Winning the Driver Recruiting Wars for Gen Z Talent

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If your company is having trouble hiring the drivers you need, you’re not alone. The American Trucking Association says there’s a national shortfall of 80,000 drivers, an all-time high, that could grow to 160,000 by 2030, especially with expected retirements of older drivers. The biggest need continues to be for over-the-road, long-haulers. Wouldn’t you like to bring on more drivers at the beginning of their careers?

Driver candidates have lots of options—joining another carrier, becoming an owner operator, or pursuing countless career opportunities outside of trucking. So you need new and different approaches to successfully recruit and retain good drivers, especially those 25 or younger—the so-called “Generation Z.”

We talked with Relay Payments Chief Marketing Officer David Barak for his insights addressing the current driver shortage and overcoming the unique challenges of hiring and keeping Gen Zers:

Compensation: It goes without saying that the pay and benefits you offer must at least be competitive. If you’re prone to paying your people the bare minimum you can get away with, read no further because none of the rest will matter. (There are plenty of other places you can find to reduce costs in your business—here’s an example of how large carrier Southeastern Freight Lines is saving big-time with Relay’s digital payment solutions.) Pay your drivers well or don’t be surprised if you can’t hire or keep them.

Company ownership: It can be powerful to enable each employee to become an owner of the company, at least in a small way. “At Relay, we have a philosophy that everyone here is an owner,” David says. “Your carrier company could do something similar. Small stock grants each year would come with a vesting period that encourages people to stay, and to benefit from the company’s success. It may be a nominal amount, especially in the beginning, but it says a lot about the relationship between the company and its people. Some carrier companies are now taking the same approach with their drivers and it’s working for them.”    

Brand thinking: “Just as a trucking company works hard to build a successful brand in the marketplace, they can apply that thinking to appeal to young drivers,” David says. “First of all, get away from labels like ‘company drivers’ which can make people feel like the company wants to own them. That goes against the natural independence of the generation.”

Those in their young 20s understand the need to cultivate their own personal brand. “They don’t want to have their brand subsumed by the company brand. They want to feel the company is investing in each of them as a person and an individual brand,” he says. “Professional development opportunities should be readily available, and not put in place just to enable drivers to meet the organization’s goals but to help the individual driver meet his or her own professional and personal goals.”

Empathy: “Drivers of all ages want to know that the company management knows their job is hard and that they care about their drivers as individuals,” David says. “This should be apparent from the beginning, in the interview process. Rather than focusing on the question of why the company should hire the candidate, you flip the focus to what the company can offer the candidate both in terms of compensation and quality of life as well.”

Processes and technology: The work experience has to measure up to what the candidate heard in the interview, of course, or the new driver will soon be gone. “You don’t really know what you are in for until about the first three weeks on a job,” he says. “If a new driver finds the processes at a company clunky or onerous, don’t be surprised when they leave right away. The work experience should be easy to navigate and joyful or why should they stay?”

Technology is especially important to Gen Z drivers. “The 25-year-old is used to consumer-grade experiences without hassle or friction. Like tapping their credit card on the reader to check out at the grocery or coffee shop. No driver wants to be held up on the dock for a payment to be processed, and the younger generation that’s used to seamless experiences may have even less patience for annoying delays.”

To learn more about how Relay can help improve your drivers’ experience with digital payment solutions, click here.

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