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Dan Baker Sounds Off on What Matters Today in Truck Driver Recruiting

dan baker

HNI Marketing Coordinator

Our Driver Recruiting Summit at HNI University brought together the biggest brains in the transportation industry to talk about one of our biggest problems: hiring the right drivers and making them stick around.


Among the shining stars featured was Dan Baker, trucking's No. 1 fan. Dan's regular gig is talking to trucking pros about their culture, how to bridge the generation gap, and what drivers need from their employers.

Dan had such a good time at the summit that he wanted the chance to say "Howdy!" again to all the attendees. He also wanted to hit home the most important points of his talk.

Click on the player to hear Dan's Driver Recruiting Summit recap. There's a transcript of the five-minute recording below, but please do yourself a favor and listen to Dan. You're in for a treat!

Dan Baker's Reminder from the Driver Recruiting Summit

Hello everybody at HNI! How y'all doing?

This is your friend, Dan Baker, and I just wanted to take a few of your minutes to thank you again for letting me come up there and share with y'all the other day at that wonderful meeting at the Harley-Davidson place. It was really special. I hope you had half as much fun as I did!

I just wanted to say a few things to remind you of the tone of what we were covering the other day. Henry Ford said, "Your company doesn't pay your wages; your customer pays your wages — and the company just handles the money." You remember that?

What does that customer pay us to do? To pick it up on time. To haul it damage free. To deliver it on time. And who does that? Our driver.

Our customer pays our wages, and our driver earns our wages. We work for our customer, who's the back of the truck; we work for our driver, who's the front of the truck.

I'm not through! The driver performs the only function in your entire organization that creates the revenue that feeds the rest of us. And so your mandate — our mandate — is to get them rolling, get them paid, and to get them home with as much dignity and respect as possible, with as little downtime and humiliation as possible. To get 'em rolling, get 'em paid, and get 'em home!

And that's hard to do, because the driver's out there on the road and he's easy to forget. He's easy to not look at, because he's not in your face all day. So you do what most people do — you get busy, you get so busy with the stuff that doesn't matter that you don't have time for the stuff that does matter.

We all do it, because we're good hard-working, God-fearing people, and because we're that way, we work really hard. And because we work really hard, we don't look up.

That whole thing I said about the better you get at doing what you're good at, the less time you got for it? Does that ever apply to all of us! And then on top of everything else we got going in trucking today, we've got this huge generational thing.

And out of that, we talked about the difference between the work ethic and the leisure ethic, deferred gratification and immediate gratification, accommodation and accountability. We talked about the difference between learning and remembering and storing and accessing. Us old timers, we like to talk and visit. Kids like to text and send. It's a different world you're living in today.

And we old timers in the trucking industry, we got to become the mentors. We've got to put our arms around these kids today and pull them up close and bring them on board about the whole work ethic in trucking. If we could learn how to mentor the young folks, if we could learn the technology they know, we just might be a match made in heaven.

So we talked the other day about bringing the generations together. But my point with you that I want you to remember is that the most important thing in all of trucking today is: Don't get so busy with the stuff that doesn't matter that you don't have time for the stuff that does matter. We talked about living inside the wall with too much to do and not enough time to do it. Remember my little organizational dynamics — the bigger you get, the further you get from the guy who got you there.

No. 2: The more things you pay attention to, the less attention you pay to each one.

No. 3: The first thing you think about tends to be the last thing you just heard.

No. 4: The more times you repeat a function, the less important it becomes.

Us busy people, we often forget that the better you get at what you're good at, the less time you've got for it. And pretty soon there's just no time.

I stand during this little tape today, remembering y'all there, and I know how dedicated you are and how beautiful you are. And for the very best of motives, we don't look up, because we're so dedicated at what we're doing, and we're so good at what we're doing, that we often forget the reason we're here.

You must remember, my friends, that people don't remember what you do, and people don't remember what you say. Those old drivers are saying, "I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care." People don't remember what you do or say; people remember how you made them feel.

So as you remember what I said the other day, go back to your company and ask yourself the question about recruiting today. It's not, "What have I got to do to recruit more drivers?"

The question is, "What have I got to do to create the kind of company that a driver wants to work for — that a driver hears about and wants to be a part of?"

How do we make a company that attractive? We do it by building a family, where we understand that people remember how you made them feel. That's the most important thing — what does it feel like to work with your company?

I've got to tell you what a great experience it was being with y'all the other day. Thanks for listening in. Take care of yourself. Remember my little poem:

It's not how much I got or made.
Or where my name's engraved.
Nor will it ever matter,
How many clapped and raved.

There sits no jury in my gold.
No judge will see my fame.
For the tally sheet that adds me up,
Will slowly spell my name.

And after that, just one dot more;
A question will be posed.
How deeply did he share his life,
And cause this world to grow?

Did this man love?
Did this man share?
Did this man dare enough to care?

Really don't care how much you know till I know how much you care. And therein lies the truth.

See you again some day. This is your old friend, Dan Baker. Bye-bye!

Thanks again, Dan! We'll see you around.

What part of Dan's talk struck the biggest chord with you? How has Dan's insight changed the way you work? Please share in comments!

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Related Posts:

4 Key Takeaways from Our Driver Recruiting Summit

Driver Recruiting Summit: The Risks & Opportunities of Filling Your Fleet [Slide Decks]

Negligent Driver Hiring Can Bite You in the Butt

Benefits for Truck Drivers: The Secret Weapon for Retention

Photo via Dan Baker's website

Topics: Transportation