MOUNT STERLING, Ill. -- Dot Foods hopes to counter a growing truck driver shortage by experimenting with new technologies to attract people to the industry.
The company will host its first Facebook Live driver question-and-answer session at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10. It is estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of truck drivers use a smartphone or tablet, and more than two-thirds of them are on Facebook.
Drivers who want to participate in the event should like Dot Foods on Facebook. Dot asks viewers to comment on the event before 5:45 p.m. with any topics they want to have discussed.
"I keep up with industry information," said Pat Stendback, Dot Foods corporate driver recruiting manager, "and I started noticing more and more talk about people experimenting with this."
Dot has tabbed three employees who work in different aspects of truck driving to serve on a panel and answer questions as they come in in real-time over the social media site. The panel is made up of Clint Bland, senior transportation manager; Amy Pressey, corporate recruiting specialist; and Ruben Jimenez, driver trainer. In preparation for the event, panel members asked several current Dot drivers to come up with the most likely questions they believe will be asked.
"I think we have all our bases covered," Stendback said. "I'm sure we'll get questions asked that we don't have answers ready for, but they are well-versed enough."
If the Jan. 10 session proves to be popular, Stendback hopes to begin holding monthly Facebook Live sessions during which panel members will answer questions and inform prospective employees on the latest trends in the industry. He sees the panel members rotating month-by-month based on topics of the questions being asked.
"We would love to have 20 or more new applications the next day," Stendback said, "but these are all things that take time. We're getting visibility and opening up a line of communication."
He said the driver shortage has become more of an issue over the past three years. Baby boomers make up a large percentage of the industry, and 6 percent of industry drivers retire each year. He said only 4 percent of that loss is replaced, a deficit that has compounded over time. Growth in spending and in the gross domestic product have also increased the demand for truck drivers.
"It's a sellers market right now if you're a truck driver," Stendback said.