Changing Lanes on the Busy Interstate

Written January 23, 2018 by Rusty George

Did you know that every fifth mile on an interstate freeway is designated to be straight so an airplane could make an emergency landing if it needed to? Or, that they have three interstate highways in Oahu, Hawaii even though it’s an island? These facts may or may not be true, but I do know that If you stop in the middle of the freeway and lose focus on the road ahead, you’ll eventually get run over.

We worked with Interstate Distributor Company, a well-known trucking organization located in Lakewood, Washington to reboot their logo, brand system and website, and I’ve been extremely proud that it is now a fixture on freeways up and down the west coast. I’ll admit, however, that I was disheartened to hear the company had been acquired by Heartland Express of Iowa, and our prized brand was destined to soon disappear into the sunset.

Interstate’s leadership team was excited to hire our services in 2012 to boost their competitive clout. Not only were the other trucking companies wooing drivers away with promises of extra pennies per mile, but the booming construction industry offered great pay to drive a locally. A new image was the first among many steps to get in the game and become an attractive employment option.

With over 100,000 trucking companies across the United States, it’s no wonder why it’s a struggle to fill positions. The West Coast is especially challenging because the driver market is a fraction of what it is in the East and Midwest, and private entities like Amazon and Walmart are building their own private fleets, providing fierce competition where the customer role used to be. Coveted driving teams are opting to start their own owner-operator businesses, increasing fragmentation. Plus, the expectation that self-driving trucks are on the way make young people steer clear of the vocation all together. What should a trucking-recruitment marketing team do?

One suggestion is to rely heavily on social media marketing to interface with prospective talent. The key to connection is understanding your audience’s preferences. Content must be delivered on a mobile environment, something they can check while gassing up. Printed books and magazines that used to be distributed at rest stops are things of the past. Facebook integrates well with the communities, groups and forums to which the drivers already belong and its grassroots connections are far more preferred over business pages like LinkedIn.

Another powerful channel is YouTube. Not only can you post updates and showcase outstanding employees, but also encourage drivers to post testimonial videos about the benefits of working with your company, and then share among forums where they participate. These can be highly successful avenues because they are genuine stories told by real people instead of corporations, confirming high trust and credibility.

The huge advantage of social media and digital marketing is the ability to track data, which allows a company to better learn about driver behaviors and needs. Interstate recently launched its mobile app, Driver Hub, which capitalized on the data to provide a perfect experience. Drivers could log in and view news, updates, testimonials, celebrations of “ambassadors” (who have driven millions of miles without incident), or simply encouragement and acknowledgement. Most importantly, it included an online application module to make it as effortless as possible for prospects to fill out and submit.

Ultimately, I understand the acquisition will increase the ability to take better care of drivers and employees on a face-to-face basis. The most effective attraction-and-retention strategy for the industry has always been putting drivers first and showing it. Interstate always held appreciation barbecues, safety celebrations, and an open-door policy up to the CEO. The added staff, capital and resources should allow the unified company to be even more approachable and transparent, grow the roster of drivers, and move more freight across the country. I’m looking forward to their success and I wish them all well.