We can have all the technology in the world but if there’s no one to operate it… well – it just sits there waiting for its human counterpart. This is the current narrative of the trucking and logistics business. Trucking companies are battling high turnover just as the demand for shipping increases from e-commerce, manufacturing and construction sectors. Coupled with the ELD mandate now in full bloom and low unemployment we’ve got a perfect storm for the industry.

The question remains: how can a trucking company recruit and retain qualified drivers? The results of a recent study by HireRight Inc are not surprising/ Truckers leave jobs for higher pay, more home time, better benefits and a very amorphous “job not what expected.”

The commercial trucking companies are responding to the growing threat to their business capacity by raising pay, offering better benefits and 401(k) but still these efforts alone will simply keep them in the game. Referrals are the most common strategy for new recruitment followed by online job boards and social media. Interestingly enough, print media continues to slip down the ladder of marketing strategy.

The orientation process is figuring in heavily for retention. Apparently new drivers know very quickly how long they will be with a company right from the orientation where they meet executives. The training and orientation process are also becoming longer for some companies in order to stretch and strengthen that honeymoon period where drivers are indoctrinated into the culture. It’s noted that assigning mentors is another tactic for companies.

Turnover is not about losing an employee but about losing a relationship. It’s a breakup and just as many romantic relationships maybe be those of convenience rather than the ever elusive true love or romance, so it is true for recruiting and retention: the driver stays as long as it is convenient to do so. We already know this and it’s driving the industry to refine ways to do it ever more efficiently. Still, in our quest for a well-oiled machine, it seems the truckers just might win out.

The leadership and management guru Tom Peters who wrote In Search of Excellence has often said in his presentations, “The talent is the brand.” The talent in this case is the truck drivers, a demographically diverse group of some 3 million nationwide. Three million who often feel marginalized as if they, their personhood, and their time did not matter to anyone except for the speed in which they could deliver loads safely. This sounds much like the joyless relationship heading for termination. Sure, it might be low maintenance – just throw more money at the problem, but the challenge is when all companies are implementing the same strategy (more money, time, benefits) and everyone is using the same or similar technology, what then distinguishes a company from the next?

The talent. The talent is the brand. And perhaps in a new business paradigm, the executive and the driver have an occasional transference of roles where the driver becomes CEO for a day and the CEO makes the delivery?

Read HireRight’s 2018 Transport Spotlight Report here.