Secrets of good onboarding practices - what trucking firms are doing right

Good onboarding practices translates to better driver engagement in the initial days. That in turn has a ripple effect on better retention.

Good onboarding practices translates to better driver engagement in the initial days. That in turn has a ripple effect on better retention.

With a new requirement of 5,000 truck drivers in Arkansas alone, it is quite apparent that truck driver shortage seems to be on its verge in the trucking industry today. As discussed in our previous articles about onboarding practices, it is always better to try and retain the current truck driver force, rather than to train new drivers every week. Let us see how big corporations like Schneider National, J.B. Hunt, and others are implementing different onboarding strategies to increase driver retention.

Schneider’s 3-week orientation helping truck driving school graduates get a good understanding of how things work in a trucking firm

With its 3-phase orientation training process, Schneider prepares its truck drivers for all the challenges on the road with a systematized and experimented schedule. Here's are the different phases according to Schneider:

Phase 1: The first week being majorly focussed on hard skills, comprises of pre-work screening (minor lifting, pulling, crouching etc), driving of the truck (general truck knowledge, shifting, turning, slow maneuvering, backing, simulator training), logging, and permit book briefing.

Phase 2: The second week, ‘the training engineers phase’ as they call it, is the out on the road phase. An experienced trainer accompanies the truck driver getting him familiar with life of a trucker on the road. Staying at a truck stop, finding meals, when and where to take the breaks, being a part of the orientation, makes the truckers more confident about themselves.

Phase 3: Getting back to the Schneider training facility, the third week is a period focussed on the soft skills. Continuing with their behind-the-wheel training, drivers are also instructed on trip-planning, all the paperwork involved, and  the process of receiving the work assignment over mobile communications platform.

Ultimately, in the last two days of the training, the truck drivers take up a ‘skills-qualifications-test’ that determines what they have learned so far. After qualifying the test, they are all set to hit the road and experience a whole new life as a trucker.

Takeaway: Systemizing the orientation process is one of the key factors that determines its success.

JB Hunt’s keen focus on hiring the right batch of truck drivers

During the orientation week, JB hunt is very particular about assessing drivers on all the touch-points including behavioral conduct, skills, conversations and discipline.

Be it leaving the room during their drug screening, or heading towards the bar in the hotel, drivers are judged based on all of their actions. J.B. Hunt keeps a close watch on the drivers to assess them on all the parameters during orientation.

The idea is quite plain and clear: Better hire one good driver that stays with you for long, rather than recruiting several drivers every week/ month, costing you a lot more.

Also, J.B. Hunt makes sure that the drivers who attended their orientation get back where they came from safely. They won’t leave them stranded. Be it plain/bus, they will drop drivers off at the facilities they promised.

Keeping its promises, J.B. Hunt reflects the importance of proper recruiting during orientation.

Takeaway: Key assessment of drivers is important. Hire the right candidates for better retention.

Cargo Transporters leveling up with their 4 C’s of Onboarding

Cargo transporters highlight the notions of Compliance, Clarification, Culture and Connection as their secret elements for better onboarding. By inculcating these disciplines into their strategies, training and sustainability get proactive and concentrated.

Safety and compliance are well addressed during the first two days of orientation itself with hands-on training for student drivers through their finishing program.

Clarification in all terms, including the exact definition of what “home-time” means, or the salary- related details is ensured during onboarding itself so that the misunderstandings and disputes can be prevented later on.

Cultural richness benefits the companies during the onboarding process, as it facilitates engagement, making the drivers feel more connected to the organization. One way Cargo Transporters ensures this is technology. In 2016, the company used an integrated platform for its  onboarding process to drive engagement. Such  platforms ensure that training and paperwork is held out in a systematized manner.

Connecting with the driver is an essential element in the onboarding strategy of Cargo Transporters. This keeps the understanding intact and initiates conversations. Additionally, recruiters also go in with drivers to mediate with fleet leaders.

Takeaway: Proper communication and clarity are crucial elements of a good onboarding process.

As is evident from the above information, trucking firms are proactively making significant attempts to enhance their onboarding process by redefining various touch-points into systematised practices, which further translates to better retention.

In all of the above practices that we discussed, the prime goal was to make the drivers familiar with the organization and get them well prepared to take their vehicles on the road. (Schneider does this by systematizing the touchpoints, while J.B. Hunt keeps its evaluation strategies stringent and at the peak, and Cargo Transporters ensure their 4C's of onboarding are inculcated.)

To get better insights into onboarding strategies, ‘Manager’s Guide: Best practices for onboarding’ could be a beneficial read.

Using technology to your benefits can help speed up the onboarding process, and making the right choice for the same can be challenging. Noticeboard gets you out of this dilemma in an instant. With customizable scorecards, groups by location, quizzes, polls, and additional features, Noticeboard makes engagement with truck drivers easy from the get-go!

Try Noticeboard today.