Ag's HR Coach

Secret to Hiring Farm Truckers

Lori Culler
By  Lori Culler , DTN Farm Business Adviser
A national shortage of truck drivers poses problems for many farm operations. (DTN file photo)

With the major shortage of drivers, you might be wondering how your farm could possibly find and compete for drivers. The American Trucker Association had predicted a shortage of 48,000 truckers by the end of 2015. It's been on the rise as the shortage just a few years ago was only 30,000 drivers. With average over-the-road (OTR) wages ranging between $70,000 and $80,000 plus sign-on bonuses, recruiting might seem like a daunting task, but it's possible. Know what your farm has to offer and learn how to creatively get in front of driver candidates.

Here are three compelling reasons a driver would be interested in working for a farming operation.

1. Local Routes -- Typically, farms offer more local routes with significantly less overnight travel than other positions. Drivers of all ages are looking for more work-life balance; they are looking for more time at home with the family and in many cases willing to give up the higher pay to do so.

2. Culture -- The name of the game in recruiting for any position is showcasing your company's culture. Why your farm? Job seekers are looking to work for a place where they are valued and feel part of the team. The average employee turnover rate for the larger trucking companies is an insane 102%! Compare that to the average employee turnover rate amongst all industries at only 15%. The biggest complaint of drivers is they feel like they are just a number. They are on the road by themselves so they have a hard time "connecting" with their employers. Farms typically have strong cultures that fully embrace family-owned values. That is a big attraction point for candidates and they need to know what you offer.

3. Variety -- On the farm our truck drivers often assist in other areas besides just driving; that's an attraction point for many job seekers. Most driving jobs offer zero variety when it comes to their work day. You have an opportunity to offer them variety by season and also the ability to build on learning new skills.

I realize some of you are thinking those are great pitches to tell a candidate, but you have no candidates to share it with. When it comes to finding truck drivers, your approach has to be different than hiring other employees. Here are a few tips that might land you your next hire.

SOCIAL MEDIA

When we work with our clients on hiring truck drivers, social media is a critical tool. Most truck drivers are not on job boards searching for their next opportunity. Paid advertisements on social media help to get not only in front of interested drivers, but also their spouses. The last several driver positions for our clients have been found through our social media approach.

RETIREES

When we were short of drivers on our farm, we started to target retirees. They were not looking to work full-time, but were definitely interested in some extra money and some variety in their week. If you get several retirees to cover one full-time position, you'll have plenty of coverage. They were pretty good about caring for the equipment and doing their jobs right as they truly wanted to be there. Hiring retirees takes a while to build up your pool. Start talking around your area and put ads at the local diners. After you find one hire, they typically know others.

SIGNS

Sounds kind of old-school recruitment, but one of the vegetable farmers in our area found his last hire by placing a sign in the front lawn of the farm. Again, since drivers are not online as much looking at jobs listings, it might be a way to catch the attention of a local hire.

RADIO

If you are hiring more than one driver, a radio ad can still be effective. It allows you to target the local audience and again appeals to both your truck drivers and their friends and family that might know they are looking for a change.

Make the application process easy. They're truck drivers; they don't typically have a resume ready to go, nor the time or patience to create one. You will get a lot more responses if you simply leave a phone number for them to call or text in their interest. Too often companies make the process too lengthy and lose them all together. You can get the application later; what we are really looking for is to start the conversation.

Showcase your opportunity and use some of these techniques to find the right driver for you!

Stay tuned in -- our next column will cover driver compliance from drug testing to employment records.

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Editor's note: Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm and is the founder of AgHires (https://aghires.com/…), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email lori@aghires.com and find other employee management tips at www.dtnpf.com under Resources.

(MZT/AG/BAS)

Lori Culler