Getting and Keeping Truckers on the Road: How One Risk Manager Tackled Talent Risk
Driver safety is at the heart of BLS Trucking’s recruitment and retention efforts. The company, which has struggled with the industry’s high turnover rates, has remade its training programs with the goal of keeping drivers on the road and attracting new employees.
“When you don’t have a driver in the seat, there is definitely, definitely a problem,” said Josh Zimmet, director of corporate operations at BLS.
This problem was something his firm felt acutely, because they operate locally out of lumber yards rather than from a single location.
“If I have seven trucks in a lumber yard and one truck doesn’t have a butt in the seat, then it’s not as bad. But when we have a lumber yard that only has one truck and we need one driver, and you don’t have that, you can see where that creates a major problem,” he said.
The recruitment and retention problems Zimmet noticed were further exacerbated by the fact the company’s traditional methods of recruiting were no longer attracting talent.
“We used to be able to post an ad on Craigslist or something of that sort and drivers would show up,” he explained.
“Well, now you’re trying multiple different avenues of trying to get a driver to show up or people to call you back. We are reaching out and people aren’t returning phone calls, and when there’s not a driver there, ultimately everybody starts asking ‘Well what else can we do?’ ”
In order to answer that question, Zimmet looked for the root cause of the company’s retention problems. He soon determined driver retention could be improved if the company implemented standardized training programs to help make the job safer.
“Once we were able to get people in the door, we need to make sure we kept them,” Zimmet said. “That’s where the lightbulb really came on in realizing that having safe drivers helps us keep drivers. And, obviously, the better drivers want to work for safer companies.”
From that realization, Zimmet made a plan to address recruitment and driver safety as a one-in-the-same issue. The company hired both a training and development specialist and a recruiter who work together to address both safety and driver retention.
Additionally, the company hired two new regional managers, giving it a better manager-to-truck-driver ratio, and they have reconstructed the management team to create a stronger safety culture.
One of the accomplishments Zimmet is most proud of is the implementation of Infinity, an online training program that makes sure BLS’s drivers get the same training. This is a big deal for the company since they operate in 80 locations across 16 different states. Getting the program up and running was a three-and-a-half-year effort for Zimmet and his team.
“Before using Infinity, we had managers who were basically using their own styles of training, and although we had a program for that, no two managers trained exactly the same. But now, using Infinity, we’re able to duplicate that process throughout our whole company,” Zimmet said.
“We’re giving the same training to our drivers in New York get the same training that our drivers in Texas get.”
Since implementing these programs, the company has decreased driver turnover by 25% while continuing to grow at 10% per year. Zimmet said the quality of their applicants has also increased, and they’ve been able to increase driver pay in all markets.
Dave Davis, BLS’s vice president of safety and compliance, admires Zimmet’s innovative approach to mitigating talent risk within BLS.
“He’s very good at reaching out and looking for other ideas,” Davis said. “He takes a different type of approach. He tries to get the company on more of a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach.”
Davis also cited Zimmet’s message about the importance of safety and driver retention as one of the reasons he has been able to succeed in implementing these programs.
“He stays on point. He doesn’t waiver off of it. He stays consistent on his message,” he said.
Zimmet’s focus on driver safety has helped the company retain its drivers and has attracted higher quality applicants to the company. In fact, his new found focus on safety is something that he will never forget.
“I kind of joke with everybody: ‘Once you’re in safety, you can never get out.’ Kind of like Hotel California — you can check in, but you can never check out,” he said. &
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