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With the impact of the nation’s economy crisis slowly fading in the industry’s rearview mirror and the current pool of drivers aging, many operators are looking to hire quality drivers.
“Business is improving and operators have to hire up to handle the additional workload, whether it be drivers, mechanics, or sales and operations personnel, and that is a good thing,” says United Motorcoach Association (UMA) President/CEO Victor Parra. “The key for those operators when hiring is to be smart about it.”
So, how can an operator be smart about finding, hiring and retaining quality drivers? METRO Magazine spoke to several folks in the industry to find out what tools are available and how their processes work to help you fine tune your own hiring practices.
1. Personality is everything
One positive side effect for operators as a result of the economic downturn and subsequent increase in unemployment a few years back was it expanded the pool of possible new hires.
Despite the growing pool of applicants, however, many operators say it is still difficult to find the perfect match. The key to hiring quality drivers is to know what you are looking for before you begin your recruiting process. A good place to start is the candidate’s personality.
“We don’t look for drivers, we look for individuals we think will be appropriate representatives of our value system and give the best customer service to our passengers,” says Autumn Dipert-Brown, chief operating officer of Arlington, Texas-based Dan Dipert Tours & Coaches. “We do not concern ourselves with finding applicants with experience driving commercial vehicles.”
While Portsmouth, N.H.-based C&J Bus Lines does prefer applicants with not only driving experience but also a clean safety record, James Jalbert, president, and Jamie Lesniak, VP/director, operations, say personality is a huge factor for them.
“It is almost a given you are hiring somebody that can drive, or has those skill sets in place. The next step is taking a look at the personality traits of the individual,” Jalbert explains. “Are we hiring somebody that can deliver excellent customer service and be an ambassador to the clients we serve every day?”
Lesniak adds, personality not only plays a big part in delivering excellent service to customers, but also exposes what a candidate’s tendencies may be behind the wheel.
“It is very obvious personality translates to driving skills,” she says. “If the personality is aggressive and/or complacent, then that translates to how they are on the road.”
Like Dipert-Brown, though, Jalbert says C&J will hire drivers with little or no experience behind the wheel of a motorcoach.
“Right now, we have four or five drivers that have been hired in the last two years that had some or no commercial experience, who we have brought along,” he says. “Sometimes, when you bring a driver in and convert them, a school bus driver or another coach driver, you are inheriting a lot of bad habits.”
In fact, the industry trend is to look for people who have a customer service background or quite simply really like working with people. One factor contributing to that shift is an operation’s desire to stand out from its competition and the realization that good customer service could result in return business.
“The fact of the matter is it is the drivers who are delivering the service that is going to keep the customers happy and coming back,” says Parra. “This is a service business, so for that reason, finding the right people to represent your business is critical.”