For the transportation and logistics industry there’s a certain irony to the job market situation since COVID-19 emerged as a significant concern in the US: while many, many people find themselves out of work and most companies are putting a halt on recruitment, the demand for drivers is increasing exponentially.
The trucking industry has been facing shortages of truckers for some time now. In July 2019, Bloomberg predicted that the shortage would more than double over the next 10 years and reported that: “The driver deficit swelled by more than 10,000 to 60.800 in 2018 from a year earlier,” based on data from the American Trucking Association.
Fast forward to March 2020 and the situation has become even more dire. Particularly so, in an environment where Americans desperately need access to food and other necessities and also where, unfortunately, far too many people have gone into hoarding mode.
As those managing fleets of all types and sizes face growing challenges in finding, screening, hiring, onboarding and keeping drivers on board and on the road, we offer some advice, strategies and best practices to put in place now, and keep in place moving forward.
The State of Employment in the Transportation Industry
In March, The Wall Street Journal reported that: “The coronavirus pandemic is whipsawing the trucking industry, as retailers clamor for delivery of food and household staples while lockdowns aimed at curbing contagion shut other businesses, leaving rigs empty on the return trip.”
The industry was already short about 60,800 drivers in 2018, according to FOX Business – which represented a 20 percent increase from the previous year.
This at a time when drivers, themselves, also are concerned about their safety and health. So what should companies be doing now to fight this trend and ensure they have the staff they need to meet demand?
It May Be Counterintuitive, but This is the Place to Start
It might seem that the best place to start when needing to find and hire drivers is with creating and disseminating position descriptions and ads. While that’s obviously an important step, it’s not the first step.
The first step should be ensuring that the staff you already have—drivers as well as all the people who support them and the organization—work in an environment that they love. If that’s not the case, staffing becomes a vicious cycle of constantly recruiting, hiring, training and losing employees.
Foundationally it’s important for companies to ensure they are meeting their employees’ needs. Amid a crisis that threatens personal health, employee safety should be a major area of focus.
The greater determinant of job satisfaction for drivers, according to an industry study from TruckersReport.com and advanced analytics software firm OdinText is not money, as many might initially assume. The study found that “while veteran drivers and those earning higher wages were generally more satisfied, money was not the best predictor of satisfaction: pay grade came in fifth.” What matters more? “Across both new and veteran drivers, the leading factor behind job satisfaction was the extent to which their employer’s company was ‘family-oriented,’ followed by being allotted sufficient time at home.”
Obviously, during the crisis getting that desired family time and flexibility may not be an option, but it’s an issue that should remain top-of-mind for future planning.
Beyond studies like these it’s important to ask your drivers, and staff in general, about areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, to listen and to respond with what you can—and, perhaps, cannot—change. The simple step of asking and genuinely listening can go a long way toward engaging employees and helping to minimize turnover.
Recruiting Former Employees
In seeking new drivers, one often overlooked area of focus is former employees. Many of these former employees find after leaving a company that the grass is not always greener and are glad, even eager, to return to a former employer—if they’re aware of opportunities to do so.
These returning former employees, also known as “boomerang employees” offer the benefit of already being familiar with the organization. In addition, their return can send an important message to other staff members: “The grass isn’t always greener.”
According to research from global staffing firm Accountemps, 9 out of 10 senior managers (94%) are open to rehiring boomerang employees who left on good terms. Unfortunately, the research also reveals that former employees aren’t quite so eager to return to a previous employer—only 52% indicated they would be likely to apply for a job with a company they previously worked for. Reasons given for the hesitancy include: dissatisfaction with management (22%), poor fit with the organization’s culture (17%), unfulfilling job duties (13%) and bridges burned by the company (11%). These reasons all point to potential steps that employers can take to up the odds that former prized employees will consider a return.
Dana Case, director of operations with MyCorporation.com, says: “We have re-recruited boomerang employees to come back and work for us—and like to refer to it as their ‘second tour of duty.’ This has been successful for our company due to a series of built-in pros. The returning employee already knows a lot about our company culture, working environment, and customers. It also makes for an easier onboarding process. As an added bonus, the returning employee usually brings back the knowledge they have acquired from other work experiences during the time they were away from the business.”
Hiring People With Criminal Records
As finding top talent has become increasingly challenging, employers have been more willing to think outside the box when it comes to finding, recruiting and hiring employees. Some are even becoming more open to considering employees who have criminal backgrounds. In fact, legislation—The Fair Chance Act—is receiving bipartisan support and a number of major employers have announced publicly their intent to give former convicts a chance.
Ban-the-box laws have emerged in various locations around the country to prohibit employers from asking whether a potential employee has a criminal background. But many companies are going beyond the laws to proactively recruit those with criminal records. For example, in a joint initiative by the Charles Koch Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) a number of companies are signing a pledge to hire people with criminal backgrounds. NBC reported that, according to SHRM CEO Johnny Taylor Jr., 175 companies committed to the initiative within 24 hours of the pledge being announced—including Walmart.
This can’t be done carte blanche, of course, especially when hiring drivers. David D. Schein, MBA, JD, PHD, president and general counsel with Claremont Management Group, Inc., says: “Because truckers handle the goods of others in most cases, criminal background checks are directly relevant to their work. Also, checking their driving records to make sure they are safe drivers is critical. A driver with multiple DUIs, for instance, cannot be insured and will most likely not be employable. Further, all over the road truck drivers are subject to the DOT mandatory substance abuse testing rules.”
Background check firms can help to expedite this process and also deal with variations between state and local jurisdictions. FitSmallBusiness recently listed the top seven employment background check companies.
Throughout the hiring process, from the initial posting of the job, through interviews and offers, it’s important for companies to avoid the potential to turn candidates off. Unfortunately, many companies fail to take adequate steps to avoid common hiring turnoffs.