AUSTIN, Texas – Attracting millennials to the trucking industry isn’t impossible, but they’re more likely to be drawn to a company and a role with purpose.
That was one of the conclusions of a panel discussion on attracting millennials, at the Management Conference & Exhibition of the American Trucking Associations. Joyce Brenny, president and founder of Brenny Transportation, takes it a step further and says employers should start off by ensuring they’re targeting the right candidates in the first place.
“The biggest mistake we make is, we bring the wrong people into this career,” she said, noting her company conducts personality profiles to ensure candidates will be a good fit. “The best way to deal with your own company is, test your best drivers. Find that personality. We found two personality profiles we look for when we hire new individuals.”
The industry could also do a better job of leveraging technology to attract younger employees, noted Gary Johnson, director of risk and compliance management with Lytx.
“Technology does play a big part in the recruitment and retention of drivers,” he said, adding technology can add to the safety culture within a trucking company.
“Technology, without a doubt, has helped,” added Brenny, whose company hires prospective drivers as young as 18. “We take them, with no experience at all, put them through the program. Typically, our training program lasts a year.”
Drivers are also trained on company culture, and are given local lanes until they’re old enough to run longhaul.
“By the time they are 21, they’re ready to go. They’re experienced at that point and we have enough local freight so we can train them in a local setting and bring them back every day, review, go over where they’re at, what they learned with their trainer and what do they need to do tomorrow?” Brenny explained. The company’s retention rate over the last three months for these young hires is 100%.
Johnson emphasized the importance of the onboarding process, which is an excellent opportunity to espouse the carrier’s culture, but too often takes on a negative tone.
“We spend so much time and energy getting drivers in the door, selling them on the experience they’re going to have as a driver, however they’ll go through a driver orientation experience for three days where we tell them how they’re going to be terminated if they don’t follow the rules,” he said.
At Brenny Transportation, new employees are required to adopt a cultural statement, which outlines the expectations the company has of the employee.
“We go through it and explain all the expectations, what it really means to our company, and then we go ‘Does this sound like something that speaks to you?’” Brenny explained.
Seth Becker, who formerly managed recruitment at Knight Transportation, said carriers should embrace video to reach out to millennials. At Knight, several drivers with large social media followings were equipped with cameras so they could document their lives on the road – the good, bad, and ugly.
“Tell the story of what it’s like to be a driver, even the bad things,” Becker said. “People need to see what it’s actually like…it worked very well and helped attract an audience of younger drivers.”
Brenny agreed fleets must be honest about the profession and not present unreasonable expectations. Her pet peeve is when carriers glamorize the job by saying drivers get to “see the country.”
“I don’t think that’s a great pitch line,” she said. “Show the real heart and soul of what the job is, and let them know you’re going to help them succeed. Driving that truck is one small part of what they need to learn.”
Johnson said to retain drivers, fleets must bring their families into the organization, by helping keep them connected. One fleet offered to pay the cost of continuing education for not only its drivers, but also two additional dependents.
“They’re saying, not only are we going to invest in you as a driver to be successful, we’re also going to support your family,” he said.
Brenny said carriers should also be teaching their drivers and owner-operators about financial literacy, so they know how to achieve success.
“Teaching that is huge. That’s a big, big component of their success,” she said.
But at the end of the day, retention of any driver can be achieved by listening to – and addressing – their concerns. Brenny recently began paying for loading time.
“Those drivers deserve to get paid when they’re loading,” she said. “Even if it only takes an hour, when they’re loading and unloading. It’s one more sore spot drivers talk about all the time, so why not fix it? Just fix it, you know?”