Good news for workers may be bad news for fleet owners trying to hold on to their best drivers.
According to a July 23 article in USA Today, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits has hit a 42-year low after adjusting for population gains since 1973. And the unemployment rate of 5.3% is the lowest it’s been since April 2008. The availability of jobs can give workers the confidence they need to switch jobs. That may be a good thing for the worker, but it’s a very tough thing for business owners. And that is especially true for the trucking industry, which already experiences an alarmingly high rate of turnover.
Just a few weeks ago, a Truckinginfo.com article on the jobless numbers noted that, in June, of the 223,000 non-farm jobs added into the economy, 7,400 jobs were for-hire trucking sector and 17,100 jobs were for the wider transportation and warehousing sector. These figures are for a one-month period; but take that out 12 months, and the question becomes, are there enough drivers to fill those positions going forward? The reality is, when it comes to drivers, the only numbers that matter are those that measure the shortfall of drivers staying in the market or entering it.
One promising note; there was a drop in turnover rate of drivers of 12 percentage points in the first quarter of 2015. Whether that’s the result of better retention efforts on the part of fleet owners or a side effect of a temporary slowdown in freight movement during that same time period, Bob Costello, Chief Economist at the American Trucking Association, indicated that this may just be a blip. As he says, “I would not be surprised if turnover edges higher in the quarters ahead.”
So we’re back to the same pain point we’ve been experiencing for years…how do we attract – and keep- qualified drivers? There are lots of suggestions: better pay; more benefits; signing bonuses; better work/life balance; and greater recognition, but no one, up to this point, has found the silver bullet that’s needed. Everyone should welcome lower jobless numbers, purely from a humanitarian standpoint, but we do need to figure out how to encourage those entering the job market to consider driving as their choice of career.
What are you doing to recruit and retain drivers?