When you are in the process of hiring a new driver, you likely have a lot of criteria to sort through. You need to consider obvious requirements, such as a CDL and specific certifications. But there are uncertain variables that can be more or less important, depending on the specific driver you are looking for. These can include:
One factor of these that can be hard to pin down is experience. How much experience should a driver have? What should be the minimum level of required experience? Is driving experience more important than attitude, communication, or organization?
While you will need to set your own priority for experience, we’d like to help you analyze driver experience to decide how much, or how little, it will affect your hiring decisions.
We take for granted that driving experience matters. Have you thought about why it matters? Identifying why you hire experienced drivers may help determine its overall importance. Most of the time, experienced truckers will require less training and development. You will spend less time explaining the specifics of the position, and the employee will in most cases be able to work independently much sooner.
Experience also creates a measurable gauge for employees. While it’s difficult to rate a person’s attitude or reliability, you can easily look at a resume, or by calling references, and see that one candidate has four years of experience while the other has 24. It is a simple, consistent measurement for all the candidates that walk through your doors.
While it is certainly possible for someone to adjust their overall attitude and trustworthiness, this aspect of a hire is much less likely to change than driving experience level. A person’s character, in many cases, is fixed, but experience level changes every day. You can’t change a person’s attitude or work ethic, but you can change their level of experience and knowledge through training.
In the trucking industry, over-the-road drivers often work independently. This means that hiring someone with the right work ethic and character is essential. Therefore, it’s usually a smart practice to place character traits above experience level in your hiring decisions.
Then there are situations when experience is essential. For example, if you are hiring an OTR driver for a hazmat-related position, then you will need to place experience at a higher priority level than other positions, such as dry van or flatbed hauling. If you are hiring a new driver to meet the need of an important client, then you may place experience high on the list. You probably don’t want to put a high-experience, low-character driver in charge of your top client.
Are there any situations when experience becomes an actual setback for a trucking candidate? While it is rare, you may come across experienced drivers who are set in their ways and unwilling to change. Maybe they worked with a small-Scale trucking company for decades and became used to an informal, disorganized system of time-logging or in-house communication. These drivers might have difficulty adjusting to organized and documented operations.
There are strategies for combating this problem. When interviewing and hiring experienced drivers, establish company expectations and processes from the very beginning. Make it clear that the expectations are non-negotiable. You don’t need to come off as a rigid taskmaster, but you should establish your clear expectation that every employee works within the established organizational framework of the company. This can help prevent previous habits from becoming a future problem.
You should be willing, if not downright happy, to hire inexperienced or low-experience candidates for your over-the-road positions. While it is not your responsibility to train the next generation of drivers, hiring fresh-faced drivers help bring new talent to our industry. If you find an enthusiastic, reliable, high-character driver who is fresh out of CDL school, consider this individual for your company. Treat them right and pay them fair, and you may have a driver that will be with you for decades to come.
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