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.” 


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)

9 comments on “How NOT To Recruit Owner Operator Drivers (Part 1)

  1. If you are hiring Owner Operators (or even company drivers for that matter) then there is a great chance your program basics (i.e. Pay, FSC, Miles and Home-Time) are fairly similar to your competition. That’s why it is competition! You MUST concentrate on selling the little things that recruiters continually overlook on almost every phone call.

    You must talk about different things rather than all the miles you can support them. This is a must because nobody says, “we don’t have miles”. You need to talk about the free laundry at terminals, the low turnover rate, the free book keeping program, no forced dispatch, mostly run the south or whatever “little carrot” you have to offer that is rather unique.

    THAT is what you need to focus your phone conversation on and THAT is what will make you different and stand-out from the crowd.

    Doug Drier
    Right Turn Recruiting

  2. I work for a trucking company near the GA Port in Savannah, GA. We are a fairly small company, usually we only have between 10-20 drivers. There are several terminals here for our company as well. But here lately, with trucks becoming older and older, the corporate company we are with has upped their demands on driving experience, criminal records, maintenance, and how old the truck is. While I understand the need for quality control, it makes it very difficult to hire new drivers.

    We don’t have a budget at all for advertising, and craigslist.org just isn’t a reputable or reliable way of advertising (mainly because it IS free).

    We have made fliers, and business cards, but now that we have them, I’m not sure where to advertise. It is just myself (secretary/hiring/payroll) and the business owner (agent/dispatcher) in our building. Since we are away from the main road and we have no sign, we rely HEAVILY on word-of-mouth to get new drivers, which works when you have 15+, but right now we only have 8 drivers (we lost a bunch of drivers when our old corporate office closed down and they never received their escrow), and we are about to lose a new driver because he found work closer to home.

    So with 7 owner operators, word-of-mouth no longer works. We’ve place fliers at truck stops and fuel stations, but when we check up on those they are either torn down, or covered up by other trucking companies (competition). I have created a free website through google, and we’ve had a lot of hits on it, but It’s very wordy, and I think I give too much information (even if it is very detailed).

    I’m unsure of what to do from here to hire owner operators. Your post has helped me to see where I need to adjust my information and how to better approach those who do find us, but I wouldn’t mind more information on where drivers (20-40 years of age) go to look for job opportunities!

  3. Great post! Been reading a lot about owner operated businesses. Thanks for the info here!

  4. I think this info is great.. one mistake though. Boomers were born between 1946-1964… just for the record.

    • HA!—Hard to believe that post has been up since April 2103, and you’re the first person to mention that typo. Of COURSE the youngest Boomers turn 50 in 2014 (not 2004). Thanks very much, Anthony. Just corrected it.

  5. This information has been good for my company/Division. I am trying to recruit O/O. patience is the key or at least one of them.

  6. Glad it’s been helpful, Anthony. If you’re ever in the market for agency support, I’d be happy to call and introduce myself to you!

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