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How Low Unemployment Affects Recruiting & Retaining Drivers 

Man standing in front of truck

Record Low Unemployment

The labor market is tight and getting tighter.  According to Reuters News Service, the number of US workers filing for unemployment fell to a 43 year low last week.  First-time claims were the lowest since this April, when initial applications for aid were the fewest since November 1973, according to Reuters.

Assess Your Driver Brand

Quality employees are in high demand in all industries, not just trucking.  You can’t simply compare your trucking job to your competition down the road, but rather businesses in general.  Now is the time to take an honest assessment of your company’s driver brand.  Important factors to consider are:

  • Pay package & consistency of pay
  • Benefits
  • Home time
  • Equipment
  • Family atmosphere

Compare your assessment to open feedback from your drivers.  Conduct structured stay interviews with drivers.   You should interview drivers who have worked for varying times at your company.  The new drivers will be able to provide good feedback on what’s working with your advertising and recruiting process.  Your veterans will lend you insight into why they have stuck around for all of these years.  Some good sample questions include:

  • Tell me about how you first decided to take a job here.
  • What do you like most about your job here? If you won the lottery and quit tomorrow, what would you miss most?
  • What do you like least? If you had a magic wand, what would be the one thing you would change?
  •  Have you ever thought about leaving here?  If yes, please describe the situation/reasons that prompted you to think about leaving.
  • Are there policies at other trucking companies that we should put in place to make working here better?

Comparing your assessment with driver feedback is a great way to get a pulse on the driver population.  Any differences will highlight misperceptions of your drivers or potential drivers.  Be warned: if you’re going to ask for your driver’s opinions on improvements, be ready to take action. That action could be as simple as acknowledging their concern and letting them know why you cannot fix it today.

Visualize the Results

A value curve is a graph that clearly defines your strengths against the competition.  It is a simple tool that displays the same factors in recruiting you measured above: pay package & consistency of pay, benefits, home time and equipment.  In the example below, Bob’s Trucking has a competitive advantage in pay and family atmosphere. The company also has strong but equal offerings with benefits and equipment.



Bring Your Brand Statement to Life

Please do not put “great pay” or “family atmosphere” in your recruiting messaging.  We call those platitudes, or general ads that your competition could put their logo on and all the statements would hold true for them.  You need to uniquely define your brand and deviate from your competitors. You need to show that your company is better because of the differences.  Let’s look at Bob’s Trucking in the example above.  Bob needs to do a pay study and find out how much more he pays on a weekly basis than his competition.  If you don’t offer any guarantees, use averages from last year’s payouts.

Family atmosphere is tough to measure, so your best proof is going to be your drivers’ testimonials.  Use the positive feedback you received during the stay interviews in your advertising and recruiting efforts.  Ask drivers if they are willing to say those nice things about your company in front of a camera.  Put as many as possible on your website, Facebook and YouTube.  Grab written statements from the camera-shy drivers.  Finally, make sure all of the drivers who are raving fans of your company have personalized business cards to refer other drivers.  Personalized cards are a simple gesture that shows you’re invested in that driver for the long term. Your drivers are your best recruiting tool so use them appropriately.

Quick Game Plan

Record low unemployment means the driver labor market is only going to get tougher.  Here’s your three-step game plan to thrive in this competitive environment:

  1. Access your driver brand through management evaluations and driver stay interview.
  2. Use a value curve to visualize your results and discern your strengths and weaknesses against the competition.
  3. Bring your brand statement to life by determining how your job is unique.  Use your existing drivers to prove your brand statement and spread the word.



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