When it comes to the driver shortage, there is no silver bullet or magic potion that will solve the problem. The solution lies in the way fleets address drivers’ concerns.
When the average age of one of your most important employee positions is 52 and the rate of new hires is not keeping up with retirement numbers, the future may be looking a bit bleak. That’s the issue fleets have been facing for far too long. In a recent FleetOwner article, Leah Shaver, COO of the National Transportation Institute (NTI) noted, “Our efforts to recruit and retain millennials today are not as successful as we need them to be. The incoming students are not coming in at fast enough rates, and they’re not sticking with the industry the way that we need,”
The article notes that private fleet drivers make considerably more when it comes to wages than do for-hire drivers. Private fleets also tend to keep drivers longer, sometimes up to retirement since work schedules are often consistent providing more time for home and family. Yet even private fleets are acknowledging that their drivers are aging out in record numbers.
As to wages, whether it’s private or for-hire, truck drivers have experienced a much lower increase in wages than most other job-holders, if they see any increase at all. That seems counterproductive when you consider it’s been so difficult to attract new people to the profession. In fact, according to Shaver, there has only been a small increase (0.6%) in the maximum a driver can earn at a company.
But the FleetOwner article notes that pay disenchantment is not the only issue that explains why the truck driver workforce is not growing: “Shaver referred to articles from the New York Times and USA Today in which drivers interviewed said they really feel a continued disconnect with their companies and often feel like they’re ‘throwaway people.’”
Shaver referred to articles from the New York Times and USA Today in which drivers interviewed said they really feel a continued disconnect with their companies and often feel like they’re “throwaway people.” A big part of the problem here is that drivers are not at an office or facility for any length of time and that makes it difficult to feel a part of whatever may be going on at the facility.
So what, besides pay, do drivers want? Well, they want what most other employees are looking for:
- Advancement potential
- Better benefits
- Ongoing training
- Good relationships with supervisors.
These are the same things people are looking for and that’s especially true when it comes to millennials who place a high value on things like training and involvement in company culture. Although addressing these concerns will help to retain drivers, fleets are still facing the fact of drivers aging out and millennials not particularly identifying truck driving as something they’d look to as a career. That’s where technology may end up helping out. A generation that’s grown up with unprecedented technology virtually at their fingertips may be more inclined to work in a field that embraces technology and although the image of truck driving is that of a staid, unchanging industry, we are, in fact, embracing new technology in our vehicles, the maintenance, logistics, etc. We need to communicate that in our recruiting efforts.
This ability to attract new talent is more vital than ever since as economic conditions improve, the driver shortage may actually get worse, according to Shaver, “we think that GDP (gross domestic product) is going to continue to grow. Unemployment has dropped. Blue collar jobs are not being filled. Construction is booming. Labor shortage is an issue.”
What’s clear is that it’s time to elevate and increase your recruitment and retention efforts, not through some magic trick, but through common sense and workable initiatives.