Truck News


Dealing with the driver shortage

TORONTO, Ont. - With constant talk of a massive driver shortage in the industry, the importance of recruitment and retention of new drivers is ever present in the minds of fleet owners....

EYE CATCHING: Kelly Anderson of Impact Transportation Solutions speaks on how to catch a driver's eye when creating a recruiting ad.

EYE CATCHING: Kelly Anderson of Impact Transportation Solutions speaks on how to catch a driver's eye when creating a recruiting ad.

TORONTO, Ont. – With constant talk of a massive driver shortage in the industry, the importance of recruitment and retention of new drivers is ever present in the minds of fleet owners.

But don’t talk to Kim Richardson, president of Kim Richardson Transportation Specialists Inc. (KRTS), about driver shortages – he hates that.

“I hate when people say we have a shortage of drivers in the industry. We don’t have a shortage of drivers – we have a shortage of qualified drivers,” said Richardson at the Third Annual Canadian Recruiting and Retention conference, sponsored by Over the Road.

Richardson was just one of many industry experts to speak at the event to share their knowledge on how to hire and hold onto new drivers. Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Transportation Solutions Inc., served as moderator for the two-day event and spoke about creating an effective advertising message.

“Advertising has two primary functions,” he said. “To catch the driver’s eye and give the driver a reason to call.”

In order to catch the driver’s eye, Anderson suggested a number of things, including use of bold headlines, quotation marks and the company’s logo. Eye-catching graphics that have people in them are also good ideas.

“I want to be the first ad read and hopefully the last,” he said.

The appearance of the advertisement is also intertwined with giving the driver a reason to call. Anderson suggested using the headline and some bulleted points to help differentiate your company from the rest of the competition. By listing your company’s core beliefs, Anderson said the potential driver now has a better idea of what sets you apart from the rest. For example, giving drivers solid numbers relating to pay as opposed to what you could potentially earn is a big help.

“Drivers don’t care about how much money they might make, they care about how much money they’re going to make,” he said. Job incentives, like offering a potential O/O their first 1,000 gallons of fuel free, also increase the possibility that the potential driver will call.


Tom Philips, vice-president and general manager of TST Truckload Express, spoke about TST’s new approach to recruiting drivers with its “Power to Drive” program. After establishing strategic partnerships with Arrow Truck Sales and KRTS, the company has created a program designed to transform an entry-level driver into an O/O in 60 days. With KRTS providing training at its Caledonia and Simcoe, Ont. facilities, Arrow Truck Sales providing quality, late model equipment, and TST providing an extended 30-day on-the-road coaching program, Philips said they may have found an excellent way to recruit new drivers.

After each of the three companies interviews and evaluates the potential driver to ensure they’re capable, the student first completes the KRTS Training Program.

“Highlights of the training program include 36 hours of one-on-one driving instruction, additional time in a classroom setting, one day at skid school in Michigan and a day trip to a U.S. border crossing,” Philips said.

After obtaining their Class A licence, Philips said the entry-level O/O goes to Arrow Truck Sales to select their vehicle before beginning the TST Coaching Program.

“Under the guidance of his or her coach, they will learn first-hand proper procedures to cross and clear the border; how to communicate with dispatch, customers, Customs and Immigration personnel; and properly following the hours-of-service regulations as well as completing their daily driver logbook,” he said. Since initiating the program, Philips said they seem on track to provide 30 new O/Os for TST by the end of the year. He concluded by encouraging the audience to continue in their pursuit to recruit and retain drivers.

“I want to encourage all participants attending this conference to make a commitment to attract, train not only new entry-level drivers, but drivers across the industry,” he said. “This is not just a job – it’s a career change.”


Mark Seymour, president of Kriska Holdings, Ltd., the 2004 recipient of the Canadian Retention Award, gave his expert advice on recruitment and retention as well.

“Recruitment and retention is something we all struggle with as an industry,” he said. “But our company has benefited greatly from strategic planning.”

Seymour said recruitment and retention is tied closely with people, growth and execution within its company.

“We don’t have a product to sell. What we sell is service,” Seymour said of the company’s people priority. “The recruitment and retention portion of the plan is also tied very closely to growth and is also a key driver of execution. Everything is interdependent.”

Seymour said Kriska’s approach to retention has four elements. The first is effective recruitment, the second is quality on-job training and an effective orientation, the third is programs geared to the support and retention of drivers, and the last is keeping retention as a common goal for everyone in the business.

“Everybody in our organization touches on retention in some way – whether they’re a driver or not,” he said. Setting goals is another important part of retention for Seymour. After having its annual voluntary turnover drop steadily over the past few years, Seymour is hoping the carrier can have its current turnover percentage of 17 drop to 15 or lower. But he isn’t complaining about 17 per cent, after hearing that another company was pleased to have dropped from 135 per cent to 108 per cent.

“Compared to those guys, I feel like I’m a genius,” he joked. “But it’s very important for us to set a reasonable watermark.”

“It’s important for everyone in the organization to keep the pipeline full,” he said. “It makes me sick seeing unseated trucks in the yard. In the past, an unseated truck was a trigger to recruit a driver. Let’s not let recruiting be reactive.”

A simple way to help improve the recruitment and retention process is by keeping in contact with new hires and asking how the company can do things better, Seymour said.

“People appreciate being asked what’s going on,” he said. “We conduct three discussions with newly hired operators after 14 days, 40 days and 80 days. The purpose of these discussions is to identify anything in the recruitment, orientation, training and deployment process that needs to be improved.”

According to Seymour, the bottom line is even though recruitment and retention may be a problem in the industry, if you don’t do anything to fix it, you have no right to complain.

“If you don’t make something a priority, it’s not going to get any better,” he said.


Ward Warkentin, president of Service Quality Associates, a quality management consulting firm specializing in trucking, spoke on his approach to driver turnover.The co-author of Shifting Gears said emphasizing a quality approach in how you view, solve and manage the problem of recruitment and retention can help reduce turnover. When viewing the problem, Warkentin said to stop thinking of it as driver recruiting and retention and call it what it really is: lack of driver satisfaction.

“Your drivers can become your best recruiters by keeping them satisfied,” he said. “But unless you know what percentage of drivers are satisfied, how can you really benefit from them?”

Warkentin suggests taking a formal survey is the best approach to measure employee satisfaction. By customizing the survey to the company, keeping it user-friendly and actually acting on the results of the survey, he said both drivers and managers will benefit.

When is comes to solving the problem, Warkentin said it’s important to be proactive with structured problem-solving rather than using reactive “fire-fighting”-type techniques.

He also said getting all areas of the organization on board is vital to help understand recruitment from all possible angles.He concluded by saying that having a quality approach can lead to a quicker reso
lution of the problem and help the company continue to better itself.

“Carriers that are good at turnover tend to be better at the business overall,” he said.

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