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Truck Driver Referral Programs [And Why You Should Refer Other Drivers]

September 22nd, 2023

John Hayes

John Hayes

With over 7 years of experience in the transportation industry, John is a leading driver consultant on the ATS team. His focus is to find high-quality, professional, safe drivers – whether they are independent contractors or company drivers employed with ATS.

You’ve probably heard your driver recruiter or dispatcher pushing the driver referral program on you, and maybe you’ve been skeptical about it. 

What are truck driver referral programs anyway and how do they benefit you? If more drivers are added to the fleet, aren’t the new drivers just taking freight away from you and lowering your paycheck even further?

The answer is no, referring new drivers to the fleet won’t pull from your weekly checks. In fact, adding more drivers to the fleet can actually help your carrier get more freight (more on this later). 

We get asked a lot in orientation and during information sessions about how our referral program works. A lot of drivers either don’t understand how it works or they think referring drivers will negatively impact them. 

As a recruiter at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), I talk to drivers about our driver referral program daily. I’m here to help you understand why you might or might not want to refer a fellow driver to the carrier you drive for. 

What is a Driver Referral Program? 

First, we need to discuss what a driver referral program is. It’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s simply a program a lot of trucking companies offer that incentivizes drivers to refer other drivers to the company. Incentives can include referral bonuses, company swag and/or gift cards. 

Some incentives might be doled out as soon as the referred driver signs on with the company, while some might be given after the driver is with the company for a set time. For example, a $2,000 referral bonus might be broken up into two payments — one when the referred driver is hired and one after the driver has been with the company for 30 days. 

Drivers can refer other drivers by providing their company with basic contact information, like a name and phone number. The recruiter will take it from there and see if the driver is a good fit for the program. 

Benefits of Driver Referrals

Incentives aren’t the only benefit of referring other drivers to your company. 

Carriers will hire drivers regardless of whether you did or didn’t refer them. But, if you do refer drivers, recruiters like me have a better idea of who we’re hiring. You’ve seen them drive, maybe you’ve seen them tarp or secure their loads, maybe you know what kind of personality they have. You may think they’ll be a good fit for the company and we trust your professional opinion. 

Referring good, safe drivers to the fleet helps everyone. It’s in every driver’s best interest to be safe, of course, but when all drivers on the fleet come together to focus on safety, it really shows and positively impacts the carrier as a whole. 

When drivers don’t get a lot of safety violations, the carrier's Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) score is lower. When the CSA score is lower, so is the Inspection Selection System (ISS) score. 

The ISS score is a quick measurement often used at weigh stations. At a glance, roadside inspectors will look at this number to see if they should pull a truck in for inspection. If the ISS score is low (or in the green), they won’t get pulled over. If the ISS score is in mid-range or high (in the yellow or green), the likelihood of getting pulled into the weigh station is much higher. That takes a lot of time out of your day and time is money. 

Not only that, but customers have access to CSA information. They’ll refuse to work with carriers who have a bad safety reputation. When a carrier’s safety score is good, however, the carrier has better access to high-paying customers and can get better rates. 

Related: Understanding CSA and ISS scores

Portrait of a female truck driver sitting behind the wheel of her red rig.

Referring other drivers is also beneficial to you because you can help other drivers. Drivers like to hear from fellow drivers about companies. They want the cold-hearted truth about the company, not whatever the recruiters are saying. 

So when you refer your friends or random drivers at truck stops, you’re helping them make an important career decision. You’re potentially helping them get out of a bad situation. That’s something you can feel good about. In some cases, you can become a mentor to the drivers you refer, which provides further fulfillment. 

It’s also nice to have a friendly face on the fleet. Being a truck driver is lonely and we all need our people. It can be nice to have friends on the fleet or simply someone who can help you when you pass each other at truck stops or facilities.

Cons of Driver Referrals

There really aren’t cons to referring drivers. Good driver referrals can help improve the safety of the fleet. There are, however, a ton of misconceptions drivers have about referring other drivers.

Let’s talk about them.

Misconception #1: It’ll Take My Freight Away 

We hear this all the time. Drivers think if they refer other drivers, it’ll take freight away from them — keeping them less busy and lowering their pay. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

As I mentioned before, carriers are going to hire drivers regardless of whether you refer them. They need to fill empty trucks. 

Referring drivers and adding to the fleet is beneficial to you and can increase your load opportunities.  If we have a full fleet, it opens up our opportunities to secure more freight. 

For instance, ATS doesn’t bid on one load here and there. We like to bid on a bunch of loads in an area to make sure all our drivers have freight to move. But if the shipper has 15 loads and we only have five drivers in that area, we won’t win the bid; we can’t cover that area.

Referring drivers near your residence can be especially beneficial to you. By increasing the number of drivers in one area, it can open up freight bidding opportunities there. That gives you access to more freight near your house.

Misconception #2: My Pay Will Decrease

There is no evidence that adding more drivers to the fleet will drop your pay. Your pay won’t decrease because you referred a driver who was subsequently hired. In fact, many companies offer financial compensation when you refer drivers. 

And, again, having a full fleet of drivers helps carriers secure more freight.

Misconception #3: I’ll Be Held Responsible if the Driver is Bad

You may be worried you’ll be negatively impacted if the driver you refer gets into an accident or otherwise has a poor performance. While this is understandable, know that you won’t be negatively impacted by the other driver’s behavior. You won’t be punished whatsoever if they get into an accident or get fired from the company. 

You’re in control of your truck, and they’re in control of theirs. You aren’t responsible for them just because you referred them. There’s no negative impact on you for simply providing the name of a driver, and, as such, you won’t be held accountable for them.

A man and woman truck driver facing each other and smiling. He leans again the grill of of a semi-truck.

Earn Rewards, Improve the Fleet 

In simple terms, truck driver referral programs are a good thing and referring drivers can help you. They don't hurt your paycheck, and they actually help your company get more jobs. 

By suggesting safe drivers, you make the whole team safer, which is good for everyone. It's like a win-win: You get rewards, and you help your buddies make smart career choices. Plus, you might become their mentor, which is pretty cool.

Your referrals enhance the fleet's capabilities, strengthen industry relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie among drivers. So, next time you consider whether to refer a driver, remember the benefits that extend beyond yourself— it's an opportunity to shape a better future for both you and the trucking community as a whole.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’re wondering about our driver referral program and bonus.