Behavioural Modeling: New Tools for an Old Problem

How does a trucking company screen drivers and owner operators before recruiting them into their fleet? Some of the more progressive companies have started using social media. But, generally speaking, things haven’t changed much over the years. My partner Kim Richardson and I at Transrep have been in the business of representing behavioural modelling services to trucking companies for a few years now. We’ve had some success, but certainly not to the extent that we expected. I believe the reason for this is complicated and it goes to the heart of our industry’s staffing issues.

To back up a little though, I’ve been working with products that offer insight into individuals’ behavioral tendencies for well over a decade. We started using such tools at the carrier I was running to assist us in the screening of newly hired employees and to offer insight into positioning our staff into roles that suited their strengths.

The tool we were using at the time took approximately an hour and a half to complete. There were some 400 questions that the individual had to answer. The results would be returned to us in a few different formats. One set of answers would tell us the individual’s dominant traits and we’d learn their level of interest in working with words, working with numbers, working with machinery etc. This information helped us to direct them towards careers in our company that suited their dominant traits. The report also provided management and coaching tips that were tailored to the individual, such as what would motivate that particular person?

I recall back then I was looking for something similar that we could use to hire the right drivers and owner operators for our company. The tools available back then and the one we used for testing our in-house staff would not work at the time. Asking potential drivers to go online for a couple hours was one issue. Another was the cost at approximately two hundred dollars per test.

Fast forward to 2010 and we saw some products that had the science of behavioral modeling refined to specific traits that were deemed to be critical to the success of a driver. Now we were getting somewhere, right? These new tools had been reduced to fifteen minutes of questions and the cost was manageable at $50 or less per test. The various offerings focused on a variety of traits. Some tests included traits that are important to the successful and safe operation of a truck. While other tests could identify characteristics of top performers including safety, loyalty, customer service, entrepreneurial skills, cooperation, adaptability etc. The later also offered coaching tailored to the individual.

So now that we have it, this should be an easy sell right? Well, here’s where it gets complicated and difficult for us. From my perspective, these products have two problems in the trucking industry that are very difficult to overcome. First is that we’re talking about a change to the way things have been done and in the way companies have been recruiting for the past number of decades. As many of you know, change does not come easy to trucking. We are an industry that likes to do things the way we’ve always done them. A perfect example of this is the second obstacle to these tools and that is the abhorrent turnover rate that the industry continues to tolerate and the supposed driver shortage.

To illustrate this I put myself in a recruiter’s shoes. They have a number of drivers that they need to recruit to be successful. And here in front of this recruiter is a driver who has experience, his file looks okay, it meets the company’s minimum hiring standard and now the recruiter is being told that the driver needs to take a behavioral modeling test that might tell the recruiter that this driver cannot be hired. The recruiter has got iron against the fence and turnover that needs to be fed. “Tell me again why I would I do this? Not happening!”

These products are an easy sell in the boardroom with the leaders and decision makers. Everyone agrees in theory that these tests can help to ferret out the poor performers. But the recruiters and the operations folks who need to move the freight put the brakes on because it will slow things down in the interim while things naturalize with these new procedures. Again, not happening folks! Or at least not yet!

In my opinion, now enters a new product that makes more sense to the industry right now, called Transclick. This new product is of the same vein but goes about things a little differently. Rather than tell a recruiter to hire or not to hire an eligible recruit, this product identifies the individual’s road safety risk factors. The tool identifies if the individual is rule resistant, are they naturally irritable, distractible, are they naturally anxious and is the individual a risk taker? So this information is now the property of the safety manager who is also given suggestions on how to address and deal with the issues with the new hire such as, how to coach them to notice these threats when they pop up and how to deal with them as they occur. The results are that recruiting is not interrupted and the company still benefits from having insight into how to avoid the next accident!

It’s a small but significant step in the right direction.

Take Good Care and Safe Trucking!

Ray J. Haight

CEO Transrep. Inc.


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Mr. Ray Haight has enjoyed a successful career in transportation starting as a company driver and Owner Operator logging over one million accident free miles prior to starting his own company. After stepping down from a successful career managing one of Canada’s 50 largest trucking companies, Ray focused on industry involvement including terms as Chairman of each of the following, the Truckload Carriers Association, Professional Truck Drivers Institute, North American Training and Management Institute and the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities voluntary apprenticeship of Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver, along with many other business interests, he enjoys a successful consulting business, also sitting on various Boards of both industry associations a private motor carriers. He is also Co-Founder of StakUp O/A TCAinGauge an online bench marking service designed to assist trucking companies throughout North America focus on efficiency and profitability within their operations.

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  • Good article Ray, I’ve been handed some of these “tests” a couple of times myself and think in some cases they are ok.
    I think the term driver recruiter should be replaced with driver retainer.
    A few years ago I took a job in the safety department with a small company to get a break from the road. This company had about 20 trucks and their driver turnover was almost 50%!
    This company had drivers of all ages and from most of the countries as well as a few senior drivers who had stopped “chasing the dream job ” and had just decided to stay put.
    I had my work cut out for me because the drivers had never had a woman in the safety department and they needed to know I had paid my dues behind the wheel.
    When I set up an appointment to interview a driver I always told them to be on time and bring gloves and a pen as well as their required paperwork. Simple enough,,,,
    If they showed up without meeting one of these requirements I could be 90% sure they would be a problem.
    If they couldn’t be on time for an interview how can they be expected to be on time to deliver a load? Forgot their gloves? Either the inside of the truck is going to be filthy in a short period of time or the pre trips were incomplete. No pen ? How are they going be prepared if (in our “paperless society”) they actually have to write something down?
    Another thing that I watched for was unlaced boots if the driver is too lazy to tie up their boots they are generally not a good prospect.
    Once I recruited a driver I believed it was a big part of my job to retain that driver and help them get integrated into the company, sometimes that meant staying after 5 p.m to listen to their concerns. We long haulers are a different breed and if we feel that there’s no one at the company who cares what we are going through we’ll leave we are not like an office worker who has to stick it out , a good driver can always get a job, we spend too many hours alone in a truck to put up with someone in the office telling them they can only listen to their problem between 9 and 5. I have been listening to a driver vent until 10 p.m, some times it was about the job some times about home problems.
    Was it the right thing? Well all I can say is the turn over went to almost nil while I was there and 2 years after I left the company closed their doors.
    I treated the drivers the way I wanted to be treated and they knew that I could get behind the wheel and do what they were doing.
    A recruiter needs to be able to “walk the walk” not just make phone calls and hand out psych forms.
    Keeping drivers that you’ve hired on board and productive should be the prime reason for a recruiter to be in that position.

    Keep thinking happy thoughts,

    Bev Plummer
    Prof Driver Ret.

    • Sorry for not replying sooner, where are you working now Bev? I can see in your words that you have miles of compassion for drivers and their issues, it is difficult to reduce turnover it takes the entire company understanding the negative impact it has on everyone and the bottom line as a starting point. If you can get their heads around that one you might get a decent effort toward turning things around, why after all these years companies still don’t get it is beyond me.
      Thanks for your note!