In the long haul trucking industry, driver turnover is nearly 100% per year – meaning the average driver lasts only 12 months. While focusing on driver retention should be your top priority when you have a roster of reliable and easy-to-work with drivers, hiring will always be a critical part of the job for any growing trucking business.
In this article, we breakdown a 7-step guide across how to find, recruit, qualify, and hire the best drivers available. Importantly, we add a compliance lens to this as well, with ___ requirements you need to execute and have in place with each additional driver.
Where do I find great drivers? Two primary ways: your network and job boards.
- Network. Have you met any you love, especially independent drivers who might want a steadier base of business and pay? It’s always best to start with your first and second degree connections to determine who you might want to bring on next. We suggest keeping a simple running sheet (Google Sheet, Excel, or elsewhere) of potential hires. We call this your “virtual bench” of talent.
- Job boards. There are no shortage of job boards where you can post for drivers. Common generalist sites are Indeed.com, ZipRecruiter.com, and LinkedIn. There are also multiple trucking specific job boards such as TheTrucker.com and TruckersNetwork.com. Depending on your budget, you might consider a platform like Tenstreet that allows you to post to 20 job boards at once and integrate applications with verifications and driver qualification files.
Process: from your Scorecard to the driver’s “First 90 Days”
In short, here are the 8 key steps we recommend taking for hiring drivers, from the initial scorecard of the role through onboarding your driver:
- Start with your “Scorecard.” What are the 3-5 core accountabilities of the job? What does success look like 12-18 months from now? Be crisp and specific on the key deliverables – e.g. “The driver will have driven over 100,000 miles without an accident,” or “The driver will have received positive feedback from more than 90% of clients they worked with.” This is an internal document you can use to help keep yourself honest in the hiring process.
- Write out the Job Description. Based on the key deliverables of the Scorecard, the Job Description becomes your public facing document. Write out a blurb about your company, the mission of the role, the key responsibilities of the driver, and the key qualifications they’ll need to be hired and to be successful.
- Driver’s Application for Employment. Per FMCSA requirements, a driver must have a completed and signed application for employment. The FMCSA has an example you can use here, but you can customize it to your own business as long as you have the information required by the FMCSA.
- Phone screen or in person meeting. Have a crisp 30 minute conversation with the driver to gauge cultural fit with your team, how they’ll be received by customers, and get a brief overview of work history and qualifications that might not appear on their resume (if you have one for them). Figure out who on your team needs to speak with or meet each driver before you begin the hiring process, so that you can streamline the experience and save time for all involved.
- Driver test. It’s common when hiring drivers that you run them through a driver test to ensure that they are a safe, attentive, and responsible driver.
- Background and reference checks. While background checks and drug tests are essential to ensure your driver either has a clean record or you at least are comfortable with an explainable lapses in their past, the reference checks are often even more critical to ensure the candidate will be a great fit – or not – for the role. Talk to 3-5 past employers or customers who can speak in depth about their experience with the driver in question. Ask probing questions about disagreements, biggest issues they may have had, and any other potential red or yellow flag. At this stage, people are likely to not want to say anything negative, so you’ll want to diplomatically probe.
- Prepare a driver qualification file. The FMCSA requires a list of checks and documents to be completed for each new driver prior to employment as well as an ongoing maintenance of that file. This file should include the inquiries to previous employers, previous motor vehicle reports (MVRs), medical examiner’s certificate, and other information. Be sure to research the latest requirements directly from the FMCSA to ensure your files are complete and up to date.
- Onboarding. Congrats on finding the right driver! Have a succinct and legally-reviewed offer letter template drafted and ready to go with job expectations, compensation, benefits, and employment information clearly spelled out. Determine all the steps you’ll need to get them set up in your HR system, if you have one, to make this run smoothly for the candidate. First impressions of onboarding matters for creating a positive experience and helping on retention down the road. Be sure they are familiar with all equipment, team members they’ll be interacting with, safety protocols, insurance, and emergency procedures.