Trucking companies operate in an industry responsible for transporting nearly 80% of cargo in the United States, and the demand for their services scales with the growth of commerce. This situation, where growing commerce equals increased demand, has created a perennial shortage of truck drivers necessary to keep up with that demand.
This driver shortage is a bottleneck in the supply chain that further exacerbates other supply chain issues that have arisen in recent years. For more than a decade, trucking companies have invested substantial sums of money into combating the truck driver shortage. An entire recruitment industry aimed at hiring drivers for trucking companies has sprung up on the business landscape.
Meanwhile, individual companies have become as competitive when it comes to hiring drivers as they are in seeking new customers. Despite these efforts, the shortage continues and most trucking companies continue to seek new ways to recruit as many drivers as possible.
To help you better understand the best practices for hiring drivers and what is necessary to compete in today’s truck driver hiring market, we’ve put together this guide that covers the aspects of hiring and recruitment and to answer your question: How to hire a truck driver?
Types of Truck Drivers
The type of cargo your company specializes in and the type of equipment you use will dictate your options when it comes to selecting potential candidates.
All drivers who possess a Class A CDL are capable of operating the vehicle legally. But that’s the bare minimum requirement. Other considerations come into play if you are seeking experienced drivers.
Fortunately, many drivers with more than a few years under their belt often have experience across several types of equipment, so it’s always good to ask about their experience with equipment when considering a candidate. Here are the most common types of truck driver equipment and experience:
While a flatbed trailer looks like a simple piece of equipment, the types of loads carried require specialized training in load securement. Drivers with flatbed experience should have thorough knowledge about the proper methods of securing loads. They also need to know about weight distribution, regulations regarding load dimensions, and how to properly tarp loads.
Because experienced truck drivers are more difficult for new companies to recruit, you may find it necessary to focus on recruiting one experienced flatbed driver and use them to train other qualified but untrained or inexperienced drivers in how to safely and properly utilize flatbed equipment.
Dry van truckers
Dry van trailers and the loads they haul are among the simplest types of equipment to operate. Many drivers have gained their first years of experience operating this type of equipment. However, regardless of the type of equipment, drivers with zero experience will remain a liability.
To maximize your capacity, it may be necessary to hire drivers with zero experience.
Because inexperienced drivers are more likely to become involved in costly incidents and have issues with making deliveries on time, it is necessary to take steps to safeguard your company against the liabilities of taking on inexperienced drivers.
The common solution to this problem adopted across the board in the industry among responsible-minded company owners–is to team up inexperienced drivers with an experienced driver who acts as a trainer.
There are some revenue side benefits to this approach because team trucks can cover twice the distance in a week as a solo truck. Meanwhile, the liability risks are lowered because the inexperienced driver has a trainer onboard with them.
The typical length of time used by most companies is measured in miles, and the newer driver is generally ready to go solo after logging 40,000 loaded miles with their trainer.
Tankers are specialized trailers used for the transportation of bulk liquids and gasses. Drivers must possess a tanker endorsement on their Class A CDL to legally operate tankers. A hazmat endorsement will also be required if the tankers are transporting hazardous materials.
Tankers require some specialized knowledge that is covered by the CDL manual and verified by a driver obtaining the tanker endorsement. However, loading and unloading procedures vary according to the type of tanker and cargo being transported. Therefore, it is wise to maintain at least one experienced tanker driver on staff to train and/or verify new hires.
Refrigerated trailers, also known as reefers, are similar to dry van trailers in design and function with the added ability to transport temperature-controlled loads. The experience requirements for dry vans and the training requirements are the same for refrigerated trailers. However, drivers will need experience or be trained in how to operate the refrigerator unit and how to monitor load temperatures.
It is a good idea to require drivers to obtain a tanker endorsement because reefers are frequently used to haul bulk liquid loads consisting of containers in sizes that are regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation and require the tanker endorsement.
The above-mentioned types are the primary modes of cargo transportation in the U.S. However, a wide variety of other types of equipment are in use that is too numerous to list here. The key is to recruit at a minimum, one driver with a wealth of experience in the type of equipment your company uses and designate that driver as your trainer. Doing so will enable you to expand your fleet at a much faster rate.
Because recruiting drivers is so competitive it may be incredibly difficult or impossible to fill your roster without tapping into the inexperienced driver pool. If you are a new company, this will likely be the case. In that instance, to maximize your capacity we recommend looking at drivers who have over-the-road experience in other equipment types and using your current experienced drivers to train them on the equipment during their orientation.
If you are unable to recruit drivers with that expertise and are forced to hire drivers with no experience, you should never send the inexperienced drivers out on their own until they’ve logged a minimum of 40,000 loaded miles while teamed with one of your skillful drivers/trainers.
Essential Skills You Need In a Truck Driver
Regardless of the type of truck driver you are seeking to hire, there are a few basic requirements that must be met. Due to the driver shortage, certain ideals, like appearance, grooming, and other soft skills of that sort are a hindrance to expanding your fleet as rapidly as possible.
The trucking industry is not like other businesses and if you want to fill your trucks with drivers, you’ll need to be more flexible when it comes to the spit and polish side of things. That being said, here are the absolute basics that every potential recruit must possess:
A valid Class A CDL
You may also require new hires to possess the appropriate endorsements for your cargo/equipment type, and/or the willingness to obtain those endorsements upon being hired. If they do not have the endorsements and you require them to obtain these endorsements, it is customary to reimburse the driver for the endorsement costs.
Failure to do so will usually result in the driver leaving your company for another company that will treat them better. This sounds harsh, but it is the reality of the recruitment landscape in the trucking industry.
A clean, safe driving record
Due to the driver shortage environment, it may be necessary to be flexible for minor infractions within reason. Consult with your company’s safety officer in these instances.
Ability to pass a DOT physical
Even if a driver has a current physical it is a good idea to require new hires to obtain a new DOT physical. This way, they are up to date on their physical condition at the time of hiring. Please note, that it is customary for trucking companies to cover the expense of the DOT physical. Failure to do so will result in the driver you just hired leaving for another company.
There are additional soft skills that you should be on the lookout for, although you should think of these more as a bonus to you and less of a requirement:
- A knowledge of the common freight lanes used by the industries you serve.
- Communication skills.
- Specialized knowledge in the equipment types you utilize.
- Knowledge of basic, simple vehicle maintenance (like airing up tires, adding fluids when needed, changing windshield wiper blades, etc.) do not expect your drivers to perform any sort of maintenance beyond these simple essentials.
Due to the complexity of today’s tractor-trailer units, a qualified mechanic should be used. Asking your drivers to do maintenance is going to increase your costs due to additional downtime, improper repairs, and/or additional damage to the equipment. It will also often result in drivers leaving your company for another company if maintenance issues are improperly addressed).
How to Find Truck Drivers
The best way to find truck drivers begins with maximizing your visibility. Put out as many help-wanted postings as possible including the popular job posting sites like:
You can also contract with recruiting companies like
While you’re at it, don’t overlook classified ads, trade journals, hiring signs on your trucks and trailers, and truck stop bulletin boards. Although visibility is essential when it comes to hiring drivers because it lets them know you’re hiring, it’s not enough to invite them to pick up the phone.
It’s important to keep in mind the competitiveness of the hiring side of the trucking industry and plan accordingly.
It is also important to make sure you’re providing the information drivers are looking for when making a decision on whether or not to hire you as their employer, because that is the reality of the industry. If a driver is unhappy with your company, they simply hop on Tenstreet or another similar service, and they start getting job offers within minutes. From there they are on a bus to their next company’s terminal, and you’re short a driver.
What Information Are Truck Drivers Looking to Get?
Today’s truck drivers have over 2,000 trucking companies to choose from and are becoming increasingly selective. This means that hiring drivers is more about what you can do to impress them, than what they can do to impress you. This is especially true when it comes to recruiting experienced drivers.
You may offer what you feel is an enticing hiring package, but if they see even the simplest little thing they don’t like, they’ll pass you up for someone else.
Here’s a list of information drivers are looking for that you need to provide or make sure of in order to recruit successfully:
Your company’s reputation
Potential driver recruits with experience will consider your company’s reputation within the driver community. They will talk to your current drivers if they come across them, and don’t be surprised if they ask to talk to one of your drivers before they agree to come on board with your company.
They will want to know how you treat your drivers, how honest you are, etc. If you’re a new company without a reputation you’re immediately better off in the reputation area than a lot of the major carriers. Pay attention to your company’s image and reputation. It’s an essential element of successful recruitment.
Your company’s safety record
Experienced drivers can and will make inquiries into your company’s safety record. Their lives and their licenses are highly dependent on companies that are ethical and conscientious about safety. If a company has been cutting corners when it comes to safety, they’ll know about it. Failure to maintain a safe record has forced many companies to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it comes to potential recruits, further compounding the issue.
For example, it’s quite common to find out that a company with a bad safety record has been employing drivers with bad safety records, because those are the only drivers that will sign with them. It’s a difficult position for a company to get out of once it’s happened and bankruptcy isn’t far away at that point.
Your company’s maintenance practices
Experienced drivers will make inquiries into your company’s attention to maintenance issues. They will talk to mechanics across the country, and other drivers, and in many instances your safety record can also tell the tale of your maintenance practices without a driver ever needing to see your company’s policy manual. Poor maintenance means more downtime, less money, and more potential citations and accidents for a driver so if your company has been cutting corners when it comes to maintenance, it will negatively affect your success in hiring.
Your company’s hometime policy
Driver’s have families, friends, and a life outside of work just like everyone else. The type of hometime policy you implement for your drivers will directly affect the number and kind of drivers willing to consider you. The more flexible you can be hometime, the more successful your recruiting efforts will be.
Your company’s pay rate
Experienced drivers go where the money is. If you’re not matching or beating other companies’ pay rates, you’re going to have a harder time recruiting.
Your company’s sign-on bonus
If you’re unable to offer a sign-on bonus, you’ll have to look hard for other ways to entice drivers to even think about driving for you. As of 2022, sign-on bonuses offered by your competitors range from $1,000 to $15,000 with many companies offering the middle of that range. If you have no sign-on bonus, you’ll find it even more difficult to recruit.
Your company’s benefits package
Your competitors are becoming increasingly aware of the power of strong benefits packages and the allure of perks. Full-spectrum health benefits are important and should not be overlooked. The better you can make your benefits package, the easier it will be to hire and retain drivers.
Your company’s perks
A new tactic adopted by many companies in recent years is to add additional perks for their drivers. It’s now to the point that the quality and number of perks you can provide will affect your recruitment efforts. These are the little things that make life on the road more comfortable. Companies have started offering their drivers perks like Free mobile satellite TV, mobile carrier discounts, free SiriusXM radio, gym memberships, motel/hotel discounts, customizable truck graphics, same-day pay, and more.
Your company’s operation area
If you operate in all 48 states, drivers will want to know how often they will have to go to the Northeastern region and California. For many drivers, those two regions are a make-or-break item on your list of offerings.
As a general rule, if they live outside these two areas, they will be less likely to sign with you, and many experienced drivers have joined a growing trend of refusing to work for companies that operate in either the Northeast or California.
Your company’s equipment
Experienced drivers prefer up-to-date, late model trucks and trailers. They have manufacturer preferences and a few may decline to drive for you because you’re not operating their preferred make of truck. While they are on the road for their current employer, they will be looking for your trucks.
They will look for any obvious maintenance issues, they will pay attention to how your drivers operate the equipment, and they will pay attention to how clean and well kept your equipment is. In fact, contrary to popular belief, potential driver recruits show more interest in the state of your equipment and drivers than your customers do.
Your company’s website
Potential driver recruits will go to your website. Make sure you have all the above items listed in an easy-to-read and easy-to-find format. Be transparent about what your company can offer. If you withhold information that a driver deems critical, for example, the above-listed items, they will remove your company from consideration.
Recruiting drivers, especially when you're starting a new company will be difficult. A lot will depend on your reputation. Make sure you treat your drivers well and with respect. Don’t cut corners when it comes to safety and maintenance.
Be transparent to potential recruits about what you can and can’t offer. Always be honest and ethical. Nothing destroys a trucking company’s reputation or puts a company into bankruptcy faster than lying to their drivers or cheating them out of their pay, hometime, or benefits. When it comes to recruiting, be selective, but hold up your end of things as an outstanding employer because without drivers, you’ll be unable to conduct business.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Truck Driver?
The cost of hiring a truck driver can range from $2,000 to $15,000 per driver, depending on who you ask. An Upper Plains Transportation Institute research estimated an $8,234 average cost per employee across 15 different employers in 2001. After inflation, that equates to nearly $12,719 in 2021. Other losses and the long-term implications of excessive turnover must also be considered.
The future of the truck driver shortage and your bottom line is dependent on not only how well you hire, but how well you work to retain drivers. Companies that focus on driver retention will experience lower turnover, more efficient operations, and reduce their long-term recruitment costs.
How to Interview a Truck Driver
As a trucking company, you can’t conduct business without drivers. So when you have an interested applicant, and they’ve passed their background checks, it’s time for an interview and at that interview, you need to make a good impression. To help you do that here are some tips:
- Be friendly but respectful with the truck driver recruit.
- Stick to the scheduled time for their interview no matter what comes up. If you’re even a minute late, that may negatively affect their impression of your company and cost you the recruit.
- Do not allow the interview to be interrupted.
- Ask the driver questions about where they’ve operated, what types of equipment they’ve operated, what kind of cargo they’ve hauled, basic safety and maintenance questions, load security procedures, and other relevant questions related to the truck driving profession.
- DO NOT ASK stock interview questions that are used in other industries and businesses like: What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness? What do you feel you can bring to our company? And any other question along these lines. Throw out all the questions like these that are used in other industries. Using them will indicate to the driver that you lack experience as a trucking company. It may be offensive enough that they walk out of the interview and go to work for your biggest competitor. Mind what you say to them. They are professionals in a unique industry with unique demands and a unique way of doing things.
- Have strong working knowledge about the industry and your company’s operations, policies, and procedures. This is important because, in the typical truck driver interview, they will be asking you more questions than you have for them. It is an odd situation where you are the employer, but the driver is doing the hiring.
- Be ready to answer their questions smartly, and without delays. But if you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, tell them you don’t know and reach out to someone at your company who can answer the question as quickly as possible. You need to impress and convince them you’re worth working for and you need to seal the deal in the interview. That’s because most truck drivers who are seeking a new company are often interviewing at multiple companies, either in person, virtually, or over the phone. You will not be their only interview of the day, or even the week for that matter.
Hiring experienced truck drivers can be an uphill battle for a new trucking company. But without them, you’ll be at risk of higher liability and reduced operational efficiency. The importance of their position as truck drivers is higher than even the position of the company owner. That’s because without drivers you cannot conduct business. Plain and simple. They are more important than your mechanics, dispatchers, planners, or any other position you create within your company.
It is important to provide the information drivers are looking for when they are making a decision on whether or not to hire you as their employer. That is the hiring reality of the trucking industry.
Truck drivers are your most important asset, the means by which you can complete contracts and earn revenue. If you treat your drivers with the respect they deserve for making the sacrifices for your company, it will be easier to hire drivers and retain them which will make it easier, more profitable, and faster for you to expand your company.