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How to Recruit Recent CDL Graduates


If you’re a trucking company in America, you’re likely suffering from the driver problem. Driver turnover/churn is almost 90%. Worse yet, the trucking industry has about 80,000 fewer drivers than it did a year ago. If you don’t change, you’re doomed to fail.

If your hiring pool is shrinking, fish in more ponds by hiring recent CDL graduates.

Historically, insurance companies have handcuffed your ability to hire anyone with less than two years of experience. You probably weren’t interested in messing with rookies anyways because of the time and effort required to turn them into pros. While that’s true, two years of experience working at the driver mills usually creates bad habits. As the driver pool continues to get older and retire, the time is coming when you’re going to need to create your own pipeline of drivers.

A CDL school in Boston recently boasted a 90% job placement rate for graduates. This is true across the country because other transportation companies have invested in Finishing School programs to turn these rookies into pros.

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Why CDL Graduates Are a Good Recruiting Source

There are several reasons why hiring recent grads is a good plan:

  • Highly Trainable. Some folks look at recent grads’ lack of experience as a negative. Sure, they will need coaching on some of the ins and outs of the industry, but what you teach them is more likely to stick. 
  • No Bad Habits. They don’t have years of bad habits under their belts. Complacency is the number one cause of accidents among veteran drivers. People get set in their ways, right or wrong. In our experience, it’s harder to train a veteran driver a different way of doing things than it is to teach a newbie.
  • Eager For Opportunities. Do you have less-than-ideal routes or positions that you can’t seem to fill? Recent CDL graduates will be more willing to take them. Folks who just obtained their CDL are eager for their first job. Even if they know something isn’t the best job out there, they’ll take it to get a year of driving on their resume.

How to Recruit Recent CDL Graduates

Regardless of who you're recruiting, always:

1. Lead with your Purple Cow

2. Follow our formula for ads that convert

However, we’ve learned over the years that recent CDL graduates are looking for a few common benefits:

  • Finishing School: Recent grads are not completely roadworthy. They know that too, which is why the ones you want will ask you about your program that invests in them.

A CDL Finishing School is a training program that prepares recent CDL graduates for professional driving. Effective finishing schools have a combination of closed-course training, behind-the-wheel training, self-directed online learning, and veteran mentor drivers on how to succeed in your career. Put these details in the one-pagers you bring to schools. The more robust your program is, the better. Ask students to compare your Finishing School program to others.

If you don’t want to make your own, we’ve developed a plug-and-play CDL Finishing School. It’s guaranteed to reduce turnover and accidents while helping your new hires generate revenue for you ASAP. And, your insurance company will approve it.

  • Tuition Reimbursement with Performance: This is an effective strategy for two reasons. Number one, it’s an attractive offer to anyone who just graduated from a program. Number two, it’s a great way to ensure that the driver stays with you. Tie the payouts over 6 months based on retention and performance.
  • Develop Partnerships with CDL schools: CDL schools want to connect and partner with employers of choice. That’s because the better job placement they offer, the more students they can attract. Donate old equipment so their drivers are familiar with your trucks or sponsor their defensive driving training so the grads speak the same language as your drivers.

    Start networking with CDL schools local to you. You can find a full list of schools on the FMCSA website

You Can't Afford to Keep Things "Business As Usual"

There are big challenges looming over the trucking industry. You’ll need to contend with turnover, an aging workforce, and rising wages. If you don’t change, you’ll fail.

There’s no silver bullet to solving the driver problem. You need to take a multi-pronged approach to revamp your recruiting strategies, training programs, and driver retention. But hiring CDL graduates is a good place to start.

The newbies will be hungry for work. You need to position yourself as an employer of choice via effective recruiting strategies. Then, your competition will be left wondering where all the good drivers have gone.

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