Actions that the government takes in the interest of trucking safety (CSA, HOS) seem (and often are) incomprehensible, counter-intuitive and, well, crazy. It makes our blood boil. Driver “shortages” bring out the same level of angst among carrier management. Sometimes it seems the whole world is conspiring against the trucking community
Maybe it’s best not to think too much about the big picture of this chaos and focus more on what the individual carrier should do. It’s not unlike when the rules change in a major sport. When they moved the kickoff closer so kicks wouldn’t be returned as often (for safety reasons, no less), NFL coaches focused on what to do next. They didn’t waste much time bemoaning the fact that their kick returner wouldn’t get a chance to make a lot of yards. They realized the other teams’ returners were just as handicapped. When professional baseball cracked down on muscle-building steroids after embarrassing congressional hearings, big league managers found other ways to win.
Unfortunately in trucking, we seem to do the opposite. We often don’t take into consideration that the new rules and circumstances affect us all. Many carriers react very slowly or don’t react at all until the pain gets too great to bear. On the other hand, progressive carriers think and act ahead of the majority and are ready to turn changes to their advantage.
A good example of this way of thinking is in recruiting. Got profitable contracts from shippers and brokers but need more drivers? It’s no secret that there are lots of ways to recruit good drivers. Having a strong on-line presence is just one of them, but in today’s world, it’s the essential one for most carriers.
Yet, a cursory look on the web shows that excellence in web site recruiting is rare. Most carriers don’t have “Mad Men” creative types to design and write copy. They don’t have Webmasters (or even web specialists) conversant in terms such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), HTML, CMS, Flash, and WordPress themes. Nor do they make a priority out of updating their site. Too many don’t differentiate themselves in any way. Take the name and photos away from one site and you can replace it with someone else’s material and no one will be the wiser. Since recruiting is a competitive activity with winners and losers, blending in with the herd won’t cut it.
With that in mind, here are some tips to move your website up the food chain of driver attraction.
- Keep it up to date
- Explain your pluses
- Use people pictures
- Stand out
- Use sharp, modern design
- Driver focus
- It’s a cost of doing business
- Sell Yourself
These tips won’t help the industry solve the driver shortage. There aren’t many things that are potent enough to reach that lofty goal. But these tips help your firm. The minority who use even some of them are accomplishing more. And that may be enough.
In the seemingly never-ending battle to acquire quality drivers, we argue that the carrier’s website is critical and continues to grow in importance. Drivers are getting more web savvy and you need to take advantage of that trend. We offer these nuggets to win that battle.
- Keep it up to date. Too many websites are constructed because it’s the popular thing to do, not because of the continuing value it will produce. The strategy, or lack thereof, is to bring in a hired gun to produce the website and then, well, forget about it. Treat it like a completed act instead of a process. That’s why we see websites that are woefully out of date: information about lanes that no longer exist; news sections with history not news and little of that; and dated photos of trucks and past events. These don’t create much of a desire to explore your site. Does anyone really care who won the Truck Rodeo in 2005 and who awarded you a new contract in 2007, especially when there are no mentions of new winners and new contracts? There must be a commitment to keep the website up to date. Resources (staff) must be given the responsibility to accomplish that goal.
- Explain your pluses. You do some things better than your competitors. What are those things? When we look at most websites, it’s nothing more than a series of clichés. "Work for the best". "Top Wages". "Respect". It’s as if someone with no knowledge of the business assembled the material to provide a presence, but not to provide real information. It’s the lazy man’s website. Spend some time determining where you shine and then blow your own horn, loudly.
- Use people pictures. Good pictures are worth a lot, more than a thousand words. They convey emotion, professional attitude, caring and much more. These are the photos that show your staff in positive action. Unfortunately, most carriers love to show their vehicles but not much else. Taking and using good people photographs can improve a website immensely. Bite-sized testimonials from trustworthy drivers mean a lot. Don’t forget to use a photo of the person. Look at your site. Look for effective people pictures. Are they appealing or is it like slowly sinking into a swamp (excuse me, wetlands)?
- Stand out. “That looks like a good company.” Why? The feeling that a driver gets might not be something he can articulate yet impressions and feelings are critical. Is this a company that appears to have its act together or does it look old and tired with low energy? Many websites convey an image like an old house that hasn’t been maintained for years and is on the verge of falling apart. If I’m looking for a new job, the tired site doesn’t do much for me especially when there are brighter, shinier sites that seem to have much more promise. A carrier must compete to win.
- Use sharp, modern design. Good website design means a lot. Again, does the site make me feel good about this company? Or does it look like every other website for trucking? Do I have to strain my eyes to read the typeface? Is there essentially nothing here but a few titles, truck pictures and some hackneyed copy. Does it use whitespace well or is it crowded? Quality isn’t easy to explain. It’s an “I know it when I see it” type of thing. When you look at your site, do you see it?
- Driver Focus. Here's a simple test. In your quest to attract drivers: have you made it easy for the driver to find where to apply on our site? Does your careers or apply button stand out on your website or will the driver applicant have to spend extra time looking for it? Are you welcoming drivers or treating them like second class citizens? A few key statistics like how many new drivers stay with you, highlighted to make them stand out, can make all the difference. One of the roles of your website is to create credibility.
- It’s a cost of doing business. “We can’t keep it up to date: we can’t have great design; we can’t write it better; and we can’t have wonderful pictures because we don’t have the people to do that and even if we did, we don’t have the time to do it. WE’RE TOO BUSY.” Attracting drivers is part of a carrier’s mission. It is not extra work. It is not an extra expense. It’s a cost of doing business. Spend the money like you spend money for fuel or maintenance or salaries. Budget for it and do it right. If you need help, get a partner, not a one-trick pony.
- Sell Yourself. What is the goal of the website? One goal should be to illustrate to drivers that you are a great place to work and are worthy of them putting in an investment in their time to apply. Using comments from third parties is a great way to do this. Your website should be selling your values and your firm to driver candidates. If it is not, or if the positive things you do and stand for don’t shine through, it’s time for a redo. Take a mulligan and try again. Even a small increase in salesmanship might get you another driver or two and that’s a good investment.
Carriers can’t afford to turn off drivers who would have made good members of their team. Drivers are getting more and more web savvy. Make sure your website is pulling its weight by measuring it against the tips above. Do a better job of recruiting drivers through your website! It's a big thing!