Want to recruit and retain drivers? Then listen to them.

The best way to recruit and retain drivers is to listen to them and offer open communication channels, say Canadian carriers that included a Hall of Fame entrant and finalists in the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) Best Fleets to Drive For contest.

“Trucking is all about your people – when you take care of your people, they take care of you,” Wendell Erb, president and CEO, Erb Group of Companies, told at TCA’s annual convention Truckload 2023 in Orlando, Fla., on March 6.

Humility is also important for Erb. “I drive truck myself, a lot of my operations people drive truck, nobody is above any job that we have. If I am going to ask somebody to do this, I wouldn’t ask you if I wouldn’t do it myself and I in fact I do do it myself. And I enjoy it,” he said.

Picture of truck driver giving a thumbs up
(Photo: iStock)

TransPro Freight Systems pays attention to what types of freight drivers want to haul. General manager Peter Jenkins points out that drivers are properly remunerated for loads that are time consuming and difficult.

The carrier, which has been placed in the TCA Hall of Fame for repeat winners, collects suggestions from its driver committee and sends out surveys. Action is taken where necessary, and another survey is sent out six months later to gauge how the changes were perceived.

Jenkins provides all drivers with his contact details. “I enjoy reading text messages from drivers,” he said.

Open-door policy

TransPro offers an open-door policy, said director of safety Michael Frolick. “The more you engage with drivers, the more empathetic you become.”

Management along with all department representatives are present at safety meetings. “We don’t rest on our laurels, it’s part of our success,” Frolick said.

Wellington Motor Freight creates an environment where people care about their work. “We are listening to our drivers all the time,” said Michael Zelek, vice-president of human resources.

Many companies want to make changes to help drivers but they are relying on what people in the office think and not what the drivers are telling them, Zelek said. “Listen to the people – it is going to impact the most,” he added.

Guaranteed pay

Proper compensation is also vital and Zelek said Wellington pays drivers a salary. “I can’t believe more companies don’t do guaranteed pay of sort, whether its hourly or guaranteed mileage. Our drivers like the comfort of seeing a paycheque every week and are not fighting for miles. Show up, do your job and we pay you fair for what you do,” he added.

In the past year Wellington’s retention rate was 98%. “We lost one driver last year. We have a lineup of drivers when we have an open position, and we rarely have to post for it. It’s a good problem to have,” Zelek said.

Mark Seymour, president and CEO, Kriska Transportation Group, said his companies want to be an employer of choice and want employees to be happy with the choice. “We want them to stay. We want them to be proud. It is a race to be as best as we can possibly be.”

Family atmosphere

Seymour gave credit to the people who run and work in the businesses. “We talk a lot about the people who don’t drive a truck supporting the people who do drive a truck. This recognition is voted on by our drivers, so it also recognizes the fact that the people who support them are working hard to do just that,” he said.

Kriska Holdings’ family atmosphere attracts drivers said human resources manager Natasha Burns. She also said communication is important, so drivers feel included in the business and not isolated. Taking care of mental health is vital too, she added.

Constant improvement

Mill Creek Motor Freight was deemed a Fleet to Watch. And general manager Richard Haan focuses on constant improvement.

He said drivers enjoy hauling freight for the carrier, the work environment and options offered. Driver surveys help Mill Creek “figure out where we are dropping the ball or where can we get better.”

Driver advisory committee meetings raise issues. Haan says everything is not going to get fixed at once, and prioritizing is important. “What are the easy things to fix? For larger problems, work on a plan and communicate with drivers as it progresses.” How equipment is spec’d also plays a role in driver happiness. Mill Creek trucks have heated and cooled seats, which drivers love.

And how did they find out? Through driver feedback of course.

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