Rachel Gilbert

Interview by
Published on
April 13, 2022

In this episode...

When drivers look for the best truck companies to work for, they consider more than just the highest paying truck companies or the promise of more home time. And when recruiters find the particular deep why, or a set of specific needs their company can supply, they find that their new driver-partners go the extra mile just because they as a company were willing to do the same. Forward Air’s Director for Talent Marketing and OTR Development Rachel Gilbert sits down with Life By The Mile to share how genuine connections make a big difference in having new driver-partners - how drivers look for companies who share their values, who make an effort to connect with them, and more importantly, companies who are true to their word. For truck drivers tuned in - can you share what you found in your current company that ultimately helped you decide to make the company your new home? Leave a comment below to join our conversation.

Rachel Gilbert

Director - Talent Marketing & OTR Capacity Development


find a goal set it and obtain it and whether that means you're asking for help whether that means you don't know your next steps go figure out what those next steps would be don't just sit there being complacent go you know go do more schooling or classes or what have you be open-minded to that but make sure you at least set that goal so you can work towards it because if you're not setting it if you're not thinking about it you're not going to go get it you're not going to obtain it so i i think the biggest advice that i would give is learn as much as you can set that goal and go after it

flight by the mile delivered by freight works i'm butch multi the host rachel gilbert from forward air is our guest now listen you have the longest title i think i've i've heard so you tell you tell us what your title is yes i am the director of talent marketing and over the road capacity development for forward that you know what if you asked me to say that five times quickly i'm not sure that i could do it and you know what it's a little intimidating because you know about recruiting and interviewing and all of that so i'm going to do my best here rachel tell us exactly what your company does yeah so fort air we are um obviously one a very large carrier and we have several different divisions um we have an over-the-road division expedited ltl air freight um is kind of the name of the game and our main focus um we do have three other local divisions so we have an intermodal division a ford final mile position um division and then we also have our local ltl division which really just takes our over the road freight that air freight on a local division now um for our over-the-road piece technically we have two divisions within that becoming one that really focuses on just transporting air cargo to and from so we take it from pretty much the airport we'll take it to a four-day terminal from there you go four day terminal to four day or terminal um delivering freight okay now let me ask you this because people are so interested on life of life by the while what's your story how did you get into all this i feel like every person that's ever asked that you fell into transportation um no really six years ago is when i started with ford air um very very new to the industry at the time i never really knew much about transportation started as a marketing coordinator for forward and so you came out of the marketing side i i actually so i was actually in the financial industry before this so as a financial advisor now where was this what state or yep so i currently i'm in columbus ohio before this i was actually in texas but keller texas right between fort worth and dallas i know where i i'd lived in coppell and uh i was born in lubbock so i'm a native texan not to not too far then um but i wanted to move home and home is cleveland ohio for me so wanted to move closer to home made the transition four day had a really great opportunity for me just to kind of actually use my degree um so started in the transportation field six years ago and i i can't get out of it i just love it so i've grown since then um really focusing on more the driver marketing side okay and then over the years have have grown that to look over our talent side which is our corporate marketing so for any position like mine that you would see or yours that you would see my team really puts that together and puts it out now within the last year i've recently taken over our over-the-road recruiting division okay which is recruiting our drivers on now we have one other recruiting manager she looks over our local side um and she looks over the three local divisions for the recruiting okay now we hear this a lot uh the marketplace either doesn't have enough drivers or we're not being efficient enough in what we have give us your perspective from your vantage point of what's the truth to all of this well i could definitely say so for forward air we are very owner operator heavy so asset light at 100 so we we look for really for the over the roadside a niche we focus more on teams as well over solos um but we do have a 50 50 split between the two um when you look at our unit count now it has been hard though the last year when covet hit it i mean it was very very hard to find a driver what what what happened there what happened yeah there are a lot of prognostications what yeah from your perspective happen so one and i'll just say from sitting for my seat now and being able to look back at it i think there's a lot of drivers that started to really value home time and and really started to value being home with their family and spending time with their family and and i think part of that shortage is people realize how much they value that and and how much it meant to them so they did leave the industry or you know that they're out of it and i was home for a while and i really enjoy it i'm going to continue to be home um now on our side since we're owner operator heavy we didn't see as big of a mass exit as more of the company driver side probably did right um so really we had we had most of our operators still running for us i mean it still hurt us because so the impact wasn't as pronounced in your setting because of the way you constructed your company right right um but i still think it did because at the end of the day you look at it and you you value so many new different things i think for a driver and that's looking at home time that's looking at how often can i see my family how often can i be home and it that does affect it you know our for our over the road division you're out seven to 14 days as a solo driver teams we typically target husbands and wives and they really like to be out a month to a month and a half at a time maybe even longer than that just depends on how long they want to run um but it that did it that did affect it greatly now let me ask you this when you talk to new drivers these days they're just coming into the industry what are you finding there i mean people that are brand new to the industry what tell us what you're seeing honestly they're all really eager and i can say that so i would say over the last probably two years i've learned a lot more about just the driver base who people are where that what they're looking for where they want to go and a lot of the people that are starting to come into the industry have big aspirations you know they want to become fleet owners and and help them get there they want more of that career path as opposed to a just everyday job um which which has been nice because we we can offer that we can help them grow and continue to grow on the of the roadside so um i think as a driver base you're looking for people that and people that come into at least with ford air they're looking to grow and they're looking for a place to call home it's not necessarily you know a work that's collecting a paycheck every single week it's it's longevity they want to stay with a company that they can trust that they can build that relationship with and a lot of the newer people coming into the industry the younger side of it they're all very eager and they want a business and they want to really run that and grow that and have the help and support to actually get there as well um and i think we've we've been able to partner up very very well with our drivers that want that well you know one thing that that's well said one thing that we've seen at great works is that we get a lot of drivers that and we're not disparaging other companies but they'll come in and they'll say everybody says we're going to give you great home time we're going to give you good money you're going to get your miles we're safe everybody says that but we're waiting to see where it really happens what's your perspective on that because a lot of drivers are beat up yeah so i i think that and that's a really interesting topic too to talk about because i know internally we've talked about this how can we offer as the market's changing and as those wants and needs do change because i think in the past drivers have been okay with staying out longer whereas now they do want to be home more often you know they want to see home at least once a week twice a week if they can if not home daily um my take on it is the industry's gonna have to change but we're gonna have to start tailoring to that change and i mean being young myself but i know what i want and i know where you know my career wants to go but i also really value being able to be home so i think the industry in general is going to have to really change the mindset and the mantra that we typically see on the over-the-road side and accommodate those that do want to be home and structure the business in the way that we can accommodate that so you don't lose drivers too talk a little bit about women in the industry i mean you you obviously an executive position you're you're experiencing that on the front lines ellen boy is a good friend by the way she's got a dear friend uh talk about your experience as a woman executive a leader in this industry that's been male-dominated yeah that i i actually honestly i love this topic because when i first came into the industry um it's it was funny my first day i just noticed all the mails around and i'm like okay okay and they're all you know high ups ford has really given me the opportunity to grow and it has been a home where i can say has supported that growth for women wonderful and yeah and you don't see that often and i feel like it is coming it is becoming more prevalent just within the day and age that we're in um but for women in general it is a little bit of a challenge just within this industry to grow and i think what's really important is finding a company that will invest one in your growth but i think it also depends on the person themselves are you self-motivated where do you want to go where do you see yourself in five years in 10 years and are you going to go down that path of of growth and that's up to you and you know i'm also a mom so being home being with my my children it's it's huge for me and being able to find a place and call it home like forward air has given me the opportunity to do and has really invested in that growth it's been a blessing it really truly has that is so good now what would you tell young women that are considering this industry because you're you're young but you're also experienced now so what would you say to them if you had 50 young women and you wanted to inspire them to consider a career in this industry in this sector what would you say i think the biggest advice that i would give is pursue your dream find a goal set it and obtain it and whether that means you're asking for help whether that means you don't know your next steps go figure out what those next steps would be don't just sit there being complacent and i think that's something that i've done is i've always expressed my growth and and the aptitude of growth that i have and and where i want to go and where i see my career taking me and being able to express that and actually go you know go do more schooling or classes or what have you be open-minded to that but make sure you at least set that goal so you can work towards it because if you're not setting it if you're not thinking about it you're not going to go get it and you're not going to obtain it so i i think the biggest advice that i would give is learn as much as you can set that goal and go after it that's that's great now can you tell us a little bit about the history of the company yeah definitely so um i'll give you a little bit about the the driver's side on the unit side that we have so i already broke down the three local divisions so those local divisions are comprised of about 3 200 trucks i would say maybe a little bit less than that that's big yeah very big so our um our ltl pud side so that's local pickup and delivery is made up about 500 trucks our intermodal um division is made up about a thousand and then our forward final mile is about a thousand units as well um now for the over the road side we have about 1200 to 1500 units kind of fluctuates between the two um but all together comprising about 4 500 units all together looking at owner operators obviously is some of the our biggest targets if you will we do have company driver opportunities too um but as forward has grown and i've been here for six years we we've definitely been able to develop and diversify and what we offer um but not only for drivers but also the company in general so in 2018 um we actually had our only second ceo move into place really yep his name is tom schmidt and he he really brought in this vision and honestly i've learned so much from him just being able to kind of sit back and and listen to you know hit speakings that he does or he actually talking about culture a little bit here at forward he sends an email out every single saturday to the whole entire employee it's inspiring informative it is super informative so it really talks about our direction where we're going um what the company is doing to continue to grow but in in 2018 he came in with with the saying we call it the double double so he wanted to double our revenue while maintaining double-digit margins quite a big goal coming in and looking at a company of our size a two billion dollar company and saying we're going to continue to grow this and we're going to grow it fast um i don't think in the past um we've necessarily grown fast we've been very conservative you know as the market but for him to say double and double that's big the double-double yep it was big and he doesn't lack vision he does not and honestly he he gives truly being able to share in emails he gives that vision to every single employee that that's working for forward that we're all working towards that that goal how would you describe the culture what's your culture like yeah so i personally i love our culture i think it's um a fun laid-back especially in our so the recruiting group that's that's one of my um my larger groups that i've taken over in the last year it's a very laid back environment i have a lot of younger recruiters as well i think that's pretty standard within the industry too but it's fun it's laid back it's an atmosphere that you feel safe you can go to your managers or whoever you're reporting into even higher than that and it's transparent it's authentic yep and have a conversation and and just feel at home it's a place and i've always said it this way culture wise is i'm spending 80 of my week here and away from my family i want to be in a place that is enjoyable right that offers not only that but good benefits and you know the whole package the whole nine yards truly we've had a place that and i'll say we've grown a lot in our culture space over the last six years since i've been here and we've only looked to improve that so it's it's a place that's very fun it's loving it's family oriented my team is my family at the end of the day you know we joke on the weekends together it's maybe an eight to five during the week but it never stops that is so good and you know what at breakworks of course we're a smaller carrier but our culture is so committed to be family and really care we've had drivers that have come in and have said i've only ever been a number but you know my name you know my family you know my children you know what's going on and of course that comes out of just the genesis of the company which in our case is you know when built on biblical foundations and we're just trying to reflect care and love and make good on our promises and the like let me ask you this what are some of the unique challenges for uh owner operators what do they deal with that's different i for an owner operator compared to a company driver especially being out over the road so i really focus on that over the road piece as opposed to the local side but if you can only imagine covid i think brought so many new challenges i mean picture being a driver and you can't go into a restaurant to get food you can't stop somewhere because all the places are closed down or you can only use a drive-through and they close down all the indoor side of it it is not just that it's also being able to you know go to truck stops or um you know just stop to do your laundry something right it really was a shock on everything complete shock and i think at ford we're able to offer those facilities at our terminal locations too but is that enough you know not for them that they're going through and we can kind of talk about the convoy and everything like that there is just so much hubbub around this culture and just around drivers in general um that i do think pose a lot of different issues just kind of depends on which ones you want to talk about and which ones you want to look at um but i think being a driver in this world today is harder than it ever has been right even with all the technology and driver care accompaniments that are out there it's hard yep and companies need to be understanding of that so you kind of touched on a little bit you know drivers don't want to be a number they don't want to be a truck number they want to actually find a place where you're going to call home and that type of culture i think for a driver is extremely honestly hard to find and being in the recruiting space i can't tell you the countless number of times that we'll hear drivers on the phone talk about how they were lied to or you know exactly what they were told is nothing what they expected like or they were never told and then all of a sudden this is a surprise right so i think hurdles that that they go through are more than just the regulations are more than just hours of service and things like that it's it's how you're treated everywhere you go and being here at mats is a really great representation you have this culture of everyone i would say everyone in this building will support each other and they want them to continue to grow so i think their culture alone is hard but i just think that life is a hard life to live as a driver and companies and more companies need to be more understanding of the everyday hurdles not maybe the bigger hurdles but the everyday little hurdles that they go through picking up paperwork how can we make that easier for you um what are applications that i can provide for you to successfully run your business better right so it i think they they have so many more hurdles than what just you and i would have in an everyday world that i think are looked over so true and you know we talk often at freight works we're interested in relationships not transactions and uh you know what drivers know if you're authentic or not don't they oh don't you believe that 100 talk a little bit about authenticity truth telling and just how vital that is yep so for our recruiters that's actually something that i'll preach time and time again any recruiter that i'll talk to you appreciate time and time again because there's way too many cases where like we said drivers are lied to and and they feel like they were done wrong and being just transparent and open they're gonna find out at the end of the day it as a recruiter once you're on and you're running and whether you're free running for you guys are running for us they're gonna find out they know that the grass is not as green as what you painted to be right um so being upfront honest is huge and i think when it comes down to it it's really all it's sales based like find the want the need of that driver and be honest can we meet those wants and needs and if you can't let them let them know them free let them know hey you know what i don't think we're the best fit for you or i don't think this is this is going to be conducive for you but here's other information that i can give you that i know of companies i know our recruiters do that all the time if it's truly not a good fit for us we're not going to waste your time it's not going to be just a number coming in the door um so i think overall as a recruiter that is beyond important to make sure that you maintain integrity is huge and drivers can sniff that out a mile away as well exactly now you've got lots of different recruiters with different backgrounds talk about some of the characteristics that are common that make them good i think one of the biggest things i look for when i'm looking at a recruiter is self-motivation someone who really is a go-getter who has a very energetic bubbly personality who people can relate to um but obviously you have to be good at time management and being able to tell your product and be able to successfully describe that but then also feel the questions from a driver but i think communication's huge i think that time management piece is huge um but i really think the self-motivation is another thing but recently and then i've been hiring a couple recruiters here this city and one of the biggest things that i look at are does that person actually want to help somebody so one of the things i just hired a new recruiter his name is isaiah and in his interview he straight said i just want to help people and i want to better their lives that spoke volumes to me you are a person who truly is not going to do wrong by a driver you you are going to want to set that it's an empathy compassion an ability to really get in somebody else's world yeah a hundred percent and i think it's harder to find every now and again because drivers aren't just numbers i i don't want you just bringing people in because you're going to try to meet your goal like right at the end of the day that's not good for anybody um so i think being empathetic like you said and compassionate and really starting to identify the wants and needs and being self-motivated yourself i mean sometimes it's not it's not the easiest to get a driver even on the hook or even get them on the phone so what are you going to do to be different but then also to meet those wants and needs you know i think i learned this from being a father of four now adult children the greatest gift we give anyone is our presence not our presence but our presence being aware don't you think oh i agree 100 i think one of the other things too that maybe drivers struggle with a little bit is actually trying to connect with a recruiter i think a lot of drivers being out on the road at least for us for the over the roadside a lot of drivers being out on the road they need someone to talk to they want somebody to listen and to learn about them it's not just a what's your name let's get through this and move on it's let me learn about you exactly let me hear your story how did you start kind of like how you started the conversation how did you start in this industry where do you want to grow to what do you want to do what are your aspirations right and let's see if we can work it out if not thank you for telling me and it was great to meet you and talk with you um and to genuinely mean it and you know i used to tell my employees before i sold my company that you know you've got to get in the other person's world and we all have experiences that become little bridges for example i have two adopted children yep uh one from russia one one from russia and one from korea and they're both now of course adults but when i meet people that have adopted we immediately have a touch point yeah the name of my company was touchpoint solutions because we wanted to find what those are i worked for two summers on a dairy farm so when i've talked to people here that are out of an agricultural background i could tell them about the milk fat content for a holstein animal and it's a touch point and so when we get into people's worlds it matters doesn't it it does and i think it's it's at least for the recruiter side to be able to put yourself through their shoes too like i always encourage our recruiters fill out an application know what that's like and and kind of how painful it can be because we're asking for a 10-year work history you be a person why don't you write down your 10-year work history and not miss a gap and feel what it's like to go through that exactly it's not like just a resume like other industries no yeah so be empathetic know that the process that they have to go through even just to move carriers if something is up know what they're going through hours of service know what that's like going through too so try to put yourself in the in their shoes and i think sometimes to really immerse yourself in that culture especially if you're new to the transportation industry is is a little bit harder and challenging more challenging for a recruiter but being able to actually listen so one of our leadership imperatives is we have two ears and one mouth so we are going to listen more than what we talk um and i think that 100 applies in the recruiting space and in the recruiting world because you need to really listen to the drivers to hear what they need and can we meet that need so he's very important that's really good now do you know when a recruiter is not working out yes

how can you know how do you know it and uh what do you do when it happens yeah a lot of times it comes down to just work ethic so i said you know a little bit earlier before was being self-motivated as a recruiter is huge um if you don't have a drive to continue to succeed and you don't want to like for us we set goals for our recruiters every single week you have to have three drivers in a week if you're not getting there and you don't really see the need to get there and oh you know i'm still okay at 80 percent like i you know i'm gonna finish in the bottom but it's still okay because 80 is passing um it's pretty easy to spot and and those that don't want to call leads or those that don't want to actually pick up the phone or they'd rather just send out a ton of emails to drivers and hope that something grasps and sticks to the wall um so it's pretty easy to see just in personality wise how they interact with drivers too are they actually connecting are you actually having meaningful conversations or are you just going through your talking points and and you know telling them about force and just moving it down the conveyor belt and just moving it on so i i think it's really easy to tell those that can be a great recruiter and be very successful and those that and that really can't and and that won't succeed well because they won't go the extra mile they won't hey while i've got you on the phone i know you're driving right now let me help you fill out you know our dot application right let's walk through it together if you don't know it that's fine we can call back when when you have more time but let me at least walk through it with you if a person is not willing to go the extra mile typically it doesn't really work out that is so that is so good and uh you know you know what it is so interesting to me it really comes down to basic things that we ought to be doing because it's the right thing my grandfather used to say there's no right way to do the wrong thing so listening to people speaking the truth being authentic keeping your promises i used to tell employees when they would ask what would take for me to succeed yeah i told them suit up and show up work hard it's not what school you went to or how innately intelligent you are even it's being present and doing what needs to happen yep you know what you're a very thoughtful ambassador for your company thank you and uh and i trust i know that they know that and uh so what do you see personally for you in the days oh man what what's your what are your personal goals for development and the like yeah no definitely so i actually just completed my master's so um one of the things that that i knew i wanted to do was was to continue my education um and keep learning and growing and developing just myself personally okay um where i see that going i'm actually extremely content with where i'm at right now i know that i still have more to learn um just based off of a processing side based on you know even more about recruiting even more about marketing that those worlds change every single day especially in the marketing yes it went from a very you know print dominated before me but print dominated marketing strategy to now being completely digital and you know how do you change how do you learn how to continue to grow that's the pursuit of that and continuing that education um so i did obtain my master's and i'm just looking to so good was there an area of research or an area of focus that you had or what was just my mba so i i really just wanted to um but so my my bachelor's is in marketing and then i have another degree in public relations so i really have loved marketing and communications um kind of my whole journey it's been my stepping stone here at forward i was really able to come in provide a lot of data i'm kind of a data nerd great a little bit so i'm a little a little analytical maybe too much so i don't think so i mean you can't manage what you can't measure right 100 so and that that's what i want to i think grow on more is is really just continuing to learn how to manage a larger group um it slowly worked my way up a little bit more but i know where i'm sitting right now i'm very comfortable um and i have more to learn and more to grow so continuing just to kind of set those growing points for me those goals like i was talking about before you know i set just little goals for myself and as i obtain them it's just leaning to you know the bigger goal i would love to be you know svp level um in my career probably not too much higher than that but definitely going to continue to grow you have been a delightful guest you you were uh an eminently qualified person for it you do i can sense it and you're a great brand ambassador for your company we're going to ask you though to also be a little brand ambassador for life with a while we're going to give you this cap it's our patriotic theme here this is our logo so we are so thankful that you came on as a guest today and we just wish you the best in everything you're doing and let's make sure that we stay in touch absolutely thank you thank you so much for having me you have been great thank you thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by a trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to this channel by clicking here we'll see you there

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