Recruiting quality drivers as the industry faces a shortage is a Herculean task. Jeremy Reymer knows. He’s done it successfully for years.
Reymer is the founder and chief executive officer of DriverReach, a recruiting management platform, and previously owned Driving Ambition, a CDL driver staffing company serving Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee.
He also tackles the issue industry-wide as a member of the American Trucking Association’s Workforce Development Committee. The ATA estimates that 160,000 driver positions will go unfilled in a decade. In the motorcoach industry, the workforce shrank more than 16 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to the most recent data available.
Reymer has been tapped to share his strategies and insights about driver recruitment at the upcoming UMA Motorcoach EXPO in Nashville, set for Jan. 19-23.
His successful approach to recruitment comes down to three things: the marketing message, the applicant experience and using technology to improve both.
Begin by explaining what sets your company apart from the competition. Then share that message through an advertising and marketing campaign to your intended audience.
“You have to make sure your message resonates with your target audience,” Reymer said.
Create a good experience for your applicants. That begins with making the application process easy. Provide a variety of ways to apply, whether that is in person or online. As most drivers are applying from a smartphone, the process must be as easy and simple as possible.
Make sure there is that personal touch and the recruiter is engaging with the applicant, said Reymer, who recommends finding inspiration in the pages of Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact – CDL Driver Recruiting Edition by Phil Jones.
“All the best HR and recruiting technology in the world won’t work if you can’t have a good conversation,” he said.
There’s nothing worse than applying for a job and not hearing back for days—or longer. Using an applicant tracking system or CRM tools can make a significant difference in the overall recruiting experience.
“Recruiters need to call right away. Time is of the essence,” said Reymer. “I call the applicant, leave a voicemail and then follow up with a text. Within seconds, they are usually texting back. You have to think of things from the applicant’s perspective, meet them on their terms.”
While the number of CDL drivers is expected to grow by 7.5 percent by 2028, the motorcoach driver workforce is expected to decline by nearly 1 percent, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Solving the driver shortage is going to require creative solutions, and a lot have been suggested. Among them are raising pay, flexible scheduling, offering part-time positions and lowering the minimum age.
While more money may seem the simplest solution, it’s often the most difficult to implement because of tight budgets and competitive pressures.
Depending on a part-time workforce can be impractical, especially if work assignments require being on the road for long stretches. “The time demand can be difficult for people who have other jobs. Retirees are good options if they are physically up to the tasks that go along with the job,” Reymer said.
One of the appeals of Uber driving is that drivers can pick their times to be available. That approach hasn’t translated to CDL jobs, though not for lack of trying. Startup Blue Bloodhound spent millions and years trying to market the concept to the trucking industry before folding.
“In a highly regulated industry, it’s difficult to just let somebody go to work anywhere and at any time, because somebody has to monitor their compliance,” Reymer said. “Ultimately, somebody is going to be liable for any damages. It will be the driver to some extent, but it’s also going to be the carrier that driver’s working for.”
Lowering age requirement
Dropping the CDL driving age to 18 is being explored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration with a limited pilot program. The Depression-era rule requiring drivers to be 21 or older is outdated and doesn’t reflect how much commercial vehicles have changed over the decades, Reymer said.
“It’s due for a review, if for no other reason than because safety technology on vehicles today is significantly better,” he said. “Plus, 18-year-olds are already driving trucks in an intrastate capacity.”
If high school graduates can’t get into the industry until they’re 21, they probably already will be doing something else, which is why the average age of new drivers is 35, Reymer added. “This would provide an opportunity to draw young people into a career that is part of a great industry and is critical to the progress in our economy.”