If fleets want to reduce turnover and retain more drivers, they must focus more intently on the initial hiring process, according to one fleet recruiter.

“The driver interview is the key to knowing if the driver you are hiring is going to fit the job you have to fill,” said Mitch Bookbinder, director of sales and recruitment for N.J.-based Louis J. Kennedy Trucking, at McLeod Software's 14th annual User Conference. “It's a two-way street: You have to level with them about what the job will require of them, and they have to be honest with you about their driving and work history, job likes and dislikes, etc.”

Bookbinder said the key is to listen to the applicant for 80% to 90% of the interview time, which allows you to get a much better “feeling” as to how the applicant feels about the job.

“For example, at our company, our drivers have to deliver to all five New York City boroughs, are not allowed to have passengers in the cab, and must manage a 130-lb. tarp to cover our flatbed loads,” he said. “That upfront candor is a good thing — it will let them know what the job is really like and whether they can live with that or not.”

With recruiting and retention now costing the industry upwards of $7,000 per driver, Bookbinder said it's wise to be as forthright and blunt as possible during the interview. It's better than having a problem once the driver is in the cab and on the road.

“Let's say you have a 5% profit margin and your driver takes in $3,000 a week in revenue. They'll have to bring in $100,000 in revenue — some 30 weeks or eight months of work — to cover the cost of recruiting and retaining them.” he said. “That's only one reason why screening driver applicants thoroughly is so important.”