Finding Drivers

Think beyond the obvious to draw your next-gen drivers

A driver shortage in a tight job market is inspiring more companies to get creative when it comes to recruitment. Some are scouting for talent at churches and community events like parades to get out in front of potential candidates who might not have considered commercial driving. They are also emphasizing more than pay when pitching the perks of their workplaces.

Representative Ashleigh Wright, Dean Transportation

That strategy is smart, research shows. When applying for jobs, applicants consider the status of a company even more than wages, according to

A company’s culture is important to today’s job applicants, especially the millennial generation, agrees Chris Goebel, president of Crossroads Advisers. The former president of a Cleveland-based coach company will moderate the roundtable discussion about recruitment and retention at the 2019 UMA Motorcoach Expo Jan. 6-10 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“You have to sell the excitement of the position by letting drivers know they will be visiting places they’ve never visited before and they’ll meet new people,” Goebel said. “Those are ‘soft sides’ of the position you want to highlight if you’re going to attract people who are looking for a second job or a next career.”

That’s one approach taken by Dean Transportation as well. The company hires 500 people annually—or about 10 percent of those who apply—and ends up happy with the quality and attitude of the resulting workforce. But with a workforce numbering about 2,500, including the 105 motorcoach drivers in its Dean Trailways division, finding quality applicants is no accident. In large part, success comes from using their entire workforce as an extended human resources department.

Jane Butler, the Lansing, Mich., company’s director of human resources, has a staff of eight, and even with those resources finds the job of recruitment and hiring overwhelming in the current tight job market. So she taps into the company’s drivers and mechanics, paying them for a side gig of finding their ideal future colleagues.


Ambassadors earn money

Dean employees, called ambassadors in this outreach role, can earn bonuses for recruiting. If someone they refer is hired and works at least six months, the employee collects a bonus of $400 or $500. The higher amount is for candidates with a commercial driver’s license. Top ambassadors are also spotlighted at the company’s annual staff meetings, and their names are entered into a drawing to earn additional cash.

“Our employees are the best individuals to speak to what it is like to be a bus driver or to be a motorcoach driver,” Butler said. “We take a great deal of pride in that contingent of our workforce, which is just such a terrific assistance to us in generating leads for candidates.”

Ambassadors are additionally paid for their time attending events. They work with the HR department’s staffing specialist, who provides them with materials to hand out and talking points so there is a consistent message. The assignment includes submitting an event summary, explaining how many people they spoke with, turning in the applications collected and informing how many people signed up for more information.

New employees then receive free CDL training. As long as they stay at least a year, they aren’t required to reimburse the company for the training valued at $3,600.


Recruit beyond the fairs

The company also looks outside traditional job fairs (though they go there, too) for an employee pool. Church events are one place they often find success.

“A lot of our folks that drive for us are retirees and stay-at-home parents with children who have availability during certain hours to drive the bus. We tend to see that churches have that same type of demographic that works well for us,” Butler said.

Other good places to find prospective drivers include fraternal organizations, such as the Elks, Moose and VFW.

Butler says the company has been more successful recruiting candidates early in their careers or just out of college at job fairs. Dean Transportation works with the state’s employment agency to participate in or headline hiring events.

The company on average hires one in 10 applicants, although Butler says the rate is better for employee referrals, because they are more likely to pass background checks and the DOT examination to get the required medical card for a CDL.


Follow-up is crucial

If someone expresses interest in a job but doesn’t complete an application at a job fair or online, they get a nudge from the company by way of follow-up calls that encourage them to complete an application.

Making applying easy is key, says Goebel, who encourages companies to streamline the online application. Often, people aren’t willing to put too much effort into the application until they find out more about the position. He suggests having a job trainer call back the applicant to talk about the driver position in more detail. A recent survey found that 78 percent of millennials make the decision to take a position based on the job interview, and 57 percent would leave a job that they didn’t respect or value.

During the application process, Dean provides support to candidates during the DOT examination process by helping them secure the required medical information from their doctors.

“There are lots of different ways that we work with candidates to get them onboard with us,” Butler said.


Find them, keep them

Retaining employees is as important as recruiting. Goebel recommends rewarding behaviors that help the bottom line, from customer service to safe driving. But the extra pay should be handed out after the busy season to motivate drivers to work when they are needed most.

Celebrating employees’ birthdays, their work anniversaries and the company’s good performance can also go a long way to promoting a positive workplace environment. Goebel points to research that shows culture is a major reason people take a job and why they leave one within 90 days.

“You spend anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 getting a driver ready to be a motorcoach driver,” Goebel said, “If they leave after nine months, you’ve lost that investment.”

If you want more ideas, there will be seminars about recruitment at the UMA Motorcoach EXPO 2019 in Fort Lauderdale from Jan. 6-10, 2019.


Status beats salary, survey shows

A recent survey conducted by online job board asked drivers what kind of information they’re seeking during their job search, where they’re looking for jobs and their expectations after applying.

The survey found:

  • When looking for a job, 27 percent said the most important factor they consider is the company and its status, while 25 percent prioritize the salary.
  • During the research phase, 47 percent use online job boards and 42 percent rely on word of mouth as sources to find out about jobs.
  • Most prefer to schedule an in-person meeting with the company and expect to hear back within one week of applying.

“Several conclusions can be garnered from our survey,” said Kyle Westhorpe of “Those looking to hire in this challenging environment should look at online advertising options as well as writing detailed job descriptions that highlight what applicants consider important, such as fleet and company achievements.”



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