Blazing the trail

Speed is the key to hiring quality drivers. Information technology can make your hiring process faster, better and less painful.

high turnover – more than 100 percent in truckload during the third quarter of 2002 – makes hiring drivers a continuing process. You may be so busy hiring drivers using your current process that you have never stopped to question whether there’s a better way of doing it. If your hiring process is laden with paper from application to hiring to management of qualification files, you may be creating problems for your company.

In a competitive environment, carriers that can process applications quickly have an edge in landing the most desirable drivers. Electronic processing of applications and required documentation through the Web and other means can speed that decision, reduce the workload on people responsible for the task, and reduce the potential for major errors due to illegible writing or paperwork snafus.

Carriers – especially larger ones – may benefit from the planning and tracking capabilities of some systems to fine-tune their recruiting and hiring efforts. And managing the ongoing driver qualification tasks in a digital environment can make your staff more efficient and more accurate.

Knowing what works
Managing the hiring process is especially difficult as a company grows and adds locations and multiple recruiters.

Willis Shaw Express, an 850-truck refrigerated carrier based in Elm Springs, Ark., has five in-house recruiters and advertises in all 48 states for drivers, says Richard Crook, the company’s director of recruiting. The company uses Driver Recruiting C/S, an AS400-based software system from IEG Software, to track such things as where advertising produces results and to compare the number of applicants who call in versus the number that get processed into hires.

The software provides management reports such as cost per hire, calls by recruiter and hires by recruiter, Crook says. In addition, the software offers network users a uniform method to track and follow up with driver applicants.

About three years ago, Monaca, Pa.-based PGT Trucking bought a driver recruiting management system called RapidHire for its AS400 mainframe computer. It was the first recruiting software package the company had ever owned, says Lori Brown, director of MIS for the 750-truck carrier. The software helps recruiters gather information from prospective drivers more quickly and more uniformly. RapidHire also has reporting features that allow users to determine, for example, which ads work in which areas, Brown says.

Advanced software to manage recruiting and hiring is not limited to large companies that have expensive mainframe systems. Driver Recruiting C/S is available in a subscription-based online version, says Ken Windle, president of IEG Software. RapidHire will be available in an online version in August or September, says Lloyd Tempero, president of RapidHire Software.

Standard procedures
The potential consequences of an accident, lawsuit or a Department of Transportation audit, make consistently applying and thoroughly conducting your driver-hiring process more important than ever. High turnover is difficult enough for a small, single-location carrier. It’s especially tough when more than one location is involved in recruiting or hiring.

Some software products provide user-maintainable checklists for hiring drivers to verify that all recruiters follow the necessary steps. Prophesy Software’s Driver-Trax, a PC-based software program for managing driver applicant paperwork and record keeping, includes all 25 forms required by the DOT for immediate access and printing, says Bill Ashburn, vice president of Prophesy Software.

As an alternative to using software installed on a single PC or your network server, carriers can use Web-based records management systems to keep driver files in a central database, accessible from any PC.

Since implementing a Web-based system last November, Atlanta-based Land Transportation has trimmed approximately three days from its qualification process, says Laura Smith, the company’s controller. The 400-truck carrier uses Driver Management Online from J.J. Keller Data Solutions.

Land Transportation has 12 agents located throughout the United States. Agents manage operations and driver recruiting in their respective regions, Smith says. The company screens its driver qualifications from the Atlanta office because the contractors operate under Land Transportation’s liability insurance.

Before using Driver Management Online, Land Transportation agents sent documents – about 20 pages per truck – to the Atlanta office via next-day delivery service when drivers applied at their offices. Assuming the drivers’ motor vehicle records (MVRs) and background checks met company standards, the Atlanta office would send the paperwork back to the agents before drivers could be dispatched.

Today, agents enter information directly into the online system. They also scan and attach documents, such as licenses and medical certificates, while job applicants are in the office. Once entered and scanned into the system, the driver files are instantly available over the Web to the Atlanta office to do the necessary pre-employment screening, Smith says.

Driver Management Online provides a qualification file checklist and users can download and print the necessary forms, such as a driver application, directly from the website. A driver can also enter the information directly into an online application , says Randy Thome, senior business unit manager for J.J. Keller Data Solutions.

“The system walks you through the hiring process and prints out everything you need to use,” says Carol Jamrosz of Driver Management Online. Jamrosz is director of safety, quality and training for the 100-truck Leicht Transfer & Storage and the 60-truck Checker Logistics, two Green Bay, Wis.-based companies owned by RGL Holdings Inc.

After training employees to use Driver Management Online, Jamrosz says she does not have to audit the driver files when other employees fill out the paperwork. “It speeds up the hiring process. I don’t have to be there for every hire,” she says.

Quick response
Background checks often cause hiring delays. To speed the search for employment histories and MVRs, pre-employment screening services such as DAC Services, HireCheck and Online Employment Verification Services (OEVS) offer secure, online systems to retrieve reports. State laws don’t always allow for an online solution, however. For example, DAC Services faxes reports on drivers from Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia, Delaware and Colorado.

Land Transportation orders its MVRs and background checks directly from DAC Services and HireCheck through the Driver Management Online website, Smith says. When the reports come back, the company can automatically prioritize applicants based on pre-defined exceptions. If an applicant has more than three moving violations, for example, the system automatically flags that fact, Smith says.

“It may sound minor to some, but this has helped us put drivers on more quickly, ask questions more quickly and resolve problems,” says Don Lucchesi, senior vice president of Land Transportation. “It collapses qualification time.”

RapidHire users can order DAC reports with the touch of a function key. Moments later, the DAC report is displayed to recruiters while the driver is on the phone.

RapidHire also has an optional feature called iApp that enables drivers to enter an application from a company website directly into the RapidHire software database.

KLLM Transport Services uses an online application from RapidHire Software to make its hiring steps – such as data entry and verification of past employment using DAC Services – more efficient.

KLLM Transport Services uses the iApp system to give drivers an immediate response, telling if they meet experience and location requirements. If they do, they are told so while they are on the website and asked to call the company immediately.

“DAC employment verification occurs at the touch of a button, and the driver receives real-time feedback on our interest level at the time they click the application submit button,” says Vincent Schott, vice president of information services for Jackson, Miss.-based KLLM Transport. “These applications are processed in minutes and, in many cases, job offers are made to qualified individuals in as little as a day.”

Unfortunately, a background check using commercial systems won’t always tell you what you want to know, warns Gordon Lambert, vice president of safety for C.R. England. Carriers often don’t report drivers who fail drug tests to private commercial databases, nor does a driver with a positive result list the carrier they worked for when tested on their application, he says. Lambert and many other safety professionals believe that incidents of drivers testing positive on drug tests should be required to be reported to a central government database.

“Reporting positive results to a state driver license division so the information can be shared in the CDL databases would be a good solution,” Lambert says.

DAC Services, HireCheck, and OEVS offer manual retrieval services, with results available online, for drug and alcohol tests from previous employers during the past two years. The hiring carrier faxes in a signed release and these companies will pursue the applicant’s past alcohol and drug test results for all companies listed.

Access to everyone
Once you do all the necessary pre-employment screening and hire a driver, the responsibility for maintaining the driver qualification files usually falls to one person or to a specific department, such as safety. Although DOT requirements explicitly state what records you must keep, how you manage compliance is entirely up to you.

Many smaller carriers use basic software – often a spreadsheet – to track important dates and information in their paper files. The limitation to this approach is that other employees within the company may not have access to the same information simultaneously.

One advantage of an enterprise software system is the ability to track safety and compliance data in other screens. Dispatchers, for example, can be automatically notified when a driver’s license is about to expire or when an annual safety review is due.

FleetWood Inc., a 200-truck carrier based in Diboll, Texas, uses McLeod Software’s LoadMaster enterprise software system and Internet Module. The company receives five to 10 online driver applications each month from drivers who visit its website, says Jimmy Wharton, systems administrator for FleetWood Inc.

A completed online application flows into a electronic file for the safety department to track other pre-employment actions, such as when MVRs were requested, when they were received, the drug test date, and when the driver was hired. If the company decides to hire the driver, it can automatically transfer the information directly into their McLeod LoadMaster enterprise software system, Wharton says.

Once the information is transferred to the main system, the record becomes part of a master driver file. Important events in the master driver file, such as when an annual safety review is due, or even a driver’s birthday, are included in the screen a dispatcher looks at when scheduling loads and drivers.

Web-based software for managing driver records can also put compliance information into one central database for automatic notification to people throughout the company. Using Driver Management Online, Land Transportation’s agents log on in the morning and are notified several weeks in advance of anything they need to do to stay in compliance, such as renewing a driver’s license or scheduling a drug test, Smith says.

Facing strict insurance requirements and high safety standards, the demand for quality drivers has not abated, even though the record number of bankruptcies in the past few years has added more drivers into the job market. Being able to qualify and extend job offers to drivers in a fast, efficient manner – within hours, not days – is a competitive necessity.

Getting rid of paper
Depending on the size of your company, managing DOT compliance, including both driver qualification files and driver logbooks, can become a full-time position. To free up more time to concentrate on the exceptions, or problems, that need immediate attention, some carriers use third-party services to manage their driver files.

Interstate Brands Co., a private fleet with more than 2,000 trucks headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., uses a service from RAIR Technologies to manage driver qualification files at its 62 different bakery locations.

RAIR Technologies scanned and entered all the information from the paper files into a database – a process that took about six weeks. RAIR Technologies then went back and did a complete audit on each individual driver, says Ava Bowling, DOT manager of Interstate Brands. Bowling says the company sends all of its paperwork for its driver qualification files to RAIR Technologies. They scan and audit the files and report back any missing information or tasks in real-time. “We keep no paperwork in the office,” she says.

Another approach many carriers use that limits paperwork is driver leasing, a service in which the drivers are actually employed by another company. Often, the carrier’s motivation behind driver leasing is to take advantage of larger employment pools in order to contain costs for workers’ compensation, medical insurance and other benefits. But another reason fleet operations use driver leasing is to avoid the burden of pre-employment screening and of maintaining current driver qualification records.

“Part of the outsourcing function we manage is the entire DOT compliance and driver qualification responsibilities,” says Jeff Hart, president of TransPersonnel Inc., a company based in Milwaukee, Wis., that provides driver leasing.

Driver leasing does not, however, relieve you of compliance responsibility for drivers who haul for you. Federal regulations require that if a carrier uses drivers from a driver leasing company, the leasing company must provide the carrier with all the appropriate information for a driver file, says Jim Flint, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Grove, Jaskiewicz, and Cobert. In the case of an audit, you are ultimately responsible for the DOT compliance of the records, not the driver leasing company, Flint says. So while you may hand over day-to-day management of DQ files to the leasing company, it might be wise to audit those records yourself.

DAC Services
IEG Software
J.J. Keller Data Solutions
Online Employment Verification Services
Prophesy Software