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4 driver recruitment practices for improving retention

When was the last time your company hired a new driver only to see them quit a few months later?

It happens a lot. The reality is, when drivers quit, they tend to leave within the first six months of employment.

Whether the driver was the wrong fit, or they were unhappy with the day-to-day realities of the position, it didn’t work out, and now the company is back to square one.

No matter how many truck drivers a carrier hires, the same problem will keep happening if the business doesn’t change its strategies and address why previous drivers left in the first place.

Luckily, making a few changes to implement the right strategies during recruitment can help reach the right candidates where they are, establish a trust-based relationship from the beginning and support a driver’s long-term success through continuous investment, ultimately helping to keep good employees.

Conversion Interactive Agency, a strategic recruitment advertising agency centered on helping fleets hire and retain their drivers, and People. Data. Analytics. (PDA), a retention-focused agency centered on data, shared what they learned about current recruitment marketing and retention trends in their “2022 Driver Recruiting & Retention Annual Report.” 

FreightWaves sat down with Priscilla Peters, vice president of marketing at Conversion Interactive Agency, and Scott Dismuke, PDA’s vice president of operations, to learn about four essential recruitment practices that carriers are overlooking that could improve retention:

Create a marketing strategy

One of the most common factors that carriers lack is a strategic marketing plan based on their targeted driver personas, according to Peters.

These days, when drivers aren’t behind the wheel, they’re likely  spending much of their downtime scrolling through online feeds. These digital spaces, which are where potential candidates are engaging with brands, are where recruiters should be focusing their marketing efforts. 

With all the ways drivers consume content, carriers have numerous options to drive engagement and build brand preference using what speaks to their audience, like videos, memes, blogs, online reviews, reels, stories and boosted posts.

According to the report, video content converted the most driver leads on social media in 2022, with vertical video ad formats being the fastest-growing lead generator. Drivers also tend to trust the testimony of others online; approximately 72% of drivers said online reviews from other drivers influenced them most when choosing a carrier. This could lend a prime opportunity for carriers to monitor and respond to online driver reviews and spread their brand message.

Having a strategy for digital media, social media, video and content marketing will help carriers reach their ideal candidates, who, after all, are the drivers likely to stay with the company longer.

Follow the data

After building and implementing a strategy, a carrier must also follow through to monitor how it is performing. Guessing how well a company’s strategy is working doesn’t cut it.

“Following the performance data is critical to make the best decisions for carriers’ employer brands. Without being able to drill down into the data, it’s impossible to make the best decisions for your driver recruitment marketing,” Peters said.

Carriers need detailed reporting, analytics and metrics to recruit smarter and retain better. Conversion Interactive Agency’s LeadLink driver recruitment command center is an example of cutting-edge technology that fleets can use for that very purpose. It allows fleets to follow the data from the first click of an ad, to the hire, and beyond and find out where their budgets are going and how their dollars are performing. With Conversion’s recruitment marketing data and PDA’s retention data from the RAMP platform, carriers can see how their campaigns are performing, what the top driver issues are for their carrier, how sources are trending for retention and more. It is the complete picture of the driver journey.

Hard metrics help carriers make informed decisions using real-time data, understand what’s working and what’s not, and reach the drivers they are more likely to retain.

Prioritize communication

Trust is often said to be hard to gain and easy to lose. For truck drivers, this seems to be especially true.

“Over 53% of drivers told us in a recent driver survey that the experience they’re receiving when they’re hired is not the same as what they were sold in the recruiting process,” Peters said.

As in any situation, honest communication builds trust. Communication was actually identified in the report as one of the top operation issues for drivers, with over half of drivers indicating slow or no responses were to blame. 

When there’s a lack of trust, drivers feel like fleet managers won’t do anything to solve their problems, said Dismuke. Fleet managers should avoid empty promises and impersonal recruiting and onboarding processes that make drivers feel like truck unit numbers rather than individuals.

“Being honest and upfront with drivers is always the best strategy. Overcoming the trust factor early with drivers pays off in recruiting and more importantly in retention,” Peters noted.

Because drivers don’t have frequent, or in some cases any, face-to-face contact with their managers, respectful communication is key. This can look like mirroring drivers’ communication habits and respecting their preferences for calls versus texts, according to the report.

“You can let a driver know why their loads are being planned the way they are to relieve frustration. You can control how quickly you respond to a driver and make them feel more respected. Ultimately, a company’s ability to communicate effectively is going to determine if turnover rates go up or down in 2023,” Dismuke said.

Keep investing in recruiting and retention

On average, it takes a company twice as long to rebuild its driver pipeline and twice the budget to catch up after cutting off its recruitment branding investment, according to the report.

“In a slowing economy, there is a tendency for companies to lose sight of the importance of drivers, which in turn can cause a trickle-down effect that all drivers are not as valuable,” Dismuke said.

Cutting recruitment and retention efforts, however, is not the way to go. Consistent investment in technology, especially when the market is soft, is vital to keep the momentum going so companies can attract drivers when it matters most.

Digital tools can help companies out-hire the competition, get more leads and optimize the recruitment process. Take, for example, Conversion Interactive Agency’s Lead Assist, which uses AI technology, SMS texts, email campaigns, social media comments and more to get from a short-form driver lead to a full application in less than 48 hours for many carriers. Using Lead Assist, fleets are seeing on average 22% more short forms turn into full applications, and ultimately, more quality candidates who tend to stick around.

Investing in people is just as important as technology. When companies say retention is everybody’s job, this can also mean it’s nobody’s. Getting serious about reducing turnover means hiring personnel whose sole responsibility is retention.

“The companies that are most successful in PDA’s retention programs are those who have a person, or a team, that is in charge of retention. When the PDA team identifies a driver who is frustrated or who is unhappy, we escalate that driver to the retention person and they spring into action to address that driver’s needs,” Dismuke said.

To learn more, register for their webinar — Driver Recruiting & Retention Deep Dive: Trends to Recruit Smarter & Retain Better in 2023.

Click here to learn more about Conversion Interactive Agency.

Visit People. Data. Analytics.’s website to find out more.