Hire well, train right
To ensure your business’s long-term viability, the best thing you can do is invest in your staff. Heather Jones, Success Transport’s Director, has a simple formula: “Invest in your drivers, say ‘thank you’ and show you appreciate them”.
Hiring: What to look for
Investing in your drivers starts with the recruiting process. There are different ideas about what to look for and how to find the right people. But for Heather, it comes down to two key factors:
“They have to have the aptitude and the attitude,” she says. Beyond that, “you need a thorough training ground, and you have to have people open to being trained.”
It’s a critical point: drivers who think they know it all – regardless of their skills and experience – can be challenging. As your business evolves, it may require drivers to learn new skills, new vehicles and new technologies. A flexible mindset is critical.
Once you’ve found a promising candidate, evaluating their aptitude and attitude is critical. Heather uses a three-stage process:
- Structured interview: “We have a structured interview process to make sure we treat everyone the same.”
- Reference check: “Most of our drivers have been referred by other people, so that’s a key indicator for me.”
- Driving test: “I sit with them in the truck, then we do shadow driving to make sure their behaviour doesn’t change when I’m out of the truck.”
The interview and reference check give insights into a candidate’s attitude; a reference check and road test show you their aptitude.
But Heather adds an important caution: beware of false references and referrals. She’s come across cases where mates refer each other for jobs, even though they don’t have the required skills or experience.
But at the very least, you need to call the referee and talk about the potential recruit. You should also check the referee’s credentials.
Finally, a traffic history check will give you peace of mind about the candidate’s driving record and avoid any legal or insurance complications down the road.
Once you’ve hired a new team member, training becomes all-important. It comes back to attitude, and it’s got nothing to do with age, experience or existing skills, as Heather explains:
“We’ve got so many different areas in the business we can put them [team members] into.
“They’re never bored, and they’re never going to do just one job.”
Even if your business isn’t as diverse as Success Transport, there are still many opportunities to train your staff.
These opportunities reach beyond professional skills such as licences, accreditations and certifications.
“We do tyre training,” Heather says. “First aid. Fatigue is huge. Healthy diet, exercise … there’s so much stuff.”
Value for money?
Some businesses feel constrained by training costs. They make do with buddy systems, mentors and internal training sessions.
These can all deliver great value, but they also risk passing bad habits from trainer to trainee.
The ideal solution is to use both internal and external trainers. This mix can deliver the best of both worlds. In-house training builds relationships and transmits your company culture, while external training adds new skills and fresh perspectives.
For Heather, the value of using such a mix is clear: it cuts recruiting costs, maintenance costs and even insurance costs.
“If you look at our insurance over the last decade,” she says, “you’ll see we’ve had no claims.”
“That’s the return on our training.”
A word on retention
Heather laments the driver losses we’re currently seeing. “A lot of older drivers are leaving the industry because of technology and red tape,” she says.
“We’re losing all of our knowledge and our amazing drivers because it’s too hard with the paperwork.”
Ironically, training and technology are the answer. Training for new and experienced drivers alike builds skills and emphasises that you can always progress your career.
And simple technologies – such as using tablets for pre-start checks rather than paper sheets – can cut the time needed for compliance and allow drivers to concentrate on driving.
“That’s what they want to do,” Heather says. “They want to drive trucks.”
Anything you can do to help them concentrate on that critical task, or get better at it, will help you retain your veteran staff. And with the cost of recruiting a new driver ranging from $20,000 to more than $40,000, it’s a smart investment.
The final word
Ultimately, Heather says, money spent on training is a wise investment for virtually any business. Besides the skills gained, it tells your team that they’ve valued and that you want to help them build a career.
Heather reckons neglecting training is a classic case of a false economy: “You just need to invest in your drivers.”
She says the payoff is simple; as well as the benefits to driver retention and morale, having more skilled staff helps keep your business out of trouble.
“You’re not on the front page of a newspaper because your driver can’t reverse out of a tunnel. You’re not having all those repair and maintenance costs.
“A company’s always got money to rebuild the motor and the gearbox. But they don’t have $3000 for someone to get some training in a truck for a month?”
“Invest in your people, and it will come back ten-fold.”
- This article has been developed as part of NTI’s The Business of Safety series with the aim of helping transport and logistics businesses become safer and more sustainable. The Business of Safety is funded by the NHVR’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, supported by the Australian Government. Information in this document is a guide only. It does not take into account your personal or business circumstances. Whilst all due care has been taken, you must not rely on the information as an alternative to legal, legislated regulatory and compliance requirements associated with your business activities. NTI.M002.17.27082021