Fleets are quickly finding that with an ever-growing shortage of new drivers, they have to create a more appealing work environment if they’re going to attract and keep the industry’s best driving professionals.
Last year, the trucking industry came up 51,000 drivers short of its recruitment needs, the highest shortage on record, according to the American Trucking Associations. The driver shortage has only grown more acute recently due in large part to increased freight volumes and a growing number of older, more seasoned drivers retiring.
So, it’s pretty clear why fleets are re-examining their human resources strategies and adopting changes to create that more appealing work environment. When we analyzed responses to questionnaires, interviews and driver surveys for the 2018 Best Fleets to Drive For program, we found the highest rated fleets apply a variety of human resource strategies to create a working environment that drivers covet most.
Best Fleets to Drive For, produced by CarriersEdge in partnership with Truckload Carriers Association, is the only annual program dedicated to identifying the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry. Every year, we evaluate fleets across a range of performance criteria, identifying those companies with the greatest success in motivating and retaining drivers.
Through our analysis of survey responses, interviews, and questionnaires, we found that when fleets use an onboarding approach to welcome new drivers, in addition to post-orientation support, they’re more likely to be seen as places drivers want to work. Onboarding is vastly different from the standard HR practice of relaying important information, policies and procedures every new employee must know.
Onboarding may include not only the one- or two-day orientation many other employees might recognize, but also significant post-orientation activities such as formal coaching, surveys, and scheduled phone calls and direct meetings with the company’s senior managers and executives.
About 70% of the finalists for the 2018 Best Fleets to Drive For award conduct some kind of post-orientation support for drivers on the road. Many use a comprehensive coaching and multi-pronged outreach approach.
At these fleets, executives and upper management call drivers to chat and to get feedback from them. In several instances, executives attend town hall meetings and round-table discussions at the companies’ main terminals or home offices. This gives drivers the opportunity to discuss issues impacting their daily work such as loading delays at a shipper’s terminal or to ask questions about company initiatives and objectives.
For those drivers unable to get back to the terminal or home office, the companies record the meetings and round tables and post the videos on YouTube. Or they arrange to stream them using Facebook Live or other streaming service.
We’ve found that when fleets develop formal coaching programs and multi-pronged outreach programs consisting of surveys, phone calls and direct meetings, they receive much higher marks for their post-orientation support efforts.
All 20 of the Best Fleets differentiated their HR strategy from the award finalists by conducting more frequent post-orientation reviews, surveys, and coaching. Five of the Top 20 Best Fleets stepped up their game even further by conducting formalized onboarding programs with multiple department reviews and extended coaching for new hires.
Ultimately, the goal here for a company that wants to become one of the industry’s highest rated workplaces is not only to fully integrate new drivers into its operation, but also to help them feel more of a connection to the company. As a result of these efforts, drivers know what is expected of them and why, and they feel more fully engaged in the company’s culture. They’re also be more likely to seek help when they feel like they’re in over their head instead of looking for a job elsewhere and quitting.
Mark Murrell is co-founder of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry produced in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association. He can be reached at www.carriersedge.com.