Even before truck driver shortages were making headlines due to the coronavirus, long-haul driver turnover averaged 94% on an annualized basis. With the additional challenges imposed by the pandemic, some companies’ turnover rates are as high as 150%.
“The trucking industry is short 80,000 drivers, a record high,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations. “That’s a 30% increase from before the pandemic.”
For U.S. Xpress Enterprises, the fifth-largest asset-based truckload carrier in North America, a fresh approach to recruiting was required to break the industry norm. This new approach included operational and recruiting innovations that transformed the company while launching Variant, the fastest-growing truckload carrier in the industry.
“In a competitive industry like ours, you have to find ways to think differently,” said Jacob Kramer, vice president of talent acquisition at U.S. Xpress Enterprises.
In a time when many trucking companies are struggling to retain and hire drivers, the U.S. Xpress recruiting team is achieving double-digit, quarter-over-quarter hiring growth — all without big, across-the-board sign-on bonuses or hiring students, which had become industry default practices for U.S. Xpress and many others for years.
Even more astounding, Variant, the newest U.S. Xpress brand, grew from five drivers to 1,500 in its first 20 months. Considering that most companies in the industry are trying to minimize driver loss, the hiring growth U.S. Xpress and Variant have achieved over the last year has been incredible. Many have questioned how recruiting and HR played a pivotal role in this trajectory and what strategies were activated to achieve these aggressive goals.
“To begin with, we challenged everything,” said Kramer. “The entire candidate journey was evaluated. We applied our extremely talented people and implemented technology that automated and optimized every touch point. We also activated partners who shared our vision and goals.”
U.S. Xpress questioned every preconceived idea about how driver recruiting was supposed to be done. It asked big questions about how to improve the company and the industry. That frequently meant challenging long-held notions about what works in recruiting, including:
- How can the driver experience be improved?
- How can technology alleviate hiring pain points for drivers and the company?
- How can data drive continuous hiring improvement?
- How and when can the human touch reduce anxiety and improve driver hiring?
Kramer also leveraged experts from companies outside the trucking industry. This included multiple Fortune 500 organizations that hire more than 100,000 people a year. The goal was to glean new ways of thinking and to discover ways to integrate consumer strategies into driver recruiting.
New lead-to-hire strategy
Armed with insights gathered from their research and partnerships, the U.S. Xpress team developed a three-pronged, lead-to-hire approach that would require the company to reinvent its recruiting process and develop new technologies.
1. Innovate and develop technologies to improve the driver experience.
2. Activate 24/7 recruiting and support.
3. Focus on historically underrepresented groups.
Truly differentiated employee value proposition
U.S. Xpress and Variant set out on a path to make real improvements in the driver experience, equipping the recruiting team to share a meaningful employee value proposition with candidates. Part of that employee value proposition was a first-of-its-kind fleet management optimization platform that dramatically simplified drivers’ lives by improving load efficiency. Drivers are now getting better-optimized loads, earning more and getting home more predictably.
New recruitment technology
The one constant in this industry is that drivers are always on the go and don’t have time for the typically tedious recruitment process. U.S. Xpress and Variant knew that it would be critical to create a process that catered directly to the mobile driver. To fill the need, they pioneered two proprietary pieces of technology. One uses advertising data points to get the right message in front of the right driver at the right time. The other creates custom, trackable landing pages for every ad and message with near-instant load time, even when cell service is slow.
The launch of these two recruitment technologies greatly reduced media waste and allowed both companies to scale up hiring volume, while maintaining the overall average cost per hire. Over the last two quarters, they have consistently broken driver lead volume and hiring records to maintain a consistent pipeline of experienced drivers coming through the funnel.
Activating 24/7 recruiting
Driver candidates often have questions and explore opportunities after normal business hours, when recruiters are typically unavailable. While this is understandable, it has remained the status quo in the industry for years.
What’s worse, even during typical business hours, drivers end up waiting to hear back from a recruiter. Often by the time a recruiter gets back to them, drivers have accepted other offers or have several to choose from.
U.S. Xpress and Variant saw this as an opportunity to create a better experience for the driver. The implementation of the 24/7 recruiter strategy now delivers a driver candidate call, or application, to the recruiting team every 39 seconds, dramatically increasing the number of drivers in the pipeline and reducing driver candidate attrition.
Targeting historically underrepresented groups
Reaching some driver communities can be challenging. Issues of language, culture and awareness have historically made it difficult to recruit from Hispanic and military communities. Traditionally, the status quo approaches do not make it easy for such communities to make it through the hiring funnel. So U.S. Xpress and Variant committed to changing that.
For Hispanic audiences, U.S. Xpress and Variant created a full-funnel language approach that included not just Spanish advertising but Spanish-language applications and Spanish-speaking recruiters and support staff — a 360-degree approach to truly make Hispanic drivers feel welcome and needed. In fact, Variant’s 1,500th seated truck was with a Spanish-speaking driver.
In interviewing military personnel, U.S. Xpress and Variant realized the challenge is often twofold. First, exiting military personnel need clear communication that they and their military experiences are valued and wanted. And second, they need and want guidance in transitioning from the military to a commercial truck driving life. U.S. Xpress and Variant’s efforts in both areas have now earned them recognition as a Top Military Employer.
Interestingly, U.S. Xpress and Variant’s close work with the military also led them to discover another overlooked community: Afghan refugees. Being onsite at military bases, U.S. Xpress and Variant found a unique opportunity to connect with refugee populations and explore opportunities to partner with them.
Recruiting success highlights
The combination of U.S. Xpress’ innovations in recruiting technologies, 24/7 recruiters and targeting historically underrepresented groups has resulted in remarkable success.
Every 18 seconds there is a user exploring job opportunities with U.S. Xpress and Variant. Since March 2020, more than 3 million unique users have visited their recruiting sites, generating more than 240,000 leads. And there seems to be no sign of it slowing down. In fact, during the last three months, U.S. Xpress and Variant have each broken lead volume records four times.
Variant has broken three new hiring records over the last eight weeks. In fact, while many carriers are giving up on finding experienced drivers, Variant is achieving a 300% increase in experienced driver hires versus last year.
Military and Hispanic driver hires are up
In addition to being recognized as a Top Military Employer, U.S. Xpress and Variant’s innovative outreach efforts to recruit military veterans have resulted in U.S. Xpress and Variant being designated military-friendly employers by VIQTORY.
U.S. Xpress and Variant launched the trucking industry’s first comprehensive Hispanic hiring campaign that included:
- First Spanish truck driver recruitment advertising.
- First Tenstreet Spanish language application bilingual recruiting team.
- Bilingual support staff.
Recruiting automation scaling:
- 400,000-plus total touch points since launch.
- Integrated Avatar demographic selection synced with U.S. Census data.
- Averaging 68 seconds from time of interaction to interview scheduled.
- 300-plus candidate care topics activated.
- Ability to communicate in multiple languages.
U.S. Xpress’ experienced dedicated driver hires are at an all-time high, breaking records three times over the last quarter and exceeding last year’s hires by 40%.
“When you combine great people with exceptional technology and integrate your team within your customer’s business [operations], the rigor and results will follow,” said Kramer.
Even in today’s challenging hiring environment, hiring growth is achievable if you are willing to question the status quo and truly innovate your approach.
- Listen to what your target audiences want and provide it.
- Listen to what your data is telling you and act on it — even if you have to invent the technologies to do it.
- Identify audiences that you’re traditionally overlooking and make a concerted effort to connect with them.
These driver strategies have been so effective that they are now being applied within all groups of talent acquisition at U.S. Xpress. Shop technician recruitment gained one of the largest hire months this last quarter and corporate recruiting is on the same trajectory — all reasons these innovative strategies have just been awarded the 2022 Big Innovation Award.