A Manager's guide: Best practices for onboarding truck drivers

Make sure that your onboarding strategy for truck drivers is effective from the get-go. It is crucial because better onboarding translates to better retention.

Make sure that your onboarding strategy for truck drivers is effective from the get-go. It is crucial because better onboarding translates to better retention.

Statistics tell us that more than 65% of the truck driver turnover happens in just first 13 weeks of work. So, it's evident that we should be optimizing all our processes to fight that statistic. Here's a comprehensive week-by-week plan to sync your onboarding techniques with driver retention.

Week 1: The orientation week:

This is the period of first impressions. So ensure that your team gets the following aspects right:

  • Assign a full-time driver trainer:
    Assign a driver trainer to your new drivers who is with them full-time to understand them and their needs before they are passed onto their first haul and also train them on new equipment and regulations.
    This way, you know what the driver wants and is expecting from the orientation and the company.

  • Share company-related information:
    Make them familiar with how things are done. Talk to them about targets and processes in detail. Tell them numbers, statistics and why they are, the way they are. Tell those drivers the numbers that they are driving, and see them drive it better and in a smarter way. Share it through e-mail, SMS, or a private message platform - whatever works best according to your organizational norms.

  • Explain the paperwork:
    Get all your paperwork done within the first week of orientation, provided that you explain its significance. Ensuring that they understand your policies, protocols is crucial.

  • Set goals:
    ..such as number of miles to be covered, safety restrictions, DAC reports details to set a consistency with their targets and company’s targets.

  • Have an orientation with the driver-manager:
    Set up a private conversation with the driver and respective driver manager.
    Let the managers know the expectations of the driver from the company and vice versa.
    Register the important dates of the year when they need to go home. Birthdays, anniversaries, like you would do for any other employee.

  • Prepare a proper plan on leaves:
    How many days can they spend away from work? How can they change their leave strategies? Tell them everything in an organized manner. All the company policies shall be respected by them if they are presented with the right intentions.

  • Review individual performance:
    At the end of the week, the driver manager should review each individual, and share observations with the concerned driver. For example: David is really good with gears but has troubles with xyz technology. This can further help in individual assessment.
    The manager can closely review this and get back to the drivers with necessary training or issues. This also increases personal interaction and is the simplest way to make sure all the strategic touch-points are in place.

Week 2 and Week 3

This period is primarily about establishing connects with various departments. For this, 

  • Let the accounting team talk first:
    Reviewing the first pay-check reduces the number of misunderstandings that may occur in the future. The accounting team should not expect the drivers to call, but take the first step themselves. This makes the drivers feel important.
    Did they get the pay-check? Did the deposit reach them? Ask them first, so that, they are not intimidated in the future to make a call themselves and sort things out. A one-on-one conversation with the payroll manager could prove to be very productive and could earn your driver’s dedication towards the company.
    Make sure they know how they are being paid, whether they are being paid per mile, and how much. Also inform them about where they can look for the pay-check.

  • Bring in the maintenance team:
    “Hey! How is your truck running?” or “Are the sensors working fine? Is it well serviced? Are you understanding everything?”  Such quick questions over a phone call could be a great relief to a driver on the road. It is possible that the driver is frustated with some issues but doesn’t get time to write them all down. A phone call is always better than 10 emails to a truck driver.
    Proactive connections can ensure that the issue is dealt with urgently.

  • Have the operations team make an entry:
    The ops team should have a review of all things important to the driver: "Are you able to use the software properly? Is the detention pay is reaching them? Do you have any upcoming home-time requests? " Constantly reminding them about home-time is much appreciated by the drivers.

  • Review communication with driver-managers:
    The operations team can further ensure if the drivers are in good terms with their respective managers. If not, conflicts need to be resolved. If it still doesn’t work out, a new manager should be assigned at the earliest.

  • Make them feel important
    “Dispirited, unmotivated, unappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world”
    - Francis Hesselbein

    Feeling insignificant at the workplace is not what any employee would desire from his job. And thus, it is important for recruiters to understand the importance of employee appreciation. When you are talking to a driver, just talk to them- do not multitask. Give them full attention like you would to a manager. Pick up their calls, they are the last people to go on voicemail, with the kind of work they do. Keep reaching out to them proactively to ensure their safety and communication with each required element of the corporation.

Week 4

  • Let the recruiter reach out to the driver: To ensure that all the promises that were made during hiring are kept, the recruiter shall reach out to each driver personally. This enhances communication.

  • Resolve issues
    If there are any issues mentioned by the drivers, it must be the responsibility of the HR to make sure they are resolved.

Week 5:

This is the final week. Tread carefully, show drivers respect, and make them feel really really good about your trucking company. Here are certain things you must do to that effect:

  • Check on them:
    A simple call after so many proactive outreaches won’t sound intimidating to the drivers if done in a right manner. “Hey! Just calling to check up on you” or “Just checking if you are facing any troubles?” or “Your safety bonus is on!” can give them a positive vibe and make them respond dutifully to everything. Generate trust in them so they can confess everything to you.

  • Cameras:
    Many organizations have begun installing cameras in the trucks to ensure safety of the drivers. It needs to be noted that according to a research, approximately 80% of the drivers did not know how to use the camera, or can’t tell if the cameras are actually working and recording. Follow-ups and trainings is a must.

  • Review safety questions and issues:
    Although the driver knows what is on the road and can handle it better than anyone else at the given moment, it is better to make sure that all the safety tips, questions, and updates are given to the drivers at the right time.
    It could be a small quiz that they have to take to ensure they are aware of all the safety regulations, or regular safety updates regarding the same, etc.

  • Re-affirm employee benefits:
    Here comes the role of the recruiter again. Just to make sure that all the boxes are checked and everyone is happy, recruiters need to make sure all the employee benefits are distributed at the right time and in the right quantity.

At the end of the 5 weeks, 

  • Observe rapport between the new drivers and everyone they've been in touch with.  
    A lot of animosity must have gone away by the end of the 5th week, which makes it easier for the drivers to be connected, feel prioritized and retain their jobs for a longer time. But, it is always better to cross-check and make sure everything has been implemented the way it was supposed to.

  • Analyse:
    Analyse how the 5 weeks have been and if the  drivers’ mannersims and responses have changed since the first week. Use this insight to iterate on your process.  

  • Set performance metrics:
    Now that your onboarding process is almost complete, it is time to set some performance measuring metrics for the drivers for assessment. This directly links to employee benefits as a result of good performance.

Phew! All that .. only for onboarding?

Sounds like too much work, doesn't it. Well, nothing worth doing ever came easy. Did it? The same maxim holds true for this as well.  But here's the boundless benefit of this work:

  • Systemizing touchpoints :
    If your driver is only connected to the driver manager, when he leaves, he is only leaving the manager. But if he is connected with everyone in the company, he is leaving the complete organization. Such systemization helps in avoiding turnover to a great scale.

  • Bettering employee Relations:
    What if the fleet management sends a birthday card to the child of a driver? What if medical admin says - “You need rest, shall I call someone from your family to pick you up?”. With such establishments in a company, it is harder to just walk out the front door. Giving them an opportunity to talk about their achievements or sacrifices that they make as a trucker! You would not want to leave a place that makes you feel significant and respects your work.

The bottom line is, it is your job to make them feel important, and this onboarding process will help you achieve that.

Noticeboard's onboarding checklist helps you ensure that you see the process through completion. Download it here 

Use Noticeboard  to configure your entire onboarding process. Automate publishing of relevant content to specific batches, flash important updates, conduct quizzes, collect field-data, and most importantly, build a community. The platform helps you reach out to your drivers without requiring a corporate ID or active internet connectivity. 

Make your drivers fall in love with your company, on Day 1.