This article is part of a larger series on Hiring.
Hiring truck drivers can be essential for keeping your small business operating. Whether you have a shipping company that moves goods across the country or a local delivery business, truck drivers help your company get your goods to your customers on time. Many small business owners get overwhelmed considering how to hire a truck driver. In reality, all you need to do is follow some best practices as you go through the process of determining your needs, posting your job ad, conducting interviews, running background checks, and making your offer.
1. Determine Truck Driver Specifications & Write the Job Description
When hiring truck drivers, you follow a similar process to hiring any other type of employee. That all begins with understanding your needs. The first thing to determine is whether your truck driver needs to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Not every truck driver needs a CDL. If you have a delivery van that’s driven around town, your driver won’t need a specialized license. However, you should still look for someone with experience using the type of vehicle you need driven.
For larger trucks, a CDL comes in different classes, allowing a driver to operate different vehicles with different cargo. Here’s a brief breakdown.
Tractor-trailers, tankers, livestock carriers, flatbeds, most trucks over 26,000 pounds
Dump trucks, city bus, tourist bus, school bus, box trucks
Double trailers, hazmat trucks, passenger vans
If you have larger vehicles in your fleet, you may need a truck driver with a CDL, and you’ll need to include that in your job description. Including this information in the job description is crucial to finding a qualified truck driver. Not only do you need to list the specifics of the job and the skills you’re looking for, but you should include keywords, so truck driver job seekers find your job posting when they search.
Here are some examples:
- Truck driver
- Commercial driver’s license
- The type of truck your company owns and similar models
- Professional driver
At this stage, you also need to determine what you’re going to pay this employee. The average truck driver employee salary is about $50,000 per year. But that amount will fluctuate depending on the skills, education, and experience you require. The more expertise and skill you need the truck driver to have, the more you’ll have to pay to get the right employee.
Alternatively, you could partner with an independent contractor truck driver. The average rate for an independent contractor truck driver is just under $60,000 per year. Although that’s higher than the average salary for an employee, your company must cover additional costs, taxes, and overhead for the W-2 truck driver, making the cost of employing them at least as high as paying an independent contractor.
If you have the ability to let the truck driver determine when and how they work, you could classify them as an independent contractor. But if you need to control that aspect of the truck driver’s job, then they’re a W-2 employee. If you decide to partner with an independent contractor truck driver, make sure you understand the differences, and legal challenges, between 1099 and W-2 employees as misclassifying a truck driver could lead to significant fines and penalties.
Compliance Tip: If your business is hiring a truck driver in certain states, you may need to put your target salary range in your public job posting. Check your state laws to see if you need to comply. Verify whether asking about a candidate’s past salary is allowed in your state as well.
2. Post Job Ad & Review Applicants
After writing your job description, it’s time to post it and start fielding applicants. Besides the specifics of the job, make sure your job ad includes at least a few sentences selling your company. Today’s job market is hotter than ever, and truck drivers have many options when looking for employment. So what makes your company special? What benefits do you offer? Discuss these details and make sure you’ve done research on your competitors so you know if you’re offering above industry standard benefits, something that will give you a competitive advantage.
Once you’ve posted your job ad, you should expect to receive applicants on the same day. The more junior your truck driving position, the more applications you will receive. You need to filter through these applications by removing unqualified candidates. While no applicant will be perfect and check off every box, understanding what your must-haves are for this position can help you quickly eliminate unqualified applicants and move forward with those more in line with your requirements.
3. Conduct Interviews
After reviewing the applicants, narrow down the qualified applicants to those you want to interview. Keep this list to a dozen or so—otherwise you could get overwhelmed and have too many options.
When you have your list of applicants to interview, don’t email them to schedule an interview—call them. Calling candidates gives you the chance to speak with them briefly and gauge their level of interest in the job. It’s also usually faster to schedule interviews over the phone instead of waiting for email responses.
During the interview process, ask similar questions of each candidate. This ensures that you can evaluate each applicant based on their answers to similar questions, making the process fair. Here are some sample questions you may want to consider:
- Describe your most rewarding professional driving experience.
- Have you been involved in any accidents or breakdowns? Describe what happened.
- When you experience a delay in shipment, how do you handle the situation?
- Have you ever missed a delivery deadline? Why did that happen and how did you handle the situation?
- How do you make sure you stay focused and alert while driving?
These questions will help spur conversation but also give you a better understanding of the applicant’s experience and critical thinking skills. Truck drivers, especially long-haul drivers, are alone frequently and must make quick decisions in a vacuum. You need to be able to trust your drivers to make the right decisions. Don’t be afraid to use real-world hypotheticals and gauge how the candidates respond in those situations. For a list of more questions you should ask, check out our best interview questions guide.
4. Call References & Run a Background Check
After completing the interview process, you’ll need to narrow down your choices again. This usually happens naturally, as some applicants will stand out above the rest. Try to narrow your candidates down to no more than three. Ideally, you have ranked your options and have a lead candidate.
Ask each candidate at this stage for at least three supervisory references. You want to speak with at least two of them. Speaking with supervisors is important because they can give you insight into how the truck driver performed on the job, as well as alert you to any red flags.
It’s also vital that you run a background check on the truck driver you want to hire. A background check will reveal whether the driver has any job-related offenses, something that could change your mind about them. Background checks may uncover a truck driver’s past DUI, speeding violations, accidents, and other driving-related issues you want to know before hiring someone to drive your company truck.
Your truck drivers not only represent your business when they’re on the road but they could get your company into trouble if they cause an accident. For example, if your truck driver is making a delivery but has been drinking and causes a crash, your company could be liable for any injuries the driver caused people in other cars. It’s absolutely vital that you ensure your truck drivers have a good driving record and that you regularly conduct compliance and safety training.
Before you run a background check, make sure the applicant has signed off on it. The background check company you use will have a template form you can send to have the candidate sign.
Compliance Tip: Check your state laws. Some states require that companies run background checks after a job offer has been accepted.
5. Make an Offer
Now that you’ve decided which job applicant you want to hire as your next truck driver, it’s time to make an offer. I like to call the candidate first and speak with them, giving them the good news directly. This lets you hear their excitement and gives you both the opportunity to hammer out any final details like salary and start date.
Once those details are finalized, write up a formal offer letter—use our free offer letter template. In the offer letter, make sure to include the job title, job duties, salary, benefits, and the employee’s start date. Send the letter to the applicant and give them at least a few days to review the offer, sign it, and return it to you.
It’s perfectly fine to do all of this electronically too. You can speed up the back-and-forth process by using an online signature platform for both you and the employee to sign the offer letter. Once you’ve received the signed offer letter back from the candidate, you can begin welcoming them to the team.
Hiring a truck driver has nuances you don’t encounter in most other jobs, like needing a clean driving record. However, by following a clear and structured process, you can ensure you make the right hiring decision.