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INDUSTRY PULSE: US truckload carriers focused on driver screening for improved safety performance

PORTLAND, Ore.-- According to a recent survey conducted by workforce solutions provider Unicru at the Truckload Car...

PORTLAND, Ore.– According to a recent survey conducted by workforce solutions provider Unicru at the Truckload Carrier Association’s Annual Convention, US carriers plan to address their safety performance in 2005 through a focus on increased driver screening. This was followed closely by improved driver retention, and the integration of safety in hiring, firing and benefits compensation decisions.

Improving safety performance is an important issue to the industry as, according to the latest numbers posted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the average cost of large truck crashes exceeds $19.6 billion annually, including $6.6 billion in productivity losses, $3.4 billion in resource costs, and $9.6 billion in quality-of-life losses.

“Hiring practices directly affect safety performance, yet many carriers take what they can get from their recruiting process. Using advanced screening strategies as part of a comprehensive program to go beyond what drivers have done in the form of experience and skills to focus on what they can do and what they want to do will help carriers find the best-fit drivers. Advanced companies who evolve their hiring process will increase the quality of their workforce, affecting long-term retention, safety performance and overall business health,” said Adam Mertz, senior manager of transportation workforce solutions at Unicru, in a presentation entitled Building a Safety-Conscious Driver Organization.

The study found only 35 percent of those surveyed by Unicru indicated they coupled background checks with other advanced screening tools, such as job-fit screening questions, to identify those drivers who are the best fit and subsequently have the highest likelihood to remain on the job longest.

Unicru results also found that only 21 percent of respondents indicated they had automated any portion of the hiring process. Those that that had integrated screening and hiring through automation reported an average driver turnover of 23 percent, compared to an average turnover of 69 percent for carriers still relying on a paper-based hiring system.

In addition, the discussion centered on the fact that carriers need to stop being distracted by a driver shortage and begin focusing on ways to increase the quality of their drivers. Companies in the audience identified using advanced screening in order to find, hire, and keep the best-fit drivers, clearly defining hiring qualifications, and ensuring that they are followed consistently as three key steps toward this goal. Tying driver performance back into the recruiting and screening process was also emphasized.

Other recommendations for recruiting and hiring included: the use of technology to pre-screen and eliminate useless administration, the integration of additional background screening beyond DOT standards, the incorporation of assessments, prioritizing candidates for recruiters, and ensuring involvement of key departments such as safety, operations and loss prevention, in optimizing the hiring process.

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