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Fleet Strategies

Fleet Owner Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Good Drivers

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Mar 26th 2018 11:08AM

Talk with fleet owners and most of them will tell you that their biggest challenge is finding—and keeping—good, dependable drivers.

That makes senses. There’s a major driver shortage with a lot at stake for fleet owners. Just one truck that sits because there isn’t a driver can be a significant cash drain for an owner.

So what can fleet owners do to buck the trend and keep all their trucks on the road making money? EO recently spoke with Susan Medlin, an expedite fleet owner since 2008, to get her advice.

On Recruiting...

#1. Word of Mouth and Referrals
“The biggest thing is building up a reputation through word of mouth. Networking through your contractors is probably your best resource for recruiting,” says Medlin. “I have a referral bonus for my teams—for anyone who refers a team to me, completes the orientation, and stays in the truck at least 90 days.”

#2. Partnership with the Carrier
“When a team becomes available and they call you [about driving for you], you have a really short window to hook them in and keep them interested because they go so fast. Everybody's looking for teams,” says Medlin. “So you have to partner with a carrier with a recruiting department that can process those drivers and give you an answer back quickly as to whether or not they qualify. You can't have a recruiter sit on an application for two or three days before they let you know whether the drivers are approved. Otherwise those drivers will have already found another carrier that's cleared them. So having a rapid response from your recruiter when you have teams applying is really critical.”

#3. Making a Personal Connection
“When you’re interviewing drivers, humanize the process. Give a little bit of yourself and your story,” advises Medlin. “Instead of being overly formal, I try to build the relationship over the phone and let them know that, ‘Hey, I was just like you several years ago. And it hasn't been that long since I was a driver.’ I think the fact that I also drove for 14 years has been one of my most effective recruiting tools.”

On Retention...

#1. Being Open, Transparent, and Available 24/7
“We offer our drivers a line of communication that's 24/7 with myself and my fleet manager,” says Medlin. “And we let them actually see the earnings of the truck—not just from what I provide them, but also from what the carrier provides them, keeping a completely open-door policy when it comes to the financial side of their truck.”

What makes transparency an effective driver-retention strategy? After all, some fleet owners might balk at that idea concerned that their drivers would look at the numbers and think to themselves, "Man, look at what this truck is making. Why don’t we do this on our own?"

“It's a trust and honesty thing,” says Medlin. “What you're going to find out with a lot people who have been around for a while is that they've never had been allowed to communicate about settlements for their trucks. But we’re not showing them anything that they don't already have access to on their day to day basis across the Qualcomm. When you’re upfront and just put it out there, then drivers feel a higher level of trust with you because you've done that for them.”

#2. Keeping Things Simple
“Make everything as simple and easy as possible for drivers,” says Medlin. “And what I mean by that is having national accounts with all of our vendors so drivers don't have to go in somewhere and get something and wait for hours for someone to pay the bill.”

#3. Flexible Time-Off Program
“Most owners in this industry give their drivers five days off per month for personal down time. But what I’ve found is that when you’ve been out on the road for a while, five days isn't enough to get everything done you need to do. So I started a program where I allow them 15 days per quarter. This way, over a three month period they have those 15 days they can use however they see fit. I just ask them not to take more than 10 days off consecutively,” says Medlin.

What if they have time left over at the end of the quarter?

“If any of those 15 days haven't been used, we have what's called a buyback program,” says Medlin. “It's a $100 a day for each day of your home time that you don't use. That may not seem like a lot of money, but if they only used 10 days and had 5 days left over, the drivers look at that as a $500 bonus. And by them driving those extra five days, I've made more money because they ran the truck during that time.”

The Bottom Line
“Keep in mind that it's not an easy lifestyle for drivers,” says Medlin. “So when you're not in the truck and you're sitting in my position as a fleet owner, you need to remember just how difficult it can be out there for your drivers and make allowances for that, making sure they know you have their back.

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