Recruiting for the road: How to find better truck drivers


Recruiting 3

Aussie truck drivers aren’t getting any younger, and with a sizeable portion of the workforce creeping towards retirement – sorry fellas, but it’s true – finding a quality driver that sticks around is tougher than ever.

The Australian transport industry isn’t slowing down either. With the road freight task projected to double by 2030, growing businesses will need to pull out all the stops to attract and retain the best driver candidates.

The cost of getting it wrong is also a lot more than just the money you’ll part with for termination pay-outs.

When you add up loss of productivity, future training costs, and managing the disgruntled, overworked staff left behind; you’ll want to make sure you do everything you can to get it right first time.

We spoke with some of Australia’s leading fleet managers for their insights on how to recruit and retain the very best.

What have you got to offer?

The old adage pretty much sums it up – ‘if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys’.

If you’re looking for the best candidates, your business will need some pretty decent drawcards to stand out from other hirers, and offering competitive wages is just one of them.

Having a workplace that supports work-life balance by offering parental leave, flexible work schedules and prioritising driver health and safety on (and off) the road will also set you in good stead.

Giving your staff members the flexibility required to meet their family commitments outside of work will have the added benefit of fostering loyalty, and should contribute to lower staff turnover down the track.

Keen to know whether your organisation is already working to best practice? Check out the family-friendly checklist from the Fair Work Ombudsmen, who also provide guidance for developing flexible workplace strategies.

Don’t underestimate the pulling power of offering an updated fleet of comfortable, well-equipped trucks that are easy to drive – having two-pedal options might be a deal-maker for those drivers who’ve been around the block a few times.

Driver incentives for no-fault performance could also be the carrot that tempts experienced drivers to the door, take a look at our post on how telematics can help.

Make pre-start health checks mandatory

Most of the fleet managers we spoke with use health checks as a key component of their recruitment process. You’ll need to know your new drivers are comfortable getting in and out of the truck, and can perform daily tasks with ease.

You’ll also get a heads-up on any long-term injuries or health complaints that could affect performance.

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2012 estimated that absenteeism was costing businesses $17 billion dollars a year, and if you’re a small business those unscheduled absences can deal a real blow to your cash flow and productivity.

Business Victoria’s sick leave cost calculator may also be a useful tool.

Driving record and licensing

An excellent driving history will give you confidence in your new-hire, not to mention the savings in insurance premiums if your employee has no speeding fines or accidents on record.

Depending on your state or territory, you can check a driver’s record online – with their consent – or ask the driver to provide it for you.

If you are struggling to find experienced drivers, it can be well worth investing in more in-depth training and licensing for a less-experienced candidate who has all the other strengths and attributes you’re looking for. Many recruiters will advise that training is the easy part – finding someone with passion and enthusiasm is the real challenge.

If you do take the training route, save money by sending them straight for the HR Licence, as they’ll be covered for light rigid and medium rigid trucks as well. Or consider bringing light-duty trucks into the fleet that can be driven on just a car licence.

Another investment for the long term is “refresher” courses that driving schools offer for those who want to sharpen-up their driving habits after years behind the wheel.

Listen for warning bells

Trust your gut.

You’ll have the best insight as to what personality is the right fit for your business, and with a few key questions you should be able to get to the bottom of their attitudes towards fundamentals like safety, productivity and efficiency.

Patience is a virtue, and in trucking it’s an essential. If you get the feeling a driver will get worked-up or lose patience when small things go wrong, they’re less likely to keep a cool head on the road and that’s when accidents can happen.

It doesn’t hurt if you can find a driver that has some general understanding of vehicle maintenance and the capacity to make minor repairs if needed – this is particularly important if your drivers travel long distances.

It also means they’ll alert you to any vehicle repair issues before the problem gets any worse and costs you in downtime.

Have a firm probation period

Set a firm probation period for new staff members and stick to it, but make sure you’re offering all the training and support they need to adjust to your trucks and the driving environment.

Be upfront early on about what is expected during the first few months, and conduct regular reviews to check they’re on track.

Go with the pros

If you don’t have time to advertise but need a new driver ASAP there are agencies that can help. These agencies will have checked and vetted drivers before adding them to their list of drivers available.

This can be an effective solution when staff are absent from work unexpectedly and you need someone to fill in on a casual basis – and you don’t have time to tackle recruiting on your own.

Good luck!