During harvest, time is a valuable commodity. If your grain-truck driver can’t keep up, it might be necessary to hire more drivers.
“One of our biggest challenges is finding reliable and qualified labor,” explains Brent Drey, a corn and soybean farmer in northwestern Iowa. “Being able to haul the grain away is probably the most important factor during harvest.”
In his rural community of Sac City, Drey uses multiple recruiting methods to find qualified labor. He starts by identifying drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
“The labor force is there to some extent, but you have to search for it,” he says. “Believe it or not, I posted something on Facebook, and that’s where I got the best response.” He also asks around the community.
Proceed With Caution. Once you’ve identified possible drivers, ensure candidates are reliable and safe drivers, even if you know them.
“Ultimately, the farmer is always responsible for what their drivers do,” says Fred Whitford, specialist with Purdue Cooperative Extension Service. “Make sure you run a drug and alcohol conviction check and call the last person they worked for to find out if they are responsible.”
Have specific, consistent and written hiring criteria. “The No. 1 thing we look for is a clean driving record,” Drey says. “We also want people with a Class A CDL with air-brake endorsements.”
Clearly identify qualities you’re seeking in job descriptions to cover liability. “As our farm grows in acres and employees, the insurance grows incrementally,” Drey says.
If an accident occurs and a driver is found negligent, your operation’s insurance might not cover the damages. To avoid that risk, each driver should be processed through your insurance agency, which can check backgrounds, increase your coverage as needed and ensure drivers are aware of safety guidelines.
“The biggest risk a farmer has outside of the weather and stock markets are truck and equipment accidents,” Whitford says. “Light cars and trucks are the ones who are going to suffer.”
Practical Guidelines. Simple steps can increase safety. Ensure drivers avoid roads during times of high traffic and pull into fields instead of stopping on the side of a road.
Drivers should never use a cellphone or other electronics while operating the vehicle. They should place a slow-moving vehicle sticker or use flashing lights to improve visibility and decrease risk. Confirm state laws to verify drivers you hire can truck legally.
What to ask for when hiring drivers
Drivers help maintain your livelihood, but an accident on the highway can spill precious grain and, worse, result in injuries or death. Avoid those risks by evaluating candidates against these criteria.
Employment History. As a farm operator, you’ll need to take time to train any hires. Job-hoppers might not be worth the effort.
Clean Record. Excess speeding tickets, charges from driving under the influence and other moving violations should be a red flag. Perform a background check for any criminal convictions.
Tested Experience. Look for people with experience driving tractor trailers and determine whether they graduated from a professional truck-driving school.
Regular Availability. Drivers must be available for a considerable amount of time during harvest. If candidates have another job, find out if they will be available when you need them on the farm.
Reliable Skills. Seek an individual who is reliable. You need to be sure they will show up on time, be sober and have a good work ethic.