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MATS Reminder For Truck Driver Recruiting: “Contact Us?” Easier Said Than Done.

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Your technology must serve the goal of facilitating, not obstructing, incoming contact from driver candidates.

(NOTE: The following post was originally published in 2012—but I thought GATS Week would be a good time to re-post it.)

At MATS last year, I had the genuine pleasure of meeting dozens of recruiters—most of whom graciously accepted my card, and invited me to follow-up with them the following week. The trouble started when I attempted to actually do that.

First, let me emphasize that I know how time-stretched recruiters are most days. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take simple measures to demonstrate your commitment to personally interacting with every driver candidate who reaches-out to you. The good news is, there is now a cutting-edge solution available.

But first, here are the three main problems I experienced in conducting my follow-ups:

1. Insufficient Business Card Information.
Over half the business cards I received last week included no direct phone number. Several listed no email address. To be sure, a powerful brand-messaging platform (deployed through an effective, integrated marketing campaign) is your greatest long-term advantage in attracting good driver candidates. But as I’ve pointed-out elsewhere in this space, actions speak louder than words. And the more barriers you place between yourself and good candidates trying to reach you, the likelier they are to give up on you.

2. Recorded Messages. Phone Menu Hell.
The overwhelming majority of non-direct numbers I called were answered not by people, but impersonal recorded messages which invariably included the following: “Please listen carefully, because our menu options have changed.” Several of those menus sent me places I didn’t want to go. Bear in mind: Trucking companies are not falling over each other for my services. So if I found it aggravating to reach those individuals, how much more irritating are their phone systems making it for highly-desirable driver candidates (who know they’re in demand) to get them?

3. Baffling Websites.
As I’ve also pointed-out elsewhere in this space, way too many trucking company websites look like they were designed by Grampa Ned down at the retirement home in the mid-70’s. But even some of the homeliest sites I’ve seen offered one critical feature a number of technically and creatively first-rate sites lacked: Contact Us pages a single click away from the home page, with actual human contact names listed on them. On one breathtakingly-designed, hi-tech site in particular, I spent literally minutes clicking around—and never found a single individual contact name, email address or personal number.

People are a lot likelier to call people than they are to call nameless, faceless Recruiting Departments. That doesn’t mean incoming calls to your published direct number can’t roll-over to the next available recruiter when you’re unavailable. But at least your personal outgoing message (and yes, it should be in your own voice) could give callers the option to either go to that next person OR leave you a message to call them back.

Your Cutting-Edge Solution?
There is now an interviewing application that’s powered by Artificial Intelligence—which enables prospects to click or call for an immediate interview.

The App is programmed to adjust the order of questions asked according to the answers given—resulting in an interview experience that feels much more natural than rigidly-ordered online forms and recorded interviews.

It’s been used by companies ranging from Dish Networks to Pepsico—and many candidates who’ve taken the phone version actually reported how friendly the interviewer was. That’s right: They thought they were speaking with a live person.

Most importantly, the company that developed the technology has made a significant recent investment in serving the Driver Recruiting market. If you’d like to know more about this solution, contact me by phone or email. You’ll find my contact info on the Profile page.

That said, here’s one simple low-tech solution for you:

  • Make it painfully obvious how mobile-savvy candidates can text you. On your business card, list the mobile number as “Cell/Text”, instead of just “Cell”—as a subtle reminder that people don’t necessarily have to take the time to call (and maybe get stuck on hold) in order to reach you personally.

Here’s another one:

  • Dedicate a single cell phone in your department to incoming text messages. Publish its number, and, in your marketing messages, encourage busy respondents to save time by texting requests for call-backs. I ran that idea past a good friend in recruiting. He thought about it for a second, paused, and exclaimed, “Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?” Answer: Because I did. After all, that’s my job!
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Truck Driver Recruiting: Four Tips For Boosting Referrals

Create an effective referral pipeline by making your drivers believers.

It All Starts With Effective Messaging.
Selling a qualified candidate on your company is the end goal of any recruiting interaction. If your message isn’t compelling enough, you’re losing sales.

Yes, each driver has his or her own unique perspective on the company. But every driver should be aware of, and believe, your core selling points. And those points should be listed on the referral cards your drivers carry.

Four Steps To A More Effective Referral Program:

  1. Involve drivers in message development: Have you ever asked your drivers what attracted them to the company, and why they like working with you? You may be surprised what you hear. And if what you hear from your drivers bears scant resemblance to what you (and your recruiters) are telling prospects, you need to change your message.
  2. Make sure you have driver Buy-In: A client of ours once told us Referral Programs were useless, because their drivers were convinced more drivers meant less work for them. The truth was, the company had never effectively communicated the fact that more drivers enabled them to take that many more loads—which meant more work for everybody. We helped them develop convincing communications to that effect—and guess what: Referrals are now the company’s top source of new drivers.
  3. Hold periodic referral contests: Set specific beginning and end dates. Two or three months is a reasonable period. And remember: Prizes and rewards are only part of the formula for success. A genuinely effective referral contest keeps drivers engaged.
  4. Give drivers personalized referral cards. Sure, personalized cards (custom-printed with drivers’ names) cost more than mass-produced cards. But your drivers will  be a lot likelier to hand them out. Which means, in the long run, those cards are a lot likelier to pay for themselves.

Finally: An Important Warning
I hinted at it earlier: Drivers have to believe in the company’s selling points. Which means they have to believe in the company. If you’ve earned a reputation for treating drivers poorly, you don’t need to worry about improving your selling points. You need worry about improving your company. Otherwise, that great referral campaign will just become a pipeline fueling your turnover rate.


For Further Reading:

Driver Recruiting Ads Should Focus On What Matters To Truckers

How To Competitively Recruit Truck Drivers Without Appearing Negative

4 Ways Oakley Maximizes Driver Recruiting AND Retention

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How Con-way Recruits Young Truck Drivers With Apprenticeships

A well-run apprenticeship program can be an excellent way to replace your aging fleet with loyal young drivers whose skills you know you can trust.

David May, a driver-sales representative for Con-way Freight, is a well-known industry advocate and ambassador. He’s written a heartfelt piece that looks back at his past—and ahead to trucking’s future. Here are the highlights:

After graduating high school in 1976 I was living in an old steel/manufacturing town where there were few employment possibilities. The only things at that time that interested me were truck driving and serving in the military. If I entered the military, they would train me to drive a truck, and when my enlistment was up I would be 21. So that’s the course I took, serving my country and being a truck driver in the military.

How to Attract the Next Generation.
I have been a professional truck driver for 28 years now, and increasingly I ask myself: How do we attract the next generation to the trucking industry? Simple. Take a page out of the past, invite them to join as an “apprentice”—where they can learn and experience the profession through paid, on-the-job training.

How to Structure Your Apprenticeship Program.
At Con-Way, apprentice drivers are offered a part-time 20 hour week working on the dock to provide them with income. The other 20 hours will be spent learning the industry’s rules, safety regulations and how to drive a truck—at no cost. When the candidate successfully completes the program, they’ll be offered the opportunity for promotion to full-fledged Con-way Driver.

Additional Benefits: Producing Well-Trained, CSA Compliant Drivers.
This program is designed to do much more than fill the seats of Con-way Freight’s trucks. When the student completes the program, not only will they have their Commercial Drivers License (CDL), they will have learned how to be CSA 2010 compliant. They’ll be among the best trained, safest and most knowledgeable drivers in the industry.

Click on the following link to  read the original article, “A Driver’s Story – Encouraging the Next Generation”, in its entirety.

Too Expensive For You?
Maybe you’ve decided that developing an in-house apprenticeship program is too costly. You could ask your local trucking school if they’d be interested in co-sponsoring a program with your company.

That might be a reasonable option, as long as you have an agreement protecting your investment. Here’s one idea: If a quality graduate from the program declines your offer and accepts a comparable offer with another company, maybe that individual would owe you the amount of money you invested in subsidizing his or her tuition. Here’s a better idea: Get suggestions from the fine folks in your legal department!

Get your company profiled in an article! Just send me an email outlining any recruiting and/or retention issues you deal with. CLICK HERE for contact info.

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The Truth Behind Interstate Distributor’s Driver Retention Numbers

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From Recruitment to Fleet Management to Payroll, drivers get the truth. And nothing but.

Interstate Distributor’s Tracy Caffrey doesn’t mind telling you something about her company that a Senior Recruiter rarely volunteers without being prompted. “We’re not perfect.” At the same time, having worked as both an independent recruiter and a staff recruiter for any number of companies over the past 15 years, she’ll just as quickly point out that no company is perfect.

“The difference with Interstate is, we’re always working on our problems—particularly where drivers are concerned. Our leaders believe we can be the best company in the country—and I do too, by the way—as long as we never forget that Drivers, not Money, are the driving force behind Interstate.”

A Permanent Retention Committee
Toward that end, the Tacoma-based company (with a fleet of some 1900 drivers) has established a permanent Retention Committee. With representatives from Recruiting, Payroll, CSA, Customer Support and Fleet Management, the committee meets weekly to identify and discuss ideas for improving the overall driver experience.”

When the committee identifies problems that need fixing, and issues that need addressing, they take action. Consequently, Interstate enjoys an annual turnover rate of 40%—more than 60% lower than the current industry average for large fleets.

“Lots of companies, including places I’ve worked in the past, talk about putting drivers first—but when they’re confronted with legitimate driver complaints, they just sweep them under the carpet. And if there’s one thing drivers hate more than anything, it’s being lied-to by recruiters who make promises they know the company can’t keep.”

Eliminating The Motivation To Over-Promise
“So many companies today pay recruiters on a commission basis—and that’s where the problems start. When recruiters are paid just to get drivers in the door, without any concern about what happens once they’re hired, they’re a lot likelier to lie. And when that happens, the company just becomes a revolving door. That’s why our recruiters are paid on salary.”

So How Do You Keep Recruiters Motivated?
“We have a unique system for our recruiters that takes into account a number of factors—including retention. And because everybody knows where everybody stands in the recruiting department, as far as the numbers go, the number one benefit is, it promotes a healthy competition among all of us.”

And by “all”, Caffrey’s referring to a department with a grand total of seven recruiters—an extremely low number for a company as large as Interstate. Which raises the question: How does a recruiting staff of seven manage to fulfill all of Interstate’s needs?

“When you have really good recruiters who know how to talk to drivers, you don’t need a large department.” And that’s the truth.

FOR FURTHER READING:

Recruiting & Retaining Women Truck Drivers Starts With Honesty

Improve Truck Driver Recruiting by Listening to Your Drivers

 

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Recruiting Owner Operator Truckers With Lease Purchase: 5 Tips

How One Alabama-Based Company 
Made Its Program A Success

In just eight months last year, Alabama-based flatbedder WTI Transport signed over 100 new Lease Purchase agreements. Since the company’s entire fleet was in the 300-truck range at the time, that should tell you two things:

1) With the difficulty of finding banks to finance truck purchases, Lease Purchase programs are quickly becoming the only way ambitious drivers can become Owner Operators.

2) The folks at WTI are doing something right. Particularly when you consider how many of their Lease Purchase drivers successfully take title to their trucks. “The main thing is, we don’t treat our program as a profit center,” says Lease Purchase Director Jason Quinn. “We created it because we really do want to see more drivers become Owner Operators.

“Our President Rendy Taylor has always said, ‘We can’t consider ourselves successful until a driver gets his title.’ That’s our philosophy. And drivers know that.” So what’s WTI’s secret? It’s no secret: They actually help their drivers succeed.

HERE ARE THE FIVE FUNDAMENTALS OF WTI’S PROGRAM.

1) Minimize The Down Payment.
Better still, says Quinn, don’t require any money down.

2) No Balloon Payments.
It’s pretty simple, Quinn continues: If a driver can’t afford a large down payment, he certainly can’t afford a huge balloon payment. After all, Quinn notes, that’s where so many Lease Purchase drivers at other companies lose their trucks.

3) Pay A Decent Wage. And Make Payments Affordable.
As of August of 2012, WTI was paying its Lease Purchase drivers 70% of gross. That’s as high as you’ll find in the industry. It’s why driver Andre Davis left another company for a Lease Purchase agreement with WTI: “With that other company, I had to run a minimum of 4000 to 4500 miles a week just to make any money for myself. Plenty of weeks, I owed them money.”

4) Offer A Fuel Routing Program.
A successful Fuel program combines maximum fuel surcharge with solid MPG practices, says Quinn.

5) Teach Drivers Good Business Practices.
“We think this is one of the real cornerstones of our program,” Quinn explains. “There’s a huge learning curve for anyone taking the leap from Company Driver to Owner Operator, so we created a Business Planning support system, to monitor our Lease Purchase drivers’ success in several key areas. Each Fleet Manager regularly reviews, with his drivers, a chart he keeps on those areas. Over time, the areas he’s marked red (problem) and yellow (potential problem) start turning green.

“So I guess, Quinn concludes, “you might say we aren’t really successful until our Lease Purchase graduates consider themselves successful Owner Operators.”

Good conclusion.

For Further Reading

Five Steps For Recruiting Owner Operator Truck Drivers

How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 1)

How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 2)

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Five Steps For Recruiting Owner Operator Truck Drivers

One great way to recruit owner operators is to help company drivers become owner operators.

At the very least, you can offer interested drivers solid direction for doing it themselves.

It’s no secret that CSA2010 has been especially tough on owner operators. But it’s going to take a lot more than arbitrary government regulations to stifle the entrepreneurial spirit. And by positioning your company as a valuable information source for making the leap, you’re bound to reap long-term rewards in your recruiting efforts.

The TruckersReport.com has published an in-depth article detailing six critical steps for drivers to transition into successful owner operators—five of which struck me as relevant insights for recruiters. Here are the highlights:

1) Personal Assessment
Drivers should first take a good, hard look at their work ethic, habits and personal situations, including:

  • Driving preferences. Especially where long-haul assignments are concerned.
  • Importance of hometime vs. extra earnings.
  • Health considerations and insurance needs.
  • Short- and long-term career goals.

2) Financial Considerations
Finances are a critical component to success for owner operators. In addition to credit strength, financial considerations include:

  • Ability to create, and live within, personal budgets.
  • Existing debt.
  • Establishing emergency funds.
  • Carrying disability insurance.

3) Going Independent, Or Leasing To A Company?
Naturally, you want drivers interested in leasing to your company. At the same time, by offering candidates all the pros and cons of both options, you’re establishing yourself as a reliable, honest source of information—while, at the same time, weeding-out the candidates who wouldn’t be likely to stick with you.

4) Equipment Considerations
Lots of drivers love the sleek looks and the classic styling of a long-nosed Peterbilt or KW. But can they afford to look good at the expense of profitability and fuel economy?

5) Legal & Accounting
Owner/operators have to choose a business structure for to plan for taxes. Which means they’ll need qualified professionals who can provide sound business advice and support.

It’s Not Just About The Money.
Sure the money can be better, but the appeal of being one’s own boss is as strong as it ever was. If you can help good drivers channel that timeless desire, chances are pretty good you can also create good, loyal drivers likely to stick with you through thick and thin. Especially if you’re willing to go the extra step to help-out in some of the critical areas—like financing and credit.

Click here to read the original article in its entirety.


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How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 1)

Truck Driver in Semi Truck

Six Tips From Three Experts

It’s no secret that recruiting Owner Operators is harder than ever. By some industry estimates, the total number of Owner Operators in the market is 1/3 what it was just before the recession began in 2008.

Not only that, says CareersInGear.com’s Carol Gibson, Owner Operators are less likely to switch companies now than they were just last year. “Freight’s good for Owner Operators now, so why would they leave—particularly if they’re with companies who took care of them when freight was down?”

Which made me think that now might be a good time to ask a few experts (including yours truly) for specific lessons they’ve learned—either from others, or from experience—in recruiting Owner Operators over the years.


FRANCIS HARE TalkingTruckers.com

1)  Don’t underestimate the challenge. You have to invest more to attract Owner Operators than you do to recruit Company Drivers. Particularly if you’re just now entering the Owner Operator market. That starts with developing a powerful brand message that sets you apart from the competition. A message that’s communicated consistently, from your print and online ads to the “talking points” your recruiters use during telephone interviews.

If your brand isn’t well-established, the only way to overcome that disadvantage in the short term is with a truly superior offer, IE: Significantly higher pay or sign-on bonuses; or maybe an especially competitive Lease Purchase program. And don’t even think about recruiting Owner Operators without a solid referral program.

2)  Don’t change your message in mid-stream. One of the most important reasons to think through your messaging strategy is because it takes time to establish that message in the market.

Common ad-world wisdom holds that someone has to see your message three times before it sinks in—so if you change your message, it’s like starting over from scratch. Particularly with online job boards—where every content change drops you down the queue in maximizing your job posts’ prominence on the web, and frequent changes will pretty much keep you stuck at the back of the line.

Bottom line: Develop a strong selling message and offer. Then give it enough time to start working. And don’t panic if it doesn’t generate immediate results. You’ll only make the situation worse.


JEFF GRAY Randall Reilly

3)  Don’t limit your advertising to one medium. Different generations access information differently. While there’s been a decided movement in spending toward online job boards, Gray notes that the truck driving population is aging. “The youngest Boomers will be 50 by the end of 2014, and studies clearly indicate that older drivers (who are typically not computer savvy) are much more apt to seek job info from print sources.”

4)  Don’t under-spend on your ad budget. Gray notes that when Randall launched the Owner Operator Network in 2011, the company committed a huge investment in search advertising to reach Owner Operators. “And remember,” Gray says, “that was two years ago, when the pool of Owner Operators was larger than it is now.”


CLAIBORNE CROMMELIN Baggett Transportation

5)  Don’t “sell”. More importantly, don’t over-sell. No company is right for every driver, says Commelin—so it’s important to determine first if there’s a good match between a prospect and your company. “If you try to make an opportunity sound better than it really is, or if you try to place a driver in a position he won’t like, you’ll end-up losing that driver. And you’ll probably hurt your reputation in the process.”

6)  Don’t expect to hire drivers on the first call. Hiring Owner Operators is like any business sales cycle, Crommelin notes: It takes multiple contacts. “It’s a process of building a relationship, and mutual trust—and that takes time.” Conversely, Crommelin cautions against hiring drivers who are ready to start work with you immediately. “Whenever we hear from a caller like that, a red flag goes up. And we almost always find-out there’s a good reason we were suspicious in the first place.” 

FOR FURTHER READING:

How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 2)

Truck Driver Recruiting: Four Tips For Boosting Referrals

Blogging: The Future Of Online Truck Driver Recruiting?

Recruiting Truck Drivers With Craigslist (And Brand Power)