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Ray’s Rules for Recruiters

Continuing on with Ray’s Rules, I thought I would comment on recruiters; the group of folks who are in charge of bringing new drivers and owner operators into trucking companies. It seems funny how just a few short years ago, you couldn’t help but bump into any number of recruitment and retention consultants. Many of those consultants have since become experts at something else. Times have changed and many ex R and R experts have found a new demon that needs taming; that being CSA 2010 (Comprehensive Safety Analysis).
I have never bought into the fact that a driver shortage exists in this industry. In the past, trucks have been short drivers because trucking companies bought too many trucks, but this was not actually a driver shortage. A true driver shortage would mean that tangible goods cannot get to market because there isn’t a driver available to drive the truck to bring them there. Lately, I have heard many intelligent people whom I respect, and who know this industry well, speak about a truly severe shortage of drivers being right around the corner. I must admit that this line of thinking is not without merit and the stars might be aligning themselves for such an event. Star one, otherwise known as CSA 2010, will thin some drivers and carriers from the industry as it is designed to do. Star two, FMCSA mandated minimum entry level driver training should be out this year or early next year and should shut down or severely cripple many of the sub-standard training schools on both sides of the border. Combine these items with star three, any sizable uptick in this economy, and the culmination will mean that there simply won’t be enough drivers out there to fill the seats that need to be filled.
At that time, an effective recruiting department will be worth its weight in gold. Effective recruiting is summarized as the execution of a strategic plan, as developed by the leadership of a given company. Target numbers should be discussed and agreed to by all involved parties and a budget to accomplish the goal must be developed and adhered to, Now, I just capsulated a mountain of work into one sentence, so consider this an overview of the execution of the recruiting process. Recruiting is a difficult function within a company; it can sometimes feel like you’re pushing a rock up a hill. Getting it going can be tough and then when you get it going you need to keep up your momentum because your progress can stop as quickly as it started.
So, without further adieu, here are Ray’s Rules for Recruiters:
Rule 1, Hire what you want and need to be successful, but do not settle. I shudder when I hear people say that drivers and owner operators are not what they used to be. This is an excuse for inefficient effort in my opinion. Remain determined to find drivers who meet your standards and stay your course!
Rule 2, Under-promise and over-deliver. Do not misrepresent or stretch the truth to attract applicants to your company. Doing so is the quickest way to increase turnover and create ill will in your driving force. Let people see that you were everything you told them you would be (and more) if you want people to stay with your company.
Rule 3, Create a ‘points’ system as a front-line screening tool. There’s no sense dragging the hiring process out if you’re not right for each other. In my previous life, an applicant had to have at least five points to be considered a legitimate candidate. For example, they received two points for each year of safe North American, cross-border, van driving experience. They would also get points for safe driving awards or defensive driving courses that they had taken. A candidate would lose points for traffic tickets and would be eliminated from consideration with two speeding tickets or a DUI in the past three years. You get the idea…once the points are developed they cannot be circumvented at anytime without the Safety Manager’s complete support.
Rule 4, Develop a list of expectations for your drivers. Each dispatch board should develop their own list of expectations for their drivers. The expectations should list all of the requirements needed for success for both parties including but not limited to time off notice, check-in requirements, specifics on freight, etc. These expectations are shown to the candidate who must then agree to them in order to continue on in the hiring process. The candidate should then also do the same thing; have them state their expectations of your company. If the candidate needs every other weekend off and you can’t accommodate that schedule then there is no sense in continuing the process. The expectation sheet becomes the platform for your relationship moving forward.
Rule 5, your existing drivers can be your best recruiters. Again, in my past life, we recruited over 50% of our new hires from leads produced by our existing driving force. We compensated them for their effort and gave appropriate recognition through our company newsletter and at company functions. It works, try it! Rewards came in the form of cash, and free entrance to company functions such as Christmas parties and golf tournaments for the leading driver-recruiters.
Rule 6, Know the curriculum that new hires are being trained under. I believe in the PTDI (Professional Truck Drivers Institute) standards for training (check them out at ) and you should research and decide what standards you require new hires to adhere to. Hiring from a sub-standard school isn’t helping anyone, least alone your company. I would also strongly advise that your company and the training school use the Tractor Trailer Commercial Driver Apprenticeship Program as a guideline for an appropriate finishing program for new folks starting in the industry.
Rule 7, don’t get hung up on the cost per new hire, I used to get this question all the time, were hiring people, the right people that is, not making widgets, the idea is to fill the funnel with potential candidates and that will cost money, for advertising field trips etc, If you want to get what you’re looking for. The cost of hire is a number that does not apply, this being said measuring the effectiveness of paying for an ad in a trade magazine and measuring results is a different thing along with staying within a given departmental budget.
I hope some of this helps those of you who are having a difficult time filling seats these days. Feel free to drop me a line if you need more information on this subject.
Safe trucking!
Ray J. Haight

Ray Haight

Ray Haight

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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11 Comments » for Ray’s Rules for Recruiters
  1. meslippery says:

    Ask James if he knows how much Sleemans budgets for recruitment.
    I seem to remember almost no driver turnover, hmmm.. Why not
    follow a winning formula ?

  2. Ralph The trucker says:

    Ray, there’s NO driver shortage, just a shortage of GOOD paying truck driver jobs!
    When and only when the freight is stacked up on the docks will anyone with any common sense believe the myth that you are supporting. A load that is a week late because it doesn’t pay enough to move the truck may support your myth but in all reality it needed to sit on the dock rotting until common sense on the rate prevailed.
    Change brands of Kool-Aid people, it’s a supply and demand industry and the supply still far out weighs the demand! If the two were even close driver wages and rates would be escalating like the price of gas/diesel does when an alleged shortage appears.

  3. Stephen Large says:

    Ray, I don’t believe there is or will be a driver shortage. There is a shortage of pay for good drivers and the more policy/procedure that these companies push on the drivers, the more good drivers will choose to work somewhere that they are appreciated and paid accordingly. Why would a good driver want to drive truck when they are lumped together with the bottom feeders that can barely do the job they are hired to do and then, the good driver does not get paid much if any more than the person who has trouble hauling his load of Pampers in a van down a nice highway? Why not hire a better quality driver in the first place and then pay them more than you would be willing to pay a ho-hum driver? For curiosity, my friend and I have on occasion, went to talk to the H.R. dept at a big carrier who was ‘looking for drivers’. Usually, we get sent away after being told that with our amount of experience, we are likely overqualified for the driving position they are trying to fill!?? So the company is not looking for a driver that can document a couple million accident-free miles hauling everything from flatdecks, vans, tanks, livestock, produce, gravel and construction equipment all over North America and expects to be paid well and treated with respect!?? That’s right-they are looking to save a buck and hire the cheapest person they can get! Then, there will be all sorts of problems, accidents, freight claims, customer complaints, etc. Now the company brings in a bunch of policies to try to combat the problems, and soon the good drivers that you did have get painted with the same brush as the poor ones you hired and before long, your good drivers will be running a bulldozer or a backhoe for $30.00/hr for someone else and sleeping in their own bed each night. There are lots of good truck drivers out there, they just choose not to drive truck and put up with a bunch of B.S.and not get paid accordingly! In my own little business, I have found that for $0.35/mile, I don’t find any good drivers. Try $20.00/hr and I can get a decent driver( $0.35 X 60 MPH = $21.00/hr, but all the screwing around that drivers are expected to do other than driving that they are not paid for brings the wage down to $10-$12.00/hr which is similar to Wendy’s or Tim Horton’s in Alberta) If I pay $30.00/hr, I can get a driver who has been driving for several years hauling almost anything. These drivers will have some requests/rules such as a cell phone and a Visa card, etc., but in the end, I am better off hiring this kind of driver and I don’t have the claims and complaints and I don’t have to explain every little thing in great detail to have them understand it!

  4. Ray Haight says:

    Take a pressure pill will ya Ralf, as I suggested in my intro I don’t believe there has ever been a driver shortage but there might be one coming if certain events come to pass, wow! Supporting a myth, driver wage is not the topic of the article so don’t try and make it so OBEONE. I for one believe that drivers are severely underpaid, but as you so appropriately point out this is a supply and demand industry that currently is in big need of more demand, and if it comes, wages will go up right, Da?
    I agree with the majority of your comments and observations Stephen and being one who cannot function in a world of half empty glasses I offer the opposite of your prediction for the future, although I respect your observation of a possible future. I respectfully hope you are dead wrong and that there is a severe driver shortage at some point over the next couple years. Paid by the hour sounds good and makes sense to me also and I think speed limiters make that possibility more likely in the future.
    Meslippery, really, private fleets who never have to worry about profitable trucks because the double digit margins on their beer makes trucking fun, how do you compare private fleets to for hires, makes no sense!

  5. Graham says:

    My two cents worth here, Ray but I agree with you that there is no shortage of drivers. But I do think there is a shortage of good drivers, those that take pride in how they dress, act and talk. Also in how they take care of their rigs. I myself have gone from black biker t-shirts and jeans to button-down shirts and black jeans with no holes or rips in them( I save them for when working at home on the car, lawn,etc.) And in doing so, have noticed a big change in how I was treated when going in to see a shipper or receiver.
    Many a time I have seen guys get out of their truck wearing grubby sweats and stained t-shirts. I even saw a guy that looked like he was sleeping in his underwear, get out of his truck and wander to the truckstop!!
    I have also seen trucks that look like they have never seen the business end of a wash wand, fairings bungie corded on.
    CSA2010 will, in my opinion, help develop elite drivers that will be very desirable to be hired. It will make us drivers accountable for what we do and how our trucks are kept up. It will help companies and drivers strive to be safer in an industry that already does everything it can to be safe even though the public perception is otherwise.
    Just my two cents worth, drive safe and keep the rubber side down. Have a good one!!

  6. Ross Jessop says:

    Ray you have nailed some excellant points. I think that recruiters are the folks that effect a large part of a companies make it or beark it margin. Hire the right person in the first place and you have lower turn over, less accidents, happier dispatchers, and happy customers, I would think this adds up to money in the bank? Companies that hire a “recruiter” and pay them a form of a bonus for hiring drivers? That is sort of like running through a forest fire with 2 pails of gas hoping they won’t catch fire? Just think if a recruiter hired the right drivers and passed on the folks that are not really drivers (hopefully that is the politcally correct way of saying that) we would force the “not really drivers” to think about become better drivers because they wouldn’t be able to get a job anywhere? When a driver quits or is dismissed it needs to go back to the recruiter and the interview notes, references, past job history, and most of all did we describe the “real” job or did we candy coat it? How many companies have “job descriptions” that an applicant signs?? If you have a “Fill the seat” recruiter guess what, you will have massive turn over, unhappy dispatchers, equipment with scraps and dints, and O ya bet they have a higher customer turn over also? Hire the right person and fill the seat once! Recruiters…STOP thinking about your bonus cheque!!! Ray your comment on a point system and the prospective employee has to have so many points to move to the next level…EXCELLANT idea. I have used that system for a long time with great success! Recruiters don’t let your feels be part of your judgement when hiring. How many points does the applicant have? Not enough…then move onto the next application!

  7. Angelo D. says:

    Consider the recruiting department as a “Sales” department which effectively needs to sell the company to ,according to your rules, “The best of the best”. Only one rule is needed. Are “YOU” the best company? If you can come up with 7 rules from a drivers perspective to companies. There , you may find your best rules for recruiters. There’s only a handful of companies that make the grade. Find them, study them, and emulate them.

  8. meslippery says:

    Meslippery, really, private fleets who never have to worry about profitable trucks because the double digit margins on their beer makes trucking fun, how do you compare private fleets to for hires, makes no sense!
    Posted by: Ray Haight | September 7, 2010 05:11 PM
    Don t Forget Ray private fleets are a lot of the time returning home empty.
    Where as for Hire should or could be paid both ways.
    And charge rates based on the likely hood of a back haul with out telling
    the first shipper, I already have one and make more than the private

  9. Lucien Bleau says:

    This might address the quality of drivers if the rule is followed by employers.

  10. Bob Lakatos says:

    I have been on both sides of the equation, I drove for 23 years and now I am in safety and compliance as well the ‘recruiter’ for my company. Whether there is a true driver shortage or imagined, i cant help but wonder if you look at various trucking websites, newspaper ads and trucking rags that there is tendency of giving hiring bonuses, this tells me there is a shortage of drivers, offering to pay someone to come and work for you is a good tactic, but in the city of Saskatoon where i am, there are over 140 job postings for drivers and there has been for months, driver shortage or not, there isn’t enough bodies for trucks. The fact of the matter is we have an aging driving force with the majority of drivers in the 50 plus age bracket, we as an industry need to get young blood in the seats. We have to recognize the job our guys do and fairly reward them for their TIME. We as an industry might have to rethink mileage based pay systems and think hourly or a combination of mileage/hourly/piece work. Many of my company guys can make 60 to 85,000 a year, good money if your an 8 to 5er but not so good if your on the road 290 or more days a year averaging 10 hours a day. We have to recognize these hard working men and woman with journeyperson status and pay them accordingly, in the end we the consumer will pay the higher freight rates required to give these folks a decent wage. Recruiting is like going on a few dates before deciding to move in with each other, what do i have to offer and what do you have to offer and lord pray they are compatible..maybe thats why i have been divorced twice, i didn’t recruit properly…

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