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12 Steps to Hiring the Best Drivers Despite a Driver Shortage

Man standing with arms crossed between two 18-wheelers. mobile view

Whatever your industry—operating a fleet of 18-wheelers, managing buses for a school district or transporting bobcats and tools for a landscaping company—you are probably experiencing a shortage of qualified drivers. “In fact, by 2020, it’s expected that the U.S. will be short about 400,000 drivers,” says EMC Engineering Specialist Kevin Clayton.

“A driver shortage affects the industries considered to be ‘driver-driven’ such as transportation companies, but it’s surprising how other industries are also hurt by this shortage,” he says. “For example, a heating and cooling company I work with needed to hire HVAC professionals. They had plenty of qualified applicants, but none of them had a driver’s license and they would be unable to drive from one appointment to another.” Reasons for the lack of licensing are varied: some have lost their license for past infractions, while others have never had a license.

Keeping Your Drivers

For the safety and integrity of your company, always keep in mind the rules and regulations that drive your industry and your standards for hiring practices. That means all potential drivers must have proper certifications, pass criminal background checks and drug tests, and have other qualifications you need. You can’t loosen your standards in your scramble to get drivers on the road. Find more details on developing a fleet program, driver qualifications, training for drivers and a variety of other helpful tools on EMC’s driver safety website. Kevin also suggests using driver qualification criteria as a guideline for determining whether your driver candidates are fit for the job.

Within that framework of standards and requirements, there are some steps you can take to attract and retain drivers. Kevin suggests exploring these options:

  1. Craft the best package of salary, bonuses, benefits and other perks that you can afford

    While dollars are the bottom line for many workers, it pays to expand your package to include items such as access to college courses, a good paid time-off policy, retirement benefits and more. Look at what other companies are offering and see what you can do to boost your benefits. As you calculate what you can afford to offer, consider the losses incurred if you must replace dependable drivers who jump to another company. These costs include advertising, training and lost business if you can’t fulfill orders.
  2. Prevent poaching

    With the driver shortage, other employers are probably eyeing some of your best drivers. Let your employees know that you are on their side and that you’ll work with them to keep them in your fleet.
  3. Listen and respond

    Keep in touch when drivers are on the road. Listen to their problems and needs, provide assistance that makes their job easier and more fulfilling, and respond to concerns or complaints they share with you.
  4. Help keep your current drivers healthy

    Offering wellness programs so drivers keep in shape and safe during long days in the driver’s seat can reduce injuries and claims and keep them on the job longer.
  5. Make connections a priority

    Developing driving schedules that make time at home with their families a priority leads to satisfied employees. Connecting driving employees with each other offers on-the-job relationships and creates a network of folks who can “talk shop” with each other, even when they are on the road.
  6. Develop loyalty

    Keeping drivers informed of company successes—and their individual successes, too—can point out benefits drivers gain by sticking with their employment. After all, Kevin says, “Drivers have been known to leave a company for an additional 3 cents per mile. While that can be a meaningful gain, if they have to start over with a retirement program and accrued time off, they may not be gaining as much as they think. Touting your benefits and offering reminders of what they have with you may make them think twice about leaping to a new company.”
  7. Work with EMC

    Our experts can help you develop a hiring program and offer consultation on options you are considering. For example, Kevin worked with a company wanting to hire and train inexperienced drivers. After Kevin helped the company put together a solid program with monitoring, EMC eventually approved the program for insurance coverage.

Finding New Driver Candidates

  1. Work with schools

    Some community colleges offer driver training programs. Get involved in recruiting events at these schools. Yes, some of these students will be too young to drive across state lines on a commercial license. However, you can bring them in as apprentices and train them to your specifications so they are ready to roll when they are old enough. In the meantime, they can perform other functions at your company and may be able to transport within your city or state.
  2. Recruit nontraditional drivers

    Women make up only about 12% of drivers, so there is potential for growth in that population segment. Other forgotten populations include minorities and immigrants.
  3. Develop a referral program

    Your current workforce can expand the network of potential drivers.
  4. Look for potential within your company

    You may have some great employees who are not drivers. If they show aptitude and are eager to learn more skills, approach them about apprenticing as a driver.
  5. Add training for skilled trade applicants

    If the primary tasks of your employees are in a skilled trade but driving is essential to the job, consider hiring non-driving but skilled workers with a requirement that they obtain a license within a specific time frame. In the meantime, they can partner with driving employees to get to sites for installing or repairing equipment or providing other services.

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