When Jason Atkinson noticed signs around South Chicago promoting an ABF Freight hiring event last summer, that piqued his interest. He immediately applied to become a semi-truck driver — although he’d driven box trucks before, he’d never had experience with big rigs.
Atkinson’s application garnered him an email invite to the job fair, where he met with a seasoned driver to learn more about life as an over-the-road driver with ABF. He also interviewed with a company representative.
Within just a couple of months, ABF offered Atkinson a driving position.
“This was a great opportunity for me and such a simple process,” said Atkinson. “I am super happy with where I am and how it worked out.”
As driver constraints have fleet managers laser-focused on recruiting, hiring events—both virtual and in-person—have become an effective way to find new talent and introduce trucking to people that may have never planned on joining the industry.
For ABF, the strategy has paid off: The company hired more than 700 employees including drivers and dockworkers during the first quarter of 2022, with many of those coming through recruitment events.
“At most of these events we are achieving our hiring targets,” said Jason Turner, vice president of talent and growth initiatives at ArcBest, the parent company of ABF Freight.
Hiring events allow fleets to build a rapport with prospective drivers and give businesses the chance to add new employees in locations that are most in need. The customer should be top of mind when choosing a location, Turner said.
“First, look at what your customers need and then work backwards from that,” he said.
"We want a positive experience with a candidate from the first interaction to shaking hands at retirement. ”
ArcBest vice president of talent and growth initiatives
Fleets should also consider bringing current employees to the event to share their perspectives. Having the ability to ask questions of current ABF employees made a good impression on Alfred Cruz, who attended the same South Chicago recruiting event as Atkinson in August 2021.
“I’ve now been working for ABF Freight for 9 months,” Cruz said in an email. “It has been a very comfortable fit for me.”
The pandemic has made virtual events more valuable, and some experts recommend fleets invest in online events to expand their reach. No travel is required, the setup is minimal and the number of attendees isn’t limited.
Jeremy Reymer, founder & CEO of recruitment management platform DriverReach, said leveraging technology cuts costs and is more efficient. One of the biggest issues with in-person events is the expense— booking a venue, creating marketing materials and staffing events quickly adds up.
The payoff may be worth the price, however, especially for smaller fleets.
“Fleets of all sizes can get results (with recruiting events) and I’d say the smaller fleets have an advantage in being able to build more rapport with prospective drivers,” Reymer said.
Whatever the recruitment method, fleets should ensure that candidates have a positive experience with the company, said Turner. Bringing in the right people, offering benefits and showing them a workplace where they want to stay leads to strong retention numbers.
“Once you hire them, follow through so you can retain them,” Turner said. “We want a positive experience with a candidate from the first interaction to shaking hands at retirement.”