The truck driver shortage is not a secret in the trucking industry. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates the industry is short 30,000 drivers, and the number is expected to escalate to 239,000 by 2022. Furthermore, 90 percent of carriers report they cannot find enough drivers to meet Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements.
The demand for commercial truck drivers is expected to grow by 21 percent through 2020. Companies are beginning to focus on key areas to help solve the driver shortage and make sure their businesses are not put in park at the loading docks.
Three major points, which need to be addressed to help solve this issue, have been identified:
- Recruiting and Retaining: Drivers are a precious resource companies are trying to attract and retain. Recruiting efforts are being ramped up to find new and experienced, quality drivers. Some of these efforts are through hiring events or online. Once a driver has been successfully recruited, the next step is to keep them happy and loyal.
- Quality of Life: A survey conducted by National Retail Systems (NRS) shows one of the top issues in the truck driving career is time at home. Some companies promise predictable home time to their drivers as an added benefit.
- Commitment to Drivers: Safety is one of the biggest concerns for both drivers and the companies they work for. Trucking regulations continue to grow more stringent from Hours of Service (HOS) to safety guidelines. Efforts are also being made to keep drivers even safer with enhanced cab designs for women drivers, to more frequent inspections on all equipment.
Driver retention is the biggest challenge facing the industry today. The ATA estimates the driver turnover rate was 92 percent during the first quarter of 2014; this compares to a low of 39 percent four years ago. Two-thirds of drivers leaving their position do so voluntarily and studies show turnover decreases after the driver has been with a company for more than a year.
One of the goals is to provide a career path for drivers and not just a job. Drivers are given defined expectations, goals and recognition for attaining these goals. Companies are also exploring benefit options for drivers, such as changes to vacation policies and the ability to transition into other positions at the company.
Respect is another facet drivers are looking for from their employers. Drivers want to feel like they are a part of the company they are working for. Companies, in turn, are asking drivers to be on safety committees or to assist in route engineering. Executives recognize drivers are the people who know the routes best.
An approach to solving these three issues may be the answer for the challenges facing companies during the driver shortage. A strategy focused on retaining drivers through training, development and a commitment to them will keep your business on the road during the driver shortage.
William P. Townsend is Group Director of Labor Strategy at Ryder System, Inc. Townsend has more than 20 years of experience in transportation and logistics.