Automating hiring for better driver retention

Many truckload carriers provide a job application for potential drivers on their web sites. Until recently, filling out an online application has been about as automated as the process gets. Once a recruiter takes charge of the application, hiring a driver goes back to the time-tested techniques of phone calls for background checks, and telephone and face-to-face interviews with the applicant.

In contrast, businesses such as Albertsons, Kroger, Raley's, and Spartan Stores have used a web-based recruiting and hiring system for several years. The service is provided by Unicru Inc, a company founded in 1987. The name results from merging the words “unified recruiting.” In the retail environment, Unicru says it processes about one application per second and has handled more than 22 million job applications since the company began. It also claims to reduce the time required to hire a worker by 50% and that the employees it produces stay on the job longer, reducing turnover rates by 10% to 30%.

As the economy improves and demand for freight services rises, a joint study by Gallup and the American Trucking Associations suggests that the trucking industry will need to hire approximately 80,000 drivers every year. The study says that 60% of this hiring will be required as a result of job attrition — drivers leaving a carrier for another job — and that the remaining 40% will be hired to fuel industry growth.

However, hiring large numbers of workers as drivers has nearly always been a problem for trucking. Many truckload carriers experience driver turnover rates in excess of 100% a year with almost 80% of newly hired drivers leaving after less than 90 days. This situation has become so prevalent that human resource managers have coined the term “churning” to describe the movement of drivers from one carrier to the next. The ATA study says that the average cost of recruiting, screening, and hiring a driver averages $9,000 per worker. In a fleet of 500 trucks, the cost of hiring drivers could add up to $4.5 million — more than enough to wipe out the profit margin of a company with an operating ratio of 94, which in the present environment for refrigerated trucking is considered acceptable.

The Internet has become a tool for drivers involved in the churning process. More than half of drivers use the Internet to look for job openings when they decide to change jobs.

It is at this point that Unicru comes into the picture. Unicru's online application is posted on the client carrier's web site. As a part of the application processing, Unicru handles all the DOT-required background checks along with checking references and motor vehicle records. In addition, the Unicru application contains a series of questions designed to help carriers select drivers that will fit into their operations. These questions are designed to screen out drivers likely to turnover quickly before they are offered an interview. The questions also help recruiters evaluate applicants for retention potential, dependability, and safety performance. One of the keys to retaining drivers is to hire those with a work history and personality that matches the available job.

Recruiters using the Unicru service can customize their requirements so that the system displays driver applications ranked according to the projected quality of hire. The system is password protected to ensure privacy of each carrier's hiring activity and requirements.

The system is designed to remove paperwork and limit telephone time prior to the first interview. The Unicru program continues to provide assistance as the hiring process progresses from initial screening to telephone interviews. The web-based package provides recruiters with a series of questions to ask during the first round of interviews to ensure that applicants meet minimum requirements. Interview assistance allows recruiters to screen applicants for work availability and schedule flexibility. After all, no good comes of hiring a driver who wants to be home every week for a job that requires a minimum of three weeks on the road at a time.

Additional questions provide recruiters with tools to assess work preferences as a way to project potential job satisfaction levels. The telephone interview process also helps recruiters judge applicants' past safety records, job dependability, and likelihood of remaining with a job for a reasonable period.

The results, Unicru says, is a hiring program that produces lower driver turnover and lower hiring costs, because the process is more efficient from start to finish. In addition, lower turnover rates can often help carriers reduce the rate of growth in insurance premiums. Another benefit is a tracking plan that allows carriers to claim tax credits for hiring qualified minority drivers. According to the US Department of Labor, roughly 25% of truck drivers are members of minority groups that qualify their employers for tax benefits.

For more information on Unicru services, visit unicru.com.

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