Kim Theken remembers how things used to be in the world of driver recruiting and retention — and with more than a little horror. “It's the waiting that really got to you — waiting for forms to be faxed back from the driver at a truckstop out in who-knows-where, for DAC [Drive-A-Check] reports, for MVR [motor vehicle records] and criminal background checks to be completed. Wait, wait, wait,” she says of that time just 13 years ago. “It would take literally days to pull together all the forms, reports, records and DOT [Dept. of Transportation] compliance data you needed.”

Theken, who spent eight years collectively with Dallas-based JanPak Inc. and nearly three years as director of driver recruiting and retention at Arrow Trucking, based in Tulsa, OK, also notes it didn't make things any better when, after all that time spent waiting, potential hires had to be sent packing due to their rap sheets or poor driving records.

“We'd get a lot of leads, but they'd have incomplete information, and we'd spend our time and money filling in those blanks only to eventually disqualify them,” she says. “When it costs $5,000 to $8,000 to recruit a new driver, false starts add up in a hurry.” Add in the mounds of paperwork to be completed and shared between recruiting personnel, the safety department, operations, etc. If critical pieces went missing, the process was set back further.

DATA INTEGRITY

“Driver application integrity is vital as you pass that information back and forth between departments, with completed criminal background checks a major concern today,” Theken stresses. “It's important to have that all wrapped up the closer the driver gets to orientation.”

That's where technology stepped into the breech. While at Arrow in 2004, Theken tapped Tenstreet LLC, a Tulsa, OK-based software provider, for its Xpress application suite to help streamline the carrier's recruitment process. Arrow quickly eliminated the lag time between receiving driver applications and ordering the requisite DAC and MVR reports — moving to an online ordering format that reduced waiting time from days to hours.

Tenstreet's software also allows more work to be done paperless: applications and reports are collated online, adding the ability to pass all this information in a single, integrated file back and forth between departments faster and far easier.

“The real benefit to recruiters here is it lets them quickly ID the obvious knockouts — the drivers with criminal records, poor MVRs, etc.,” says Tim Crawford, Tenstreet's president. “But this also benefits drivers as well. First, it allows for a far faster hiring process. Second, it alerts drivers to potentially inaccurate information in their DAC reports or MVRs that can be ID'd and addressed as part of the recruitment process.”

For Theken, who later left Arrow to join Tenstreet as a sales administrator, the time savings from software- and electronic-driven recruitment process proved to be the biggest benefit from the carrier's perspective. “We took a three-day or longer process and reduced it to two hours at Arrow. It was just a huge time savings,” she says. From that, she was able to reorient her staff of eight recruiters to focus entirely on recruiting drivers instead of being bogged down by administrative details.

“Most drivers have laptops now anyway, so we really speeded up the application process,” she says. “Best of all, we didn't have people waiting around the fax machine anymore.”

The time savings technology brings to the driver application screening process is what it's all about, says Tom McLeod, president and founder of Birmingham, AL-based McLeod Software.

“The difference between taking days to process and verify an application in an automated and paperless fashion versus the traditional paper-laden process that takes weeks could ultimately be the difference between hiring the qualified driver you really want and losing that same qualified driver to another company that processed the paperwork first,” he says.

McLeod recently rolled out a new product called HirePower that allows a driver candidate to input his or her application to a secure, remote web site. The application is then automatically made available to all members of a carrier's recruiting team, assigning tasks to minimize work while simultaneously verifying and storing the 30 or more qualifying documents in a typical application package. The end result is a fully compliant application package processed in a controlled and rapid manner, McLeod says.

“The whole point of technology here is to control and streamline the driver hiring process and monitor work flow,” he explains. “With HirePower, driver application data can be flagged with automatic task lists and alerts that are issued to team members responsible for verifying DOT compliance, drug screenings and employment history. Driver data is verified and stored while forms that require a driver's signature are scanned back into recruiting files and automatically indexed into an organized electronic ‘filing cabinet,’ at the same time automatically identifying gaps in employment history.”

CHANGING TACTICS

Those benefits — to both drivers and carriers alike — are what drove Lloyd Tempero to develop a similar electronically based driver screening process for trucking company KLLM Transport Services, of Jackson, MS, 15 years ago. This product is now the core offering of Greenville, CO-based RapidHire.

“The significant change in recruiting tactics over the years is the compliance issue,” Tempero, president of RapidHire, explains. “The information in the DAC reports produced by USIS [of Falls Church, VA], MVR data and criminal background checks are all critical pieces of the recruiting process, but you don't want them to create bureaucratic delays that slow the process down either.”

“The key thing is not to waste either the recruiter's or driver's time,” adds Mark Reese, RapidHire's vp-sales. “You want to get to the nitty-gritty as fast as possible.”

Being able to certify a driver quickly via electronic measures also helps in terms of retention, Tempero stresses. “A big factor we've noted in recent driver surveys is that the company was able to offer [drivers] a job right away without a lot of hassle,” he says.

It also gives a carrier a lot more flexibility when it comes to assessing its pool of candidates, both today and in the future. “Maybe the driver applicant isn't qualified today to be hired based on their experience level, but maybe in three or six months they could be,” Tempero notes. “Because our system captures all the information from the applicant electronically, we can archive it and re-address the driver later at a specific time. That way, the applicant information becomes a company asset instead of a burden.”

REDUCING RISK

One of the biggest benefits fleets realize from such driver screening systems is the reduction of risk — minimizing the chance that a driver hiding a poor record or job-churning pattern of employment walks through your door and deposits those issues in your lap.

“The trucking industry has been experiencing a profound shortage of truck drivers, so the industry is tapping into a pool of nontraditional candidates like never before. That's why assessing them to evaluate risk factors is more crucial than ever,” explains Winfred Arthur, Ph.D., chair of the department of industrial & organizational psychology at Texas A&M University.

“Transport carriers urgently need to seat drivers, but making unsound hiring decisions will lead to poor economic performance and sometimes catastrophic consequences for both the carrier and the public at large,” Arthur says. “Assessing commercial driver candidates prior to employment can lead to dramatic improvements in both safety and performance. It is just that predictable.”

Pittsburgh-based Select International, a global provider of assessment products and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) among other systems, applied Arthur's research to the development of its new RoadWorthy system, which helps provide more intelligence to the driver screening process.

“Our goal in introducing RoadWorthy is to help transportation companies hire safe and competent drivers and seat them in a revenue-producing truck quickly and efficiently,” says Dr. Matt O'Connell, executive vp and co-founder of Select International. “It's about being more effective at identifying and eliminating candidates with risk-prone behaviors.”

BIGGER PICTURE

O'Connell says that RoadWorthy's assessment captures important “psychometric” information about a candidate's attributes, including driving habits, risk assessment capabilities and other key competencies. It then collates the applicant's response data to provide the trucking firm with a recommendation on whether the candidate should progress to the next stage of the selection process. He also notes that while RoadWorthy is a web-based system, applicants without computer access will be able to use a telephone-based interactive voice response system being developed by his company.

“It's all about reducing turnover and further ensuring that carriers are hiring safe driver candidates,” he explains. “Also, our solution is capable of assessing many different types of drivers — long-haul, short-haul, delivery, etc.”

Systems like these are also about getting more involvement from the entire trucking company in the driver screening, hiring and retention process via the data they collect, stresses RapidHire's Reese. “All fully integrated systems like ours allow top executives to look at recruiting and turnover trends,” he says. “The safety department uses that same information to develop specific driver orientation checklists, perhaps segmenting driver candidates based on overall trucking experience or specific skill sets. Separate categories can even be created for owner-operators and independent contractors.”

It's also about turning all that cumbersome paperwork into far more easily accessed electronic data so fleets can be more proactive rather than reactive in the driver recruiting process, says Ron Symanski, sales manager-planning and compliance for Colorado Springs, CO-based Prophesy Transportation Solutions.

“It's about replacing all those cabinets filled with paper files and instead having all the driver data gained at the point of application available for easy access,” he says. “You want that ‘one-stop shop’ data repository so recruiting department, safety department and any number of other groups within the fleet can get the information they need without delay. Nothing gets lost when files are shared, either. It just makes the entire hiring process faster, more efficient, and more effective.”