Feeding frenzy

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As long as there has been a trucking industry, there has been a demand for good drivers. The current driver shortage has been anticipated, but unlike other shortages, you can’t “stockpile” good drivers. Lessons from the recent market downturn hold true for the new upswing – you reap what you sow. If your drivers have been treated well – even during economic tough times – they are more inclined to be loyal now when they are in hot demand.

Retention is part of the equation, but filling seats remains a huge issue. Companies feeling the pinch are offering all kinds of innovative programs designed to lure drivers to jump ship. Here is what some are offering:

Barr-Nunn Transportation has started an innovative fuel price protection guarantee for its owner-operators. Owner-operators and new lease-purchase owners will not pay more than 99 cents per gallon for fuel during the rest of 2004. The 99 Cent Guarantee includes discounts, fuel surcharge and other fuel cost reimbursements.

Interstate Distributor Company is offering its employees a $1,000 per-truck bonus for referring a new owner-operator to the company.

Maverick Transportation is giving away two Polaris Sportsman 400 four-wheelers in an employees contest, “How to Spot a Maverick.” Employees that refer drivers who complete orientation, as well as drivers that are hired during the contest time, are eligible for the drawing that concludes in December 2004.

Paschall Truck Lines is luring new owner-operators with a $7,000 sign-on bonus. It also dropped the requirement for a hazmat endorsement.

Schneider National Inc. is offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus for experienced drivers and owner-operators – $1,400 after orientation and $300 each month for 12 months – for those hired or leased by Sept. 1. In June, the carrier said it would hire 1,000 additional drivers and owner-operators this year.

U.S. Xpress announced that solo and new drivers in selected Midwest regions can receive a $5,000 sign-on bonus. They are also offering Midwest, Southeast and California regional runs that get drivers home three weekends per month.

Werner Enterprises increased its pay for company solo drivers in its medium-to-long-haul van division by two cents per mile. This increase affects one quarter of Werner’s drivers.

While the frenzy continues, many fleets say they plan to stay the course with already aggressive recruiting and retention programs. Keep a close watch on what everyone else is doing to attract women, minorities and retired individuals. Consider even what industry suppliers are doing. ChevronTexaco, for example, has identified the Hispanic driver and owner-operator markets as a major growth area (CCJ, August 2004, page 100).

Meanwhile, treat the good drivers you have like the investment they are.