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How to hire for truck drivers of the future.


Meredith Stack


Trucks move almost everything we purchase—food, clothing, appliances, and everything in between. Despite the high demand for truck drivers to move those goods, it's never been more difficult for recruiters to find and hire the talent they need to fill the driver's seat. The American Trucking Association (ATA) says the industry is short at least 50,000 drivers. By 2024, estimates indicate the shortage will reach 175,000 drivers.

The industry’s biggest challenges are replacing retiring drivers—the average driver age is 49 years, according to reports from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Companies also experience difficulties when trying to recruit female candidates—in 2016, only 6 percent of drivers were women.

"Many carriers, in spite of being short on drivers, are highly selective in hiring drivers because they have made safety and professionalism high priorities," the chief economist for the ATA told SHRM.

To complicate matters, the role of truck drivers will change as technology evolves. While trucks will become more automated, many situations still require human oversight. Situations like a flat tire, navigating traffic jams, and interactions with customers are better handled by humans, than machines.

So, what competencies will make human behavior more valuable as things become more automated in the future?

Complex problem-solving.

When something goes wrong, a person can appraise tangible and intangible elements and make judgment calls that may not be possible for machines. Complex problem-solving skills help people remain objective and arrive at the best solution to overcome obstacles.

Creativity.

When a driver encounters traffic jams and tight delivery schedules, they need to have the ability to develop unusual or bright ideas. Multiple times a day, drivers are required to not only get a load to its destination, but they're also required to move materials around a warehouse, construction site, or other location. Creativity allows someone to consider multiple vantage points and to address problems differently.

Empathy.

Although we may think truck driving doesn’t involve much interaction with other people, it’s quite the opposite. Truck drivers engage with others throughout their day—on the road and when making deliveries. While professionals in other industries interact with the same people every day, that’s not the case for truck drivers. They must adapt to new people at every stop.

As they engage with the many people they encounter, it's essential for drivers to be concerned with other people's thoughts and feelings when making decisions or interacting with others. Whether or not they possess empathy enables them to be successful when providing customer service, speaking professionally, and using active listening skills to solve a customer issue in the moment.

As you think about how to solve for the talent shortage and the changing landscape of work, don’t lose sight of the competencies that truck drivers will need. By focusing on competencies, you will uncover candidates you might miss relying on resumes alone.

Assess for competencies.

Pre-hire tests, like Berke, measure the personality and cognitive traits that predict whether or not candidates have the competencies required to excel. With assessments, you get to know candidates beyond the information they share on their resumes and in interviews. At Berke, we first help customers validate the competencies they should focus on, and then we map those competencies back to the personality traits and cognitive abilities that we measure. The result is a predictive hiring profile that helps you identify the best candidates.

Hispanic truck driver stands beside his rig

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