culture, you’ll attract the best the industry has to offer. Then again, you might have some of the best working for you already. Show your drivers the appreciation they deserve and nominate the best-of-the-best for Driver of the Year in 2020.

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