Webinar Q&A: “Owning the Driver Pay Conversation During Market Turbulence”

Did you have a chance to attend our recent webinar, “Owning the Driver Pay Conversation During Market Turbulence”? We received more questions than we had time to answer in the allotted time, so the webinar’s presenter Leah Shaver, President and CEO of The National Transportation Institute, answered them below in this Q&A-style blog post.

If you couldn’t join the live webinar, don’t worry – you can watch it on-demand anytime!


Question: How can we keep both recruiters and prospective employees engaged in the hiring process as it slows down?

Answer: To keep prospective employees engaged during the recruiting and hiring process, it’s important for your recruiters to maintain regular communication with job candidates without being overwhelming. Though the courtship is longer, there’s not much difference as to how you would handle the pre-hire process in a slower market. However, for recruiters, their workload may be slower, and thus, your fleet needs to find ways to keep them engaged, motivated, and productive. Focus on enrichment! 

A few tips we have: (1) Take this opportunity to make recruiters subject matter experts in all areas of your fleet. Have them shadow peers in operations, dispatch, and freight sales. Pair them with driver managers to have a ground-level view. Set them up to do ride-alongs with drivers so they gain a deep understanding of the job. (2) Cross-train them to perform other functions if recruiting has slowed at your company. Recruiting IS sales so have them work with your sales team to make calls and work on business development. Turn them into retention czars who develop regular check-ins with drivers and work to resolve any issues that may arise, and to remind existing drivers of the perks, programs, incentives, and bonuses available to them while base pay momentum has slowed. Share all of these milestones with your prospects and on social so they know not only are you engaged in onboarding them but in the company as a whole. 


Question: We’re seeing tons of drivers calling in “fishing” to see what pay is right now, and that means lots of wasted time spent on drivers who don’t want to come aboard, who quickly jump ship, etc. How do we weed through what’s real, sift through the noise, have meaningful conversations?

Answer: When it comes to drivers calling in to inquire about pay, it can be challenging to weed out those who are just fishing around versus those who are genuinely interested in joining the company. Upskilled and trained recruiters who can differentiate between the two and have a gut instinct for who is a serious candidate are key. Consider providing a pay tool on your landing pages and other relevant recruiting materials or offer pay information in a chat function. While this may reveal more information than the company is comfortable with, it can help to filter out those who are not serious candidates and save recruiters time and effort. Ultimately, it's important to find a strategy that works for the company and feels manageable in terms of handling the noise and efficiently identifying viable candidates. This could be a temporary solution or a long-term strategy, depending on what works best for the company.


Question: From a retention standpoint, what can fleets do to help retain drivers they have without just increasing pay? Are there other items that can help?

Answer: Yes, engage to retain and… Watch the webinar!


Question: You mentioned that Millennials were the largest group active in the general workforce today. That’s a big gap from what we see in terms of our driver makeup. How do we make the job more appealing to Millennials so we can stave off the technology that we either don’t want or don’t ever think will be viable in the real world?

Answer: Let’s recognize that Millennials have a different communication style compared to their Baby Boomer and Gen X counterparts. Consider that gap when developing training and mentor policies and programs, but also personalize your communication style to each person, from marketing, to recruiting and onboarding, training, driver check-ins, and hometime policies — all of these need to be evaluated to better engage with and attract Millennials.

One example, particularly for women: it’s crucial to consider safety and comfort of trainees. So strongly consider same-gender training policies that accomplish that.

For all trainees, take into account who you have in the cab as trainers and how well-equipped they are to communicate with your trainees and to handle difficult conversations. Unfortunately, the current training model is still outdated, requiring individuals to commit to an over-the-road job and invest significant time and effort, similar to how Boomers did it. However, Millennials do not view training in the same way. To keep employees happy and motivated, it's essential to understand the labor market size and make necessary changes within the company. This involves adjusting how students are trained, who works with them, and how invested the company is in not only attracting but also retaining talent. By doing so, companies can ensure that they're not only attracting the best employees but also providing a safe and inclusive workplace for all.

Challenge your pre-existing notions. Conventional trucking feels drivers need to adapt to the trucking job. We instead recommend that trucking adapt to the wide variety of people taking an interest in the occupation. 


Question: Gone overnight are the days of when a driver calls and says: “I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I want to be home a few nights a week. Can you work out a schedule for me?” That’s a lot more challenging today. So how can I keep drivers interested in our jobs while balancing their needs, with the needs of our company, the needs our customers, etc.?

Answer: Creating dedicated driving jobs is a bit more complicated in today’s freight market. To deliver a job that suits all drivers’ needs, fleets should remain disciplined on the freight lanes of their network, identify locations that you pick up and deliver every day, and you’ll be able to accommodate a wide variety of home-time needs as long as you’re hiring within those lanes. 


Question: Is it feasible for for-hire carriers to set up their compensation structures similar to private fleets or to offer guarantee pay? Would that help reduce OTR or for-hire turnover?

Answer:  It's possible for trucking companies to adjust their pay packages to be similar to private fleets, but it's important to note that private fleets have different and complex pay packages as well. Private fleets typically pay a hybrid offering with a fixed-rate for any activity that is not driving, and another method for driving activities. To make changes to payment methods, it's recommended to do a blind test group behind the scenes, where the compensation department is running the pilot on behalf of the drivers. If you’re ready to pilot changes to your compensation plan, lean on our team at NTI to not only supply you with data-based prevalence and pay rates — but also to work closely with your team to develop strategies proven to achieve successful outcomes.

Question: Where can I find what a base-pay would look like with incentives? I’m worried about crossing lines with HR. 

Answer: Yes, there is a place to get base-pay-with incentive examples— reach out on DriverWages.com. As the industry authority on driver compensation data for trucking companies and private fleets, we offer premiere pay studies and benchmarking reports directly suited to fit every company’s individual needs. From OTR irregular route mileage pay to location-based hourly jobs and component/activity pay — broken down by job type, trailer type, region, labor level, and endorsement requirements — NTI data is the only source to lean on when redesigning driver pay plans, adding incentives, understanding the markets you operate in, and building compensation packages that promote recruiting and retention success.  And, we’ll work together with HR, comp, and Ops to ensure you incentivize safety and productivity while prioritizing what drivers need. 


Question: Are you seeing any companies implement retention bonuses? If so, how are they structured?

Answer: Consistency in the way companies reward their drivers is something that’s vital, but incentivising retention is still an emerging trend. Fleets implement retention bonuses and tenure incentives, as they’re much more effective mechanisms for engaging your people for long-term stay than the industry-standard sign-on bonus. Companies typically take an individualized approach to developing a retention incentive structure that responds to where they want improvement. As two examples, retention incentives can be based on miles driven or length of employment. Examine your turnover outcomes, internal KPIs, and other milestones, and then make a determination on where you want to make meaningful improvements.

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