Attract Top Truck Drivers to Your Fleet

Few factors influence a fleet's operations and bottom line as significantly as its employees. But with 3.54 million professional truck drivers and 168.6 million registered trucks on the road, the fight to draw and retain high-quality drivers is fiercer than ever.

Attract Top Truck Drivers to Your Fleet

By Neil Pope, for The Inside Lane

Today’s truck drivers aren’t simply looking for a paycheck, while companies need people behind the wheel with more than just a clean CDL.

How can these two needs come together to form the best partnership? Here, industry experts weigh in on what makes a successful partnership between companies and drivers to find out what is needed in the current state of the market.

Standing out in a crowded marketplace to appeal to top-tier drivers and companies is essential. For companies who want to attract the best drivers, industry leaders agreed: success begins with identifying the key qualities that exceptional truck drivers share.

Identifying exceptional driving talent

Employers should zero in on a driver's employment history as there are few places for bad habits to go unnoticed, said Ray James an industry expert who developed training for CDL Training Online and maintains the site at Gary’s Job Board, an employment site geared towards drivers.

"A long work history coupled with a perfect driving record is ideal,” James explained. 

Additionally, he notes that top drivers in the industry tend to “do all the extra work needed in regards to safety and load management. They work hard, get the job done, and are very dependable.”

Conversely, frequent job changes can raise concerns. 

Cam McGill, senior diagnostic technician with telematics provider Uptake, suggests taking a close look at job history and seeing how long drivers tend to stay with one company.

“Some drivers switch companies frequently to capitalize on sign-on bonuses, and your company won’t be treated any differently,” said McGill.

What in-demand drivers want

To lure top talent, McGill highlights two critical factors that set companies apart: driver compensation and reliable equipment.

"The elephant in the room is compensation," he noted. “You have to compensate to attract talent.”

While pay varies across the country, the average U.S. truck driver salary is more than $83,000 a year, according to CloudTrucks. Starting out, new truck drivers could make between $30,000 to $50,000 annually. The average salary of owner-operators is between $190,000 and $542,000 per year, CloudTrucks reports.

Pay is important, but dependable equipment is paramount.

Reliable equipment means that the wheels will keep turning, both for the driver and the business. This underscores the importance of not only offering competitive pay but also ensuring that drivers can consistently stay on the road to maximize their earnings.

"When a driver is broken down at the side of the road, they're not earning money," McGill said.

Companies like Uptake are witnessing a broader number of fleets adopting predictive maintenance to increase vehicle reliability and enhance driver satisfaction. Said McGill, "If you can make a few more cents per mile but are constantly breaking down, drivers will opt for the safer bet — even if it means slightly lower pay."

Leveraging referral programs

Having a referral program can be a game-changer in winning over in-demand truck drivers. These are structured systems that reward employees for referring drivers who are subsequently hired.

"A referral program is a smart move because it leverages your existing workforce to find top talent. Employees are unlikely to recommend someone they don't trust or think capable,” McGill noted.

This approach tends to speed up the hiring process and leads to higher-quality candidates. Referred candidates tend to have a higher retention rate – almost double, according to data from Zippia.

"Having a referral program and then looking at how many applicants were referred by a current driver is a good benchmark. It also shows the happiness of your drivers," McGill added.

What is the most important factor in hiring a new driver for your team? Let us know by sending an email to the editor at

Communication is key

Top drivers look for companies that prioritize long-term commitment and offer growth opportunities.

According to James, "The best drivers typically have a clean driving record, are a team player and have all the endorsements. But when it comes to job hunting, they’ll also be talking with multiple companies to compare the best offers available ."

A well-written job description can also make a significant difference in attracting qualified candidates.

"A lack of communication or information is a large red flag," James warned. Clear, concise job descriptions that use specific keywords can help potential drivers find and apply for jobs more easily. The top drivers know exactly what they are looking for so it's not in a business's advantage to be vague in job advertisements.


Courtesy: Eagle Point Transportation, LLC
SPOTLIGHT: Eagle Point Transportation

Mike Hibbard at Eagle Point Transportation in Bloomer, Wisc., co-owns the trucking company that contracts owner-operators, many of whom entered the business to be their own boss. Hibbard's team provides these drivers the opportunity to focus on what they do best — carrying loads — while he handles market analysis, brokering, scheduling and other crucial details.

The owner-operators are responsible for fuel, maintenance, insurance and inspections. Together, they ensure the job gets done efficiently and profitably.

“My manager and I constantly monitor market trends and analyze the profitability of each load for different markets across the US at various times of the year,” Hibbard told The Inside Lane. “Many companies simply take a load and hope to make a profit.”

Hibbard’s driver contractors rely on him for consistent loads and timely payments, which can be uncertain for owner-operators dealing with low-ball rates and occasionally fraudulent brokers who fail to pay.

“We ensure drivers know where they are going and when they will return,” he said.

In 2023, Eagle Point Transportation faced $47,000 in unpaid freight bills due to bankruptcies and other issues. That year the company “lost its shorts” and a second year like that would be devastating.

“In a small company like ours, I have a choice to make. Do I charge that back to the driver? Or do I take that on the chin and maintain a great relationship with the driver?” said Hibbard.

“The choice for me is simple: take care of the people who are taking care of business for you.”

Despite the challenging year, Hibbard is committed to keeping his drivers on the road to ensure the financial well-being of his drivers. He works tirelessly to ensure they have steady work.

“The wheels have to keep turning because right now I am in charge of feeding seven families on a weekly basis,” he said. “I can’t give up. I take this very personally.”

Have a question or comment about this article? Email Bianca Prieto at

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