Good drivers are hard to find these days. While there has been a lot of talk around the shortage of good quality operators within the transport industry for some time, little has been done to rectify the problem. As a business owner, this adds another dimension to the difficulty faced in growing a transport business. However, the fact is that there are plenty of good candidates out there who are ready to become a valuable part of your company.
The most important thing is to know what you’re looking for in a driver – before you start the search. You should also know exactly what you are offering your new employee, and be open about this during the recruitment process. By explaining the roles, responsibilities and remuneration of the job honestly, potential candidates will know exactly what they’re in for and what to expect from you in return. This could limit the number of applications, but should increase the overall suitability of the applicants.
How Do I Pick A Good Candidate?
The most important attribute of a good operator is their attitude. This can reflect on many areas of their work: how they treat your equipment, how they treat your customers and how they portray your business to the greater public. While experience may seem like a valuable attribute, an experienced operator with a bad attitude can be very damaging to a business.
On the contrary, an inexperienced operator with the right attitude will be happy to learn new skills and gain experience while representing your business in a positive manner. The bonus is that they will learn to do things your way, and over time will become a valuable asset to your business.
An experienced operator with a good attitude is the ultimate goal, but most of these are already in jobs where they are valued by their employer, and so are not in the market for a new job. Head-hunting these operators from your competition might seem like a good option, but the truth is it can be a risky exercise. Not only can it damage your reputation among those you work with, but that driver will always have a job to go back to and, if they do, they could take all of your hard earned knowledge and connections with them.
Does Experience Matter?
When you are looking for someone to take charge of your valuable equipment, of course you would prefer to have someone with experience behind the wheel of similar equipment. Many transport companies work on the basis of age and experience as minimum requirements when employing new drivers, with the industry standard being 25 years or older and a minimum of two years’ experience. Most will tell you this is because insurance won’t cover drivers who don’t meet these criteria, but that is not strictly true. If you think about it, it makes no sense, as that would not allow anyone to get that first two years of experience even if they were over 25. This common misconception is part of the reason the so-called driver shortage exists, and needs to be dispelled immediately.
The fact is that insurance will cover younger, less experienced drivers, but usually with a few conditions attached. These might include a limited operating radius (say within 100km of the depot) and a higher excess in the case of an accident. Depending on the work being carried out, a radius restriction may not be an issue, and if you find a candidate with the right attitude, the risk of an accident is greatly reduced. Experienced drivers are not always safer, with some having many years of bad habits and a sense of complacency. New recruits to the industry, on the other hand, offer a blank page to start from. While there may be a little extra work involved in the early stages, there is the opportunity to train a new driver to your way of working, without the risk of old habits creeping back in over time.
Horses for Courses
The type of work your new driver will be required to do will also have a big effect on which candidates are suitable for the role. If your driver is going to be doing physical work (hand unloading, multiple drops/pick-ups etc.), their physical abilities should be taken into account. On the other hand, if long distance driving and long periods away from home are involved, then family and home commitments also need to be considered. While a candidate may seem keen to take on the role, taking these things into consideration during the recruiting process could save you having to go through it all again in a few months, when the physical work or the time away from home becomes too much for your new driver.
It should also be pointed out that there are those who don’t have the mentality for certain tasks. While some people thrive on the pressure and hustle of multi-drop city driving, others are better suited to the long distance route on the highway. Putting either of these personalities into the other role would likely lead to a short term relationship between the employer and the employee.
Do Your Research
It may sound obvious, but you should also ask applicants to provide references and a copy of their driver’s licence report. Even if they are inexperienced as a truck driver, this can give you a good picture of their attitude on the road, and towards their employer. When you have narrowed down the list of candidates, check ALL of their references, and be wary of vague answers from mates that have offered to provide a good reference. Keep in mind that referees cannot, and sometimes simply will not, give too much information about previous employees. To get around this, it’s a good idea to have a list of questions that require a simple yes or no answer, with the most obvious one being “would you employ this person again in your business?”.
Let Someone Else Do the Hard Work for You
Depending on what you’re looking for, and your own time commitments, it might be worth getting someone else to do the hard yards for you. There are many recruitment agencies that now offer specialist services to the transport industry, with an understanding of what is important for both the employer and the employee. These agencies will, for a fee, advertise the role, field the calls and emails from potential candidates, and narrow the field down to ensure you only need to interview those who are genuinely suitable for the role. In some cases, they will even do that for you, and send you out a selected candidate, ready to start work. To make the bookwork side of things easier, many of these agencies will even do the payroll for that employee, and send you an invoice that will include their wages and all of their entitlements (superannuation, payroll tax, annual leave and so on).
Authored by Dave Whyte
Dave Whyte grew up around the transport industry, spending most of his school holidays in various trucks with his dad. He began professionally driving at the age of 19, starting in small rigid trucks in Melbourne. He worked his way up to driving B-double combinations on interstate duties, working as a company driver. In 2007, Dave won the Scania Young Australian Truck Driver competition, which led to him winning a new Scania prime mover.
This meant Dave was thrust into the role of being an owner-operator and had to quickly learn the business side of the industry. He sold his first truck in 2012 and within a month had bought a second which ran until late 2016. It was then that Dave decided to take a break and spend more time with his family.
Since 2010, Dave has also been working as a journalist for a number of transport industry publications, initially combining the role of a full time driver with that of a part time journalist. His insider knowledge of the transport industry, including experience in various types of trucks, trailers and freight, provides a different perspective to many other transport industry journalists. The hard learned lessons from running his own business also give him an insight to the dollars and cents side of transport.
While Dave now focuses on his role as a contributor to Trucksales.com.au, he also spends a bit of time on the road as a casual driver- a job he still loves to do. Dave sees this as important, as it keeps him up to date with what’s going on in the “real world” of transport and allows him to maintain his skills in various roles. Whether it’s carting cars or delivering dairy product in fridge vans, he enjoys spending time out on the road amongst the people of the transport industry. Dave is proud to be part of such a diverse and dynamic industry, and is passionate about the industry and its people.