Driver turnover among large truckload fleets averaged 92% in the first quarter this year, according to the American Trucking Associations, and 78% for small carriers. Industry experts say turnover is even up in trucking segments known for their retention, such as private fleets and less-than-truckload.

What those numbers mean is that carriers of all sizes and types spend a lot of time and money recruiting, qualifying and hiring drivers — a process that could drown a company in paperwork. Fortunately, automated systems can reduce or even eliminate the paperwork burden, streamline the process for both the carrier and driver applicants and in some cases, result in a better pool of potential hires.

A number of vendors offer products specifically designed to automate the recruitment process. HireRight, for instance, offers on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening and other qualification services. The company’s background screening application can be integrated with a company’s existing applicant tracking system.

Oklahoma-based Tenstreet's recruiting product automates collecting application data through the web and includes a digitized signature feature.

One Tenstreet user, Cargo Transporters of Claremonth, N.C., finds the biggest benefit of the applicant tracking system is the convenience of digital signature, says Shelly Dellinger Mundy, director of recruiting and retention.

"Without ever faxing, emailing, scanning or mailing these applicants, we can begin to process their applications," she says, noting that the system has dramatically decreased the amount of time it takes to hire an applicant.

Mundy says the system also makes it easier to monitor which recruitment channels are performing.

“What I personally like is all our leads, applications, inquiries are processed through Tenstreet. As the director, I can see what sites are producing, in a very easy-to-read format. And, disseminating the applications to my staff is a much fairer process. Before, we had recruiters assigned to certain Internet sites, job boards, etc., to receive the applications generated, which was fine until your internet site, job board, magazine wasn't performing.”

Arkansas-based flatbed carrier Maverick Transportation uses the SHIPS recruitment workflow tool from EBE Technologies. The software helps automate and streamline the recruiting process based on carrier specifications while meeting regulatory requirements.

“Using workflow from end to end allows us not only to save time and increase accuracy, it also helps us in an electronic way, to validate the qualifications of the driver both internally and with third parties,” said Wayne Brown, vice president of information technology at Maverick.

This ensures that when a driver shows up for work, “there are no surprises,” Brown says. “We validate that all the ducks are in a row before they ever show up on campus.  And we are able to do this programmatically utilizing work flow and business intelligence tools.”

From the driver’s perspective, once he has arrived there is very little data to enter to begin the pre-hire and hiring processes. “We simply allow them to validate the accuracy of what they entered on their application.”

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Maverick has developed an electronic pre-employment driver qualification tool and a post-hire training and educational program that includes videos, academic testing, digital signatures and tracking of hands-on training.

The data “flows seamlessly from the application process through our HR system and into our driver training programs. Very little additional ‘master’ data is required to be captured about the applicant when they arrive. The data is validated after they begin our program and flows through to employment and driver records when they are hired.”

The driver only has to enter his data one time and it is used throughout the company’s systems, including benefits enrollment, with no unnecessary data entry from paper documents.

Many trucking management systems include modules for managing the recruitment/hiring process. McLeod Software, for instance includes a module within its TMS called HirePower that automates a number of steps in the hiring process, including recruiting, screening and interviewing.

The application allows remote data entry so drivers can apply for driving jobs electronically. The data is then immediately available for the recruiting staff. The system also consolidates an applicant’s qualifying documents within one recruiting file. It enables scanning of forms that require a driver’s signature and stores those documents with other documents.

TMW Systems offers a driver recruiting component to its Synergize document management and imaging system. Called Synergize Driver Recruitment, it allows prospective drivers to fill out an online application form. That is then is stored with all other required documents, licenses, employment history, motor vehicle records, etc. in a secure data warehouse where the data is available for a company’s HR and recruitment staff to review.

Jay Duquette, sales engineer for imaging and workflow at TMW, says the component features a menu-driven administrative tool that allows fleets to configure or customize the application form to meet their specific needs. The system can validate application information and do background checks via integration with third parties that provide such services.

“It’s really designed so the HR folks spend time on the most qualified applicants,” he says. “It moves an applicant from ‘applied’ to ‘approved’ in a more timely fashion.” With the data stored electronically in one place, all driver qualification information is readily available if a fleet is audited.

Duquette says there are two primary reasons carriers look at automating their recruiting process. One is reducing their recruiting costs – they want to find the best applicants and bring them on board with the least amount of administrative work. Companies can see a 30-40% improvement in processing time with an automated system, he says.

The other reason is compliance and risk. “There are too many nightmare scenarios where companies have been hit with fines,” when they were unable to verify or produce driver qualification files.

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After Qualification

While automated recruiting systems eliminate paperwork and reduce the time required to hire drivers, carriers still have to select from among those qualified applicants. It’s here that technology also plays a role, in terms of data analytics and behavioral-based interviewing.

A key benefit of automated recruitment systems is that the data collected becomes available for analytic purposes. David Broyles, truckload operations manager, Averitt Express, Cookeville, Tenn., says its analytics model from Omnitracs Analytics (formerly Fleet Risk Advisors) uses all the data they have available on drivers, including the data from Tenstreeet’s recruiting application, to determine what kinds of drivers will work best in their operation.

While the company has focused their analytics on safety and driver retention, they are also looking at recruiting models. “I think there is enough data out there now that will help us select candidates that fit our mold,” he says, while noting that “what fits us might not fit someone else” since the models are customized depending upon the company.

Dean Croke, director of sales, Omnitracs Analytics, affirmed that their models are custom-built for each client, explaining that what they found that was while the data might be the same from company to company, the predictors would be different.

“About 85% of the predictors in a model will be cultural,” he explains, based on the company’s culture and how it does business.

As far as the kinds of data that can be used in a recruitment model, Croke says they use “anything we can get. We never go into a client on the basis that we know anything about their data. We work from the premise that we have no knowledge of the data so we use it all.”

For a recruitment model, that data might include employment history, CSA scores, violation history and other information.

Croke also notes that while carriers collect quite a bit of data on new hires, they have much more data about the drivers that are still there and those that have quit.

“We reverse engineer to model what causes people to quit,” he says. That enables the recruitment model to better match prospective applicants.

Croke stressed that the models do not deliver a yes/no decision on each applicant, but rather are a tool that ranks drivers. “We rank drivers based on criteria from that company’s best drivers – we predict which drivers will meet that criteria.”

Mark Tinney, president of JOBehaviors.com, Gig Harbor, Wash., says his company uses the “science of job selection” to help find candidates that are best suited for specific trucking jobs.

“We start with a job analysis – one assessment for long-haul drivers, another for delivery drivers, etc.,” he explained. “That becomes the basis to match individuals who share the same behavioral features as the job requires."

If you look at a job requirement, he says, 80% is behavioral and 20% is technical. “As an industry, we do a pretty good job at the technical skill (teaching someone to drive a truck) but do not do a good job at matching behavioral characteristics.”

JOBehaviors recommends fleets do a behavioral assessment at the beginning of the hiring/recruitment process. “Let the assessment do the heavy lifting,” he says. The assessment is a series of questions that takes an applicant about 12 minutes to complete.

Candidates are then scored from 1 star to 5 stars, based on their match to the job requirements.

Bob Howell, who handles marketing to the transportation industry for JOBehaviors.com, says the rankings allow a company to isolate the good performers from the bottom performers.

“Our assessment allows companies to avoid the lover 30% and concentrate on the upper 70% of applicants."

Tinney notes that many companies tend to believe the solution is to look at more and more candidates. “Some look at 30 candidates to hire one. We want to see them get the candidates with a high probability of success from the get go. There is a streamlining effect by eliminating those candidates that are unlikely to succeed.”

Tinney says there are differences between a behavioral approach and a personality assessment.

“A personality profile tends to do a pretty good job of identifying personality types, but that’s as far as they go. But you want to go beyond and look and get into job behaviors.”

Tinney says that when talking with the top performers from any industry, “you’ll find out that they represent every personality type under the sun.” Instead, companies need to look at behaviors that regardless of personality type, they want their drivers to exhibit.

“If you have random hiring, you are introducing the bottom 30% into your company,” he says. And those are the drivers that can have an outsize impact on the fleet. Most turnover comes from that group and it can have an impact on a company’s good drivers, as well, he says, due to the impact the bad drivers have had on your company.

With these and other applications currently available, fleets may find that driver recruiting need not be a paperwork nightmare.

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