Even the smallest trucking company today wouldn't expect its accounting staff to do its figuring with a No. 2 pencil and a paper ledger. Yet many recruiting departments are still havens of Post-It notes, tick sheets and file cabinets full of dusty hand-written driver applications.
"The recruiting department in many cases has been the last bastion of the paper, pencil and file drawer mentality," says Mark Reese, co-owner and vice president of sales and marketing for Colorado-based RapidHire, which started out as the recruiting package for KLLM.
Computer technology specifically for driver recruiting is a relatively new thing, with the earliest programs developed in the mid-'90s to track advertising, callers and recruiter efficiency. Today a number of programs do all that and more.
"Carriers invest a lot of money in advertising and pay to get information about these applicants," says Marla Grant, a former driver recruiter and a longtime sales representative for Innovative Computing, which includes recruiting functions as part of an overall enterprise software package. "Software can help you once you've obtained that lead – it can help you verify who's qualified and continue to work that lead, even if he doesn't accept your offer right away."
One of the first things software companies addressed in recruiting was managing driver applications more efficiently. That has become even more important with the increasing use of the Internet.
"These guys are getting dozens and dozens of applications," says Ken Windle, president of IEG Software, Oklahoma City, an independent provider of recruiting management software, "but they don't really have any real way to manage them, to figure out which ones they already got three months ago and disqualified, or which are guys that don't fit the company's profile."
With applications coming in from phone calls, Internet job boards, the company web site and more, you can easily end up duplicating efforts, says Tim Crawford, president of Tulsa, Okla.,-based Tenstreet, which specializes in helping trucking companies recruit and retain drivers with software and services. "It's common for the same guy to go to several different job boards, so the carrier might get three or four different applications, and those all get assigned to different recruiters who all think they're chasing a different guy."
That's why companies now offer software that can track applications from all different sources and prioritize them based on factors important to the carrier – experience, geography, type of equipment, etc. "If you'd never hire a guy from Montana, the system should be set so you never spend any time looking at applications from Montana," Crawford says.
Tracking callers was another facet of early recruiting software. At the time, recruiting was all about taking phone calls and sending out postcards, letters, applications and mass mailings. Today, it's important that recruiting management software allow you to handle things electronically. You need to be able to deal with incoming electronic documents such as scanned images and e-mails, and easily generate e-mails, letters or faxes from the computer.
Following up can be a big problem for recruiting departments, says RapidHire's Reese. "When your phone is ringing off the wall, if you don't close the sale with someone and they want you to call them back, sometimes those things fall through the cracks." Before computerized systems, "it was difficult to follow up even a day later with candidates, let alone a week or a month later." Recruiting systems can remind you that you promised to call John Jones back in a week and that this is what you talked about.
THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY
Computer technology, whether it's recruiting-specific or general business programs such as spreadsheets, mail merge and contact management software, can help you keep track of the drivers who got away – and give you a better chance of getting them back.
If there was a driver you wanted to hire but he decided to take employment elsewhere, follow up with a letter a month afterward, saying something like, "If things don't work out at your new company, you're still welcome at our company – just give me a call." After all, 75 percent of turnover happens in those first 90 days. There's a chance he's not satisfied with his new employer, so hit him up before he makes yet another employment change.
Also, if you change your compensation or change your operations, it's a good opportunity to reach out to those ones who got away. (For instance, when CFI announced a major pay raise, it sent a letter to every potential driver it had talked to for the last two years.) These tactics were not impossible before computer software, but they were a lot more difficult.
Then there are the drivers who you would have liked to have hired, but there was something that kept them from being qualified. Maybe they don't have quite enough experience, or there's a ticket that needs to get a little further into the past before your company will hire them. With detailed databases and contact programs, your computer can notify you when their experience or safety record should match your requirements.
Say you had a new lane open up in Phoenix. You could go back into your database and find all the people from Phoenix who had called within the last five years and let them know, with e-mail, a mass mailing or a phone call, that you're now hiring in their area.
You should even track why someone didn't come to work with you. Maybe you didn't have a policy allowing pets on board when you first talked to a driver, but your policy has changed. If you have the right records, you can go back and contact that potential driver.
"We've been told by our customers that this is a slam-dunk, that the close rate on those is really good," Reese says. "The candidate can't believe [the recruiter] actually called back. We've all heard, 'We'll keep you in our files,' and it disappears into a filing cabinet."
IN THE OFFICE
Technology also can help improve the workflow of the driver applicant between different people in different departments. The recruiter, the safety department, the accounting department, the people who handle orientation – all can work from the same electronic file.
"They can pass this driver around electronically," says IEG's Windle. "If you have a recruiter and a processor and they're two separate people, the recruiter gets the information and passes it off to a processor for MVRs, work histories, etc."
New technology also can help in the background check. Some systems, such as Tenstreet and RapidHire, offer easy access to DAC reports.
"When they're on the phone with a candidate, if the recruiters want to pull a job history on that candidate, within 90 seconds they're looking at that candidate's complete job history," says RapidHire's Reese. "You can start talking to somebody about where they worked, where they were trained, gaps in their employment history."
Tenstreet offers a system that can capture signatures electronically, avoiding what Crawford calls "the fax dance."
"The way the drug and alcohol release works, you have to get a signature and get it to all the previous employers," Crawford explains. So drivers need to be able to download and print out the form or have a recruiter fax it to them, then sign it and fax it back. For a driver on the road, finding fax machines isn't always easy. "So we've got some proprietary technology that allows them to capture a fully compliant digitized signature via the web. It just eliminates the whole paper chase thing."
Technology also helps you determine where to spend your recruiting dollars. "It's that old maxim that I'm wasting 50 percent of my ad dollars, I just don't know which 50 percent," Crawford says.
Computer programs can help you track how many qualified drivers you hired from Magazine A compared to Magazine B, which drivers heard about the company from a radio ad in a specific market, who called because of a truckstop poster or fuel-island ad, etc.
In addition to tracking drivers and advertising, computer programs can help management evaluate recruiter efficiency. You can see things such as how many calls a recruiter has taken today or this week, how many potential recruits went from first call to hired driver, etc.
USING THE INTERNET
Of course, technology has changed how we advertise for drivers, as well.
"The Internet is the most cost-effective recruiting tool that we have," says Jim Richards, chief operating officer for KLLM.
There are two ways to use the Internet in recruiting. One is your own web site. The other is using web sites that allow job seekers to peruse information on multiple companies and apply to several at once. These include general job boards, such as Monster.com, as well as trucking-specific sites, such as CDLJobs.com, BigRigJobs.com or ClassADrivers.com.
"When I started as a recruiter for Heartland Express, I was given a sheet of paper and a No. 2 pencil," says Darin Williams, who left Heartland after 10 years to start CDLjobsonline.com, which today is CDLjobs.com. "When the phone rang, I took an address, we sent out applications, two weeks later they came back, and we hired drivers. It worked very well."
Things have changed. Williams says magazines are still a great medium to advertise in. "The invention of television didn't make radio obsolete, and the Internet is not going to make print advertising obsolete." Classified ads in newspapers, however, just aren't working anymore, he says. The Internet is replacing them.
"According to a Markinetics phone survey from August 2006, more than 45 percent of truckers used the Internet at least nine times per week," Williams says. "It's not necessarily just to find jobs, but we're either going to learn how to recruit on the Internet, or you're going to learn how to look for a job on the Internet."
One of the benefits of using the Internet, if you do it properly, is that the technology can pre-screen those applications for you.
"Our web site, based on the questions we're asking our drivers and the answers we're receiving, it's able to determine if this is a potentially strong candidate or someone that might not meet our hiring requirements today but may in the future," says Vince Schott, vice president of safety at KLLM. "The web site actually filters the applications by priority and puts them in front of our best recruiters in a timely fashion."
When it comes to your company's web site, Williams emphasizes that current information is more important than snazzy graphics, a Flash presentation or trucking music in the background. If your web site was designed by the owner's nephew who took a class in college and it hasn't been updated since it went live in 2002, it's time for a serious overhaul.
The recruiting portion of your web site exists to inform drivers about your company and what you have to offer – and provide an easy way for them to apply. It should work in tandem with your other advertising efforts.
"Your web site is a representation of you," Williams says. "If your web presence has broken links, it reflects poor maintenance. If you're unkempt, with poor design, it reflects sloppiness." When that happens, he says, the great magazine ad or radio spot that led them to the web site in the first place has been wasted.
Some trucking companies have even set up separate sites for recruiting, such as SchneiderJobs.com, GoMcGriff.com and U.S. Xpress' Xpressdrivers.com.
"We know nowadays that people are going to search on the Internet before they even call you," says Rob Reich, vice president of enterprise recruiting for Schneider National. "We know people are going to typically look at four or five other carriers, so it's important that the information is easy to navigate and answers most of their questions."
Schneider recently redesigned its recruiting web site, among other things offering drivers the opportunity to speak with company representatives via live online chat.
The other facet of recruiting online is using job search sites. There are quite a few aimed specifically at trucking. Williams offers some things to think about when choosing which site(s) you use:
• What is your recruiting department equipped to handle? "If you're one person in a small office, you don't need to be on six sites that will jam you with 200 applicants every morning. There's no sense in doing it if you're not going to use it."
• What do you know about the company? What is its reputation? Do they have a driver recruiting background? What types of services do they offer?
• What are the filtering options? Most recruiting sites will filter applications based on criteria you provide, such as no more than two accidents in the last three years, needs two years of experience, has to live in a certain geographic area, etc. "If you only want owner-operators, don't pay for company drivers – they should filter those on the front end."
Whether leads are coming from your web site or from a job board site, prompt action is key. You need someone who can accept e-mails from applicants and reply to them immediately, someone who is comfortable with the Internet. "You wouldn't allow your recruiters to sit there and let the phone ring," Williams says. If applications are sent in real time, you may even be able to catch the driver still sitting at the computer where he filed the application.
TECHNOLOGY AND YOU
In a tight-margin business like trucking, investing in new technology may be a tough sell – but it shouldn't be, says RapidHire's Reese. "It costs thousands of dollars to hire every driver. If we can help [carriers] to hire just one more [driver] than they're doing now, [the software is] going to more than pay for itself – and the truth is, we will help them hire many more, and they'll be better candidates."
As computer technology has advanced, there are more options available for smaller companies. Programs that used to be limited to big-company mainframe computers are now being adapted for use on PCs and offered in more affordable versions that can be accessed via the Internet through an ASP application.
To get the most out of your investment, like any technology, you need to use it to its full potential.
"What I see is that the better managers utilize the system and the weaker managers don't," says IEG's Windle. No matter whose system you choose, he says, if you just use it as a glorified spreadsheet, you're wasting money. "They look up names and can tell when a guy called, but they don't use all the features like the automatic e-mails and the diary features and the callback functions."
Innovative Computing addresses this issue with something it calls Innovative University. Instead of traveling to a training center, software users can get online training, including taking tests. Managers can review those test results to make sure their recruiters know how to use the software effectively.
"It seems like just yesterday KLLM was drowning in driver recruiting paperwork and spending hours faxing and manually processing DAC requests," says Schott. "It used to take several phone calls, tremendous data entry and multiple hours of work to obtain enough information to verify employment and hire a driver. It literally took days or weeks to hire a driver." Now, thanks to recruiting management software, job offers are often made to qualified individuals in as little as a day.
A NEW TYPE OF APPRENTICESHIP
One of Virginia's largest mainline paving companies says it has reduced turnover and improved safety with what it calls a Commercial Drivers Apprenticeship. About four years ago, E.V. Williams Inc. developed the program to address high turnover among drivers of its quad-axle dump trucks, an entry-level position.
The program features a week of classroom training, referred to as Phase 1, with structured classes in the morning, followed by some additional time each day in self-directed and practical training. Students are paid a training wage while enrolled in the program. This Phase 1 training prepares them to take the exam for their CDL learner's permit.
Once trainees get their permits, they begin Phase 2: in-the-truck, on-the-job training, driving with an experienced driver as passenger and trainer. Following the mandatory 30-day permit period, the trainees are ready for the CDL road test. By that point, with about 80 hours behind the wheel, trainees typically pass the exam and get their Class 8 CDL. Then the company hires the trainee as a full-fledged truck driver.
"We have had 36 people come through the program, and what we have found is that the people who complete that program are safer drivers, and they remain with the company for a longer period of time," says Barry Hoy, training director.
Hoy believes the participants in the program have lower turnover for a couple of reasons. For one thing, he says, the training gives them confidence and the belief that they have the capabilities they need to succeed. "
In the work place, when their belief that they can do a job is high, it leads to high job satisfaction." In addition, he says, "when you invest company resources in an individual, it confirms in that individual the knowledge that the company cares about them."
The company runs the program about every other month, as the need for drivers dictates. CDL trainer Rob Johnston handles the entire program. The textbook for the classroom portion of the training is the Virginia Commercial Driver's Manual, provided by the state DMV, along with PowerPoint presentations used in the classes to guide the lectures and the discussions.
Hoy also finds the program leads to increased word-of-mouth recruiting. "Somebody will call up and say, 'Hey, somebody told me you guys do training for truck drivers over there.'"
MORE THAN DRIVING SKILLS
Knight Transport, a small Northwest trucking company, was in trouble. It had 24 trucks with 17 available, but only 14 drivers and a turnover rate of 75 percent a month. Owner Scotty White's truck fleet was lying largely dormant and he could not grow his company.
White sought help from Taylor Protocols, Tukwila, Wash., which profiles employees to identify top performers.
Beyond qualifications such as age, MVR and driving experience, there are many more intangible factors that determine whether someone is a good driver, and whether he or she is a good fit with the job and with your company. Taylor is one of a number of companies that offer ways to measure these factors.
Taylor uses what it calls the Core Value Index, which "characterizes and quantifies an individual's unchanging innate nature" to predict which candidates will be high performers. In truck driving, as with all jobs, the company explains, if a person's core values do not match what is needed to perform the tasks in that job at a high level, that person is likely to leave that job or perform very marginally at it and be frustrated.
The company profiles all of the current employees in a position and develops a "Top Performer Profile" for that position, a kind of fingerprint guide for identification of other top performers. Applicants take the CVI assessment, a 10-minute web-based process. If the "fingerprint" from the profile and the CVI test "match," the chances the manager is hiring a top performer are eight of 10.
At Knight Transport, these profiles allowed White to hire top performer drivers, as well as hiring top performers in other positions and doing an internal reorganization to put the right people in the right jobs. After two years, the company had grown its fleet to 35 trucks, with 34 on the road, and truck driver turnover was down to 25 percent per year.
Lower driver turnover also allowed the company to take more loads more consistently. That led to more dollar volume and higher income. Better driver dispatch caused drivers to capture more loads, creating more income for both drivers and the company. The increase in company income allowed White to increase employee benefits, which made the company an even better place to work, further lowering turnover.
Taylor Protocols is not the only company focusing on employee profiling to reduce turnover. Two others that have trucking clients are Scheig Associates and TamingTurnover.
"It is possible to have a tractor-trailer driver who is very good at backing into a dock, but their delivery is late, they don't effectively communicate with the dispatcher, they don't effectively represent the company and on and on and on. Are they a good overall driver? No," explains Kyle Scheig, director of marketing at Scheig Associates, Gig Harbor, Wash., which offers job-specific, behaviorally based pre-employment assessments.
"The issue is whether the applicant has the basic job behaviors it takes to do the job and do it well. Many people can be taught how to drive a truck, but it is very difficult to train for the other necessary behaviors."
Scheig does a job analysis of people identified as being superior performers in a particular job, derives the high-performing behaviors for the job and assembles it into an assessment. Scheig offers these assessments for a number of industries and positions, including long-haul truck driver, food service delivery driver, short-haul delivery driver and diesel technician. The company claims an 88 percent to 92 percent accuracy rate in identifying applicants who behaviorally are similar to high-performing workers in that job.
TamingTurnover, Alpharetta, Ga., focuses on over-the-road truck drivers and dispatchers as one of its three target markets, and the founders have a background in trucking. In addition to profiling applicants, TamingTurnover profiles drivers and dispatchers to help create a better fit between the two with what it calls a Turnover Audit.
"Because the quality of the relationship between a driver and his dispatcher is the No. 1 predictor of length of service, the more compatible we make our boards, the higher our driver retention will be," says Marc Bailey, TamingTurnover CEO.
The company has tools that measure people in 10 different areas: intelligence, work style, rules compliance, sensitivity, assertiveness, sociability, judgment, work motive, family need, and safety/risk.
As a case study, TamingTurnover cites the example of a Midwest trucking company that had 1,500 over-the-road drivers, more than 90 percent driver turnover and a nearly 200 percent annualized turnover rate during the first 60 days of employment.
TamingTurnover found that the company had four different profiles of drivers and three different profiles of dispatchers. They re-assigned 20 percent of the drivers to get a better fit with their dispatchers. In addition, six of the company's 40 dispatchers were identified as having profiles that were incompatible with 80 percent of successful OTR drivers. Those were replaced. The company saw an immediate reduction in driver turnover. In just eight months, the company was able to grow to 1,800 trucks, and its annualized driver turnover rate dropped from 92 percent to 70 percent.
"We replace unpredictable 'seat of the pants' recruiting and retention processes with structured, repeatable processes that yield consistent, predictable results," Bailey says. "Today it is possible to discover what a group of high-retention drivers have in common. It's also possible to discover what the 'quick quits' have in common. Combining these profiles with a thorough understanding of a carrier's own rules and procedures yields a detailed picture of the drivers and dispatchers a given carrier should focus recruiting on."