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Evaluating Applicants Amid a Truck Driver Shortage

By Connor Zazzo on Mar 6, 2020 3:50:26 PM


Across the Internet and by phone, there are plenty of places for truck drivers to apply for jobs. Attracting and harvesting driver applicants has never been so technologically efficient. But the issue is the type of candidate employers have at their disposal.

“It’s not a shortage of applicants,” says Rebecca Brewster, the president and COO of the American Transportation Research Institute. “It’s a shortage of qualified applicants.”

So How Do Employers Evaluate Candidate, Especially as a Severe Driver Shortage Makes Every Hire More Competitive?

The applicant’s driving licenses, of course, need to be checked to make sure they are appropriate by state, then by type of truck or cargo being carried. Interviews and driving tests are also vital parts of the evaluation process.


But sizing up the candidate also involves retrieving and managing applicant information from multiple sources. It’s not uncommon to get duplicate applications. So application management—which is available—is vital for the evaluation process.

Some trucking firms also use recruitment marketing companies that offer different methods of looking beyond driving experience and other variables. They take intangible factors into account when trying to identify job candidates who could become top performers.

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Assessing Adaptive Learning Ability

No matter what evaluation approach is taken, companies must account for something new to previous generations–a driver’s technological awareness. Because trucks continue to become more and more technologically advanced—from mounted cameras to sensors to computer screens and software programs—a driver must be able to adapt and learn.

In “How to Hire Local Truck Drivers: Job Skills,” Monster.com lays out several other factors that must go into the evaluation process—from health screenings (does the candidate have sleep apnea?) to background checks about operating-under-the-influence, and other convictions to investigating moving violations as far back as 10 years.

Putting the Safety Record in Perspective

Brewster astutely notes that the evaluation process frequently comes down to experience and safety violations. And according to Joe Rajkovacz, director of government affairs and communications for the Western States Trucking Association, safety violations could present a big missed opportunity for the industry when it comes to qualified drivers.

He explains, for example, that drivers aren’t required to search under trucks to look for safety violations, yet they, not trucking firms, are responsible for such trouble spots as leaky wheel seals. As a result, many drivers have violations on their records.

Companies often cite these violations in weeding out job applicants, but Rajkovacz thinks companies are spiting themselves. “You can’t just take raw data and draw conclusions,” he says.

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Rethinking Legal Age Limitations

He also believes trucking firms should rethink the driver age. Many firms don’t allow drivers as young as 18 years old because they aren’t allowed to drive over state lines. He believes companies could be cheating themselves out of capable, long-term drivers. “I drove at 18,” he says. “I just didn’t cross a state line.” Even if he had, he adds, he wouldn’t have suddenly become unsafe. “It’s antiquated and ridiculous,” he says about the federal law, which now requires drivers to be 21 years old to traverse state lines.

The tide may be turning. Two years ago, federal legislators created a pilot program to lower the age to 19 ½, but only if the person was a military service member or veteran. In December, though, New York Rep. Claudia Tenney introduced a bill to extend this program to individuals 18-21 without military experience, if they have a commercial driver’s license, an unblemished driving record, and the necessary Department of Transportation training certification.

Rajkovacz doesn’t believe young drivers should just be unleashed, but they should be mentored, along the lines of Germany’s apprenticeship model. “Trucks aren’t going away,” he notes. “The question is, how do we populate people in the industry?

Looking for best practices to help find more applicants during the shortage? Check out our guide of the best tips and tricks your team needs to know.

Connor Zazzo

Written by Connor Zazzo

Connor is the Marketing Manager for FATj.com, focused on providing valuable insights to help drive forward the hiring efforts of recruitment teams across the country. Interested in reaching out to Connor to learn more about FATj.com? Connect with him on LinkedIn!