Steve Crawford runs FXG Linehaul operations in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio. The former FXG Entrepreneur of the year has the experience necessary to place the current driver staffing situation in proper perspective. "Up until 1988 the industry was highly regulated, making it almost impossible for one trucking operation to stand out from the rest", Crawford notes. "Now it is essential that your linehaul business remains current and relevant to the changing interests of the driver community."
With people across all industries changing jobs more frequently, Crawford strives to avoid having his job openings being treated as just another commodity. "There has to be a reason why the driver wants to work for me instead of anyone else. If I can't sell that then the rest doesn't matter."
What he tries to sell is a business relationship built on trust, where the drivers understand what is expected of them and how they will be compensated. Beyond that, Crawford believes that it is just good business practice to invest in employee benefit programs showing that he is ready to live up to his half of the loyalty equation.
"There has to be a reason why the driver wants to work for me instead of anyone else. If I can't sell that then the rest doesn't matter."
"Retention doesn't come free. We will cover 60% of the health insurance premiums for our drivers (coverage begins on the 1st day of the month after the employment date, as long as the start date is before the 30th). We consider disability insurance to be another cost effective way of showing our drivers that we care about their welfare, as well as that of their families."
Some valuable retention programs aren't expensive at all. A $25 gift card can show appreciation, and an occasional 'wellness-check' phone call strengthens the employer/driver relationship. He encourages his drivers to maintain Venmo accounts in case an occasional payment issue needs to be quickly addressed.
"Every driver I retain is one that I don't need to recruit, and the worst time to recruit a driver is when you need one. Declined routes don't contribute to my overhead and profits, plus they tend to lead to uncomfortable calls from FedEx."
Crawford favors compensation plans based on hourly rates as opposed to cents per mile. "My drivers don't have to worry about a delayed drop and hook affecting their pay. They have to perform, but they aren't expected to bear the cost of a delay that is outside of their control. If they clock in and out they will get paid as promised."
Shivam Shah, who runs Recruiting for Beans Route, agrees that simplicity is key in compensation plans. "We often review payment plans for new clients that take us 15 minutes to fully understand. Just imagine what these over engineered pay structures look like to new candidates."
Crawford currently staffs at 113% in order to be sure that he has all his routes covered in spite of the daily emergencies and life events that will sideline individual drivers. He was at 110% pre-pandemic. He also now estimates the expectancy of a new hire to be 2-3 years, down from 5.
"We often review payment plans for new clients that take us 15 minutes to fully understand. Just imagine what these over engineered pay structures look like to new candidates."
Shah and Crawford both encourage an 'always be recruiting' system to keep the pipeline open and working well. They view the various job boards, as well as referral programs as a mix of marketing options that need to be understood, analyzed, and tracked. "If you pause the digital marketing completely it will take their algorithms some time to re-train. It is best to keep them going, even at a low level. Just tell promising respondents to sit tight, you'll have the right opening for them soon" Crawford advises.
Line haul trucking has a legacy of resisting change and being slow to react, but that option is no longer available to them. Customer expectations of super fast deliveries, rising expenses and competition for drivers are requiring some nimble changes. At the top of the list will be creative management of the process that finds, trains, and retains the drivers that are required to keep the trucks moving.