Formal hiring programs identify the best

by Kevin Cole

Every business is only as good as its employees. After all, they are ultimately the ones who actually interact with customers, repair equipment and safely move freight up and down the highway.

Those who stick to formal hiring strategies have the best chance of finding the people who will deliver a competitive edge.

A formal strategy begins by painting the picture of an ideal employee, and the details can differ from one fleet to the next.

Some recruiters want to see three years on the job, experience with cross-border trips or comfort with flatbed equipment.

An ideal driver’s abstract, meanwhile, might show no preventable crashes.

Regardless of what the requirements may be, there are good reasons to develop a formal list. In addition to the fact that insurers will want the information documented on a fleet’s letterhead, it offers an important reference tool for everyone involved in the hiring process.

By comparing people to a picture of the ideal job candidate, fleets know when they have found a perfect match. In cases where someone is hired despite a few minor shortcomings – like a lack of experience with a specific piece of equipment – managers will also be able to identify exactly where some extra training might be needed.

The potential content in a driver’s abstract shows why such a list can be so important to the business.

While fleets tend to set limits for moving violations or demerit points when looking for new employees, any shortcoming can be a sign of challenges to come.

Research by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), has highlighted the pivotal role that driver-related factors play in truck crashes. ATRI conducted research has identified specific truck driver behaviours that are the most predictive of future truck crash involvement.

Carriers that ship freight through the US have the chance to tap into the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP). The program helps carriers make more informed hiring decisions by providing secure, electronic access to a commercial driver’s five-year crash and three-year inspection history from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS).

But a look at a newly licensed driver’s record at the wheel of a car can offer important insight as well.

A trio of speeding tickets or a charge for careless driving reflects habits that can be carried into a truck cab, so new hires who have questionable records would likely benefit from some training in defensive driving before beginning the job.

As important as these abstracts can be, a properly completed application form can offer some insight of its own.

Every blank space can hide important information, especially when asking a question such as whether the licence has ever been suspended or looking for details about a driver’s collision history.

It will be up to the interviewer to make sure that every question is addressed.

Criminal background checks will build on this information and spot those who are unable to cross the border because they were convicted of a crime, and will even uncover potential threats to a fleet’s equipment and cargo.

The results of any written tests, meanwhile, can show how well a new employee understands issues like Hours of Service rules.

In this case the test might involve nothing more than providing the details of a typical trip and asking the driver to complete a sample log sheet.

All of these documents can build a foundation for any driver’s file.

Safety managers who enhance that with a few dates will know exactly when the employee’s licence or training in transporting dangerous goods will need to be renewed in the months and years to come.

There will be no question about who has completed the employment drug and alcohol tests needed to cross the border.

Dates can even be set for future employment reviews or in-cab evaluations.

Above all, they help to show that the fleet demonstrates due diligence in the hiring process.

There is no question that this process might involve setting the bar a little higher than the one that exists today. But the fleets that take this step will enjoy all the benefits that come with a skilled employee.

The best candidates in the job market will also look far and wide for the safest employers, and a detailed search process will help to prove when a carrier has passed the test and become an employer of choice.


This month’s expert is Kevin Cole, risk services specialist. Kevin has served the trucking industry for more than 25 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a long-standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at

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