Creative strategies key in attracting next-gen drivers, winning recruiting and retention battle, says TCA chair

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Welcoming attendees of the 2015 Recruitment and Retention conference put on by Conversion Interactive Agency (formerly ACS) in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association, current TCA Chairman Shepard Dunn of Indiana-based Bestway Express emphasized the challenge of driver recruiting and retention.

He asked for a show of hands among carriers in the audience for the opening general session Thursday, Feb. 5, indicating those not on electronic logs in their fleet today. Though only three hands were raised, Dunn noted that he believed that “when this mandate comes around, there will be a huge exodus of independent contractor” owner-operators that might otherwise remain a part of the driver workforce.

Creative strategies are key to attracting the next generation of drivers to the industry, Dunn said. For many, he added, “the strategy right now is that nobody’s dealing with it.”

The carriers who are the “most responsive to change” will be the ones that survive, he said, paraphrasing Charles Darwin.

Driver pay will play part, he added, noted that he felt a minimum wage for a driver working in the industry ought to be the equivalent of $65,000 to $70,000 annually but that there are “plenty of carriers that pay more than that and they’re having the same problems” attracting drivers.

“That’s why we’re here,” he told the conference attendees. “There are no silver bullets, and no easy answers.”

Efforts among carriers that should continue:

  • “Work more with customers on length of haul” to better fit driver’s home needs.
  • Work with sales reps to identify more “driver-friendly freight,” from the aforementioned haul lengths to shippers and receivers where detention is not an issue.
  • Any driver quality-of-life improvements “will pay dividends” through recruiting and retention efforts.

“We’ve been able to make up some ground, particularly on rates” in recent history, Dunn said. “But are we there yet? Probably not. Sales guys love being able to raise rates, but what they don’t like is empty trucks.

“It’s on you,” he added, to “find the next generation of drivers.”

The theme of the event, focus on the “New School” in recruiting and retention following the digital revolution, Dunn noted was of a piece with the place the association is in today, with a new president in Brad Bentley, formerly of Randall-Reilly recruiting media, “going to school in Alexandria, Va…. new to the association business,” though not to trucking.

Dunn pointed to efforts like a recent rebranding effort at TCA itself — with elements like a redesigned logo — and partnerships under way with the PTDI network of driving schools, among others, that show the association itself playing a part in reaching new drivers.