According to a survey conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the top concerns for motor carriers continue to be driver recruitment and retention. The American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates that, despite a record number of drivers, the shortfall has also been at record highs: in 2017, the industry workforce lacked 50,000 drivers.
Of course, no one disputes that maintaining a capable workforce of drivers—particularly long–haul, freight drivers—is crucial to not just the industry, but to the economy at large. In 2016, trucks were estimated to have hauled 61 percent (by value) of the total freight transported in the U.S. That accounts for 3.5 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. Eighty percent of U.S. communities rely exclusively on trucks for their freight transportation.
In response to an ever-tightening labor market, the ATA launched a workforce development effort in 2017. And just this past June, the ATA outlined ways to address the shortage to a congressional subcommittee, noting flaws in the BLS’ methodology and conclusions.
Solutions For The Industry
Among the ATA’s recommendations are licensing reforms that would make it possible to attract job seekers ages 18-20 to a career in truck driving. The ATA points out that while there are millions “opportunity youth,” who are neither employed nor in school, current laws prevent a large part of this demographic from entering the industry at very time they might make such a career decision. And because commercial drivers are older on average than counterparts in other industries, their eventual retirement will exacerbate the driver shortage sooner.
The ATA also advocates eliminating barriers for out-of-state driver candidates, while it promotes efforts to recruit and train drivers from non-traditional communities. Finally, the ATA’s plan supports research on the effects of technology and automated vehicles in the workforce.
Solutions For Your Company
Analysis of industry-wide trends can provide insight and point to solutions, but the most compelling labor statistics are your own. If your company is among those who consistently report driver recruitment and retention among your top concerns, it’s up to you to solve the problem. Companies specializing in driver recruitment agree on some common guidelines to maximize recruitment and retention efforts.
Pay Fairly and Consistently
A tight labor market often necessitates higher wages, and rightly so. At the same time, wages aren’t the only factor to consider. Sign-on bonuses can be an effective way to attract new drivers, but experienced drivers are just as attracted to a company with predictable pay structures combined with the practices outlined here. And although it can be tempting to see driver turnover as the cost of doing business, the cost of driver turnover exceeds any anticipated benefit. Worse, the damage to your company’s reputation will almost certainly make recruiting difficult in the future.
Treat Drivers With Respect
First and foremost, drivers want competitive pay. However, a survey conducted by Overdrive and Truckers News also shows that seventy-one percent of drivers would rather work for a fleet that paid them less if they also respected them more. Additionally, they cite not feeling valued as the main reason for quitting a company.
Listen and Respond To Your Drivers
The same survey that lists recruitment and retention as a company’s top issues shows that other issues are more important from the driver’s perspective. A driver doesn’t just want to feel like a valued member of your team, they want to actually be one. Ask your drivers for feedback and act on their feedback.
Recruit and Support Your Drivers With Their Needs In Mind
Commercial driving isn’t just a job, but also a lifestyle choice. Design routes and policies that maximize the driver’s work-life balance. Use technology to facilitate safety, communication, and comfort.
Cultivate A Good Rapport And Reputation
According to the Overdrive / Truckers News survey, anywhere from one-third to one-half of truckers look for their next job through word of mouth. If workers have good things to say, they’re not only less likely to leave, but more likely to attract others to your company.
Keep An Open Door
Your best efforts may not prevent a driver from seeking greener pastures, especially in a tight labor market. Don’t take it personally. If you’ve created a work-friendly environment, they’re sure to come around. Welcoming them back warmly will secure their appreciation and their loyalty.