Working with owner operators in the trucking industry is much different than working with company drivers. If you’re hiring owner operators, the benefits include not having the responsibility of purchasing and maintaining the rigs. Owner operators are also often more experienced drivers and have better safety records. The drawbacks are that it is much more expensive to hire owner operators, with the average salary around $140,000 per year.

Owner operators have different values and personalities than most company drivers. They are more independent, entrepreneurial-minded, and adventurous than the average company driver. Therefore, recruiting owner operators to your company is a whole other ball game from recruiting company drivers. Here are three tips for recruiting owner operators to your fleet.

1. Reach Owner Operators

To recruit the best drivers, you have to reach them where they are. This also applies when recruiting owner operators as well.

There are important differences between owner operators and company drivers in terms of driving experience and media usage.

According to the Overdrive 2016 Connectivity Study, owner operators are about the same age as company drivers, but a higher percentage of them have more years of experience driving. Additionally, owner operators lean more towards consuming printed magazines while company drivers read email newsletters. Shifting your advertising towards printed media outlets will reach more owner operators.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket though, because there are other ways to reach owner operators. It would be unwise to limit advertising to just one source. The study also showed that owner operators heavily use Facebook just as much as company drivers do. Complement print ads with the usual mix of other recruiting channels and platforms such as job boards, e-newsletters, and online forums, including Facebook. According to the survey, owner operators rely heavily on word of mouth, so your job referral program should reflect this insight.

2. Have an Open Conversation

Once you’ve found them, the recruitment process for owner operators will be slightly trickier than for company drivers. You’ll need to be more patient and wait longer for owner operators to decide whether they’d like to sign on. Being honest and straightforward during the recruitment process is important for all candidates, but especially for owner operators. These entrepreneurs are making a big decision to work with your company and need to be confident about that choice.

Not every driver will be right for your company, and not every company will be right for the owner operator.

Take the additional time to make sure it is a good match for both parties before investing in the relationship. If it doesn’t work out, make sure you part on good terms so that it doesn’t affect company reputation adversely.

When trying to match with owner operators, play the long game. While it is usually good to recruit sooner rather than later, you’ll want to take your time a bit more with owner operators. Get to know what job factors will be important to them. If there is a sticking point, like amount of home time, or pay and benefits, then let them know that you can work on it and get back to them. There may be more negotiation and compromise required on the company’s part when working with owner operators. Have realistic expectations of how long the recruitment process will take, and what the relationship will look like once they are on board.

3. Be Consistent and Predictable

There are few things that will irk owner operations as much as recruiters changing their messaging during the process. There shouldn’t be one message from the company during the initial advertising, something different during a recruitment call, and something else entirely during the meeting. In addition to building distrust with the owner operator, it will build a negative reputation which will find its way around to other drivers as well. While it is acceptable to improve the terms during the recruitment process, it shouldn’t be acceptable for recruiters to go back on something that was previously promised.

Owner operators will value clarity and consistency from your company to help them make the decision.

Once drivers are onboarded, predictability will also be valued on the job. Owner operators are more independent minded than the average company driver and will be less adaptable to changing conditions by the company. They want to have the freedom of when to work and being able to choose the loads which they prefer. Owner operators do not look kindly upon too much oversight. They will be looking for some of the same factors which other drivers consider: pay and benefits, communication with dispatchers and others, home time, consistent freight etc. While company drivers may be more forgiving of changes to these preferences, owner operators will value predictability and reliability from the company.

Owner operators can be an attractive option for companies to pursue. There are many advantages of working with them which offset the higher costs and logistics. Knowing what they have in common and where they differ from company drivers can be helpful to recruiters. We know that owner operators are more independent and have different values, and this will affect the recruitment dynamics. Keep in mind these three tips when you’re recruiting owner operators.

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