A driver shortage presents more than a logistical problem. For jan/san distributors, it’s also a customer service nightmare.

“Our drivers are the face of our business,” says Humphrey. “They interact with our customers on a daily basis — more than anyone else in our organization.”

In many cases, drivers aren’t just delivering product, but also handling damage control, customer complaints and even on-site sales. They are critical to the industry. If finding drivers during a shortage is difficult, then finding drivers with great communication and critical-thinking skills is even tougher.

“It’s the highest touchpoint and if you don’t have quality employees interacting with customers, I think that business is in jeopardy,” says Law.

So what are distributors to do? How can they attract quality applicants when the pool keeps getting smaller? And how can they stop the bleeding by retaining their current drivers? 

The days of running an ad for a driving position and receiving 40 resumes are over, says LoPresti. So it’s incumbent upon distributors to get more creative in how they search for people to fill those positions.

EBP Supply has found success in soliciting referrals from their existing drivers, going to driving schools to get in front of future graduates, creating internal training programs to help warehouse workers earn CDL licenses so they can switch jobs, and targeting non-CDL drivers like local delivery drivers or firefighters.

“There are still people interested in driving,” says LoPresti. “You just have to be more creative in how you find them.”

Competitive hourly or per-mile rates and attractive benefits, such as health care and a 401k plan, are key to attracting and keeping quality drivers. 

“We are constantly reviewing driver pay to make sure we are in line with the market for the regions we service,” says Humphrey. “At Imperial Dade, you can be home every night, make a good wage and receive quality benefits which we believe give us a leg up in this very competitive market.”

LoPresti agrees pay is important and says EBP rarely loses drivers because it pays well. However, he warns employers to be careful about applicants who are “following the dollar.”

“As an employer, those are the drivers you don’t want,” he says. “We watch for that in the screening process by looking for a history of bouncing from job to job.”

Although money motivates most people, it’s not the only factor that determines whether a person will accept or keep a job. With driving, in particular, work-life balance is important. It’s a profession with a reputation for long hours.

“It’s the total package, the benefits, the hours, the workload,” says LoPresti. “They’re looking for quality of life. Our drivers are home by dinner. They don’t have an unreasonable amount of overtime. That’s been our mantra over the years.”

Although most jan/san industry drivers only handle local deliveries, some larger companies also need long-haul drivers. Even in those cases, it’s important to offer the best possible situation.

“We run a handful of over-the-road positions, and they are about as good as it gets,” says Law. “Those drivers are in the same vehicle every trip, they have the same days off every week, and they get all the same benefits as our other drivers.

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