National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Good News for Fleets, Yet Problems Still Loom

Last week, FleetOwner posted an article, State of private fleets in 2018: Part I, which details how the future looks quite positive for private fleets. The article notes that the number, volume and value of shipments continue to rise with no end to growth expected in the near future. This is certainly great news for both fleet owners and those of us in the truck leasing and rental industry.

Citing insights from the National Private Truck Council’s annual Benchmarking Survey Report, which discusses the challenges and opportunities that private fleets face, the FleetOwner piece definitely notes the biggest challenge as the driver shortage. That’s nothing new but there was a section of this impressive article that really struck me as something much larger than simply the well-known driver shortage situation.

Walmart, Inc has a private fleet of 6,500 trucks. The company pays its drivers an average of about $86,000 a year and has enjoyed a turnover rate below 10%, something nearly unheard of in the industry. But this international mega-business is now finding it difficult to attract new drivers. As most private fleets have realized, current drivers are “aging out” with many retirements looming. The average age of the driver is 55 and that is just untenable.

We’ve often heard that one of the main reasons it is difficult to attract younger drivers is due to the salary level, yet Walmart pays well above the average national salary of just under $45,000 annually. So what is standing in the way of applying for a job that pays nearly twice the nation’s annual salary? Walmart understands. It’s why they are taking, according to the article, “to the national airwaves to attract more drivers to fill vacancies and improve the image of a career behind the wheel of a big rig.”

And this need to create a new perception exists for the industry as a whole. We all know that we don’t just have driver shortages; we have diesel technician shortages which affect every business whether it’s a private fleet or a for-hire carrier. I cover these issues often in my IdeaXchange blogs. Just last month, I discussed how it was vital that we start “Spreading the truth about tech jobs.” I spoke about the need to change what is an obsolete perception that transportation jobs are low-tech jobs. The need to do this starts well before young job seekers graduate from high school. It starts with educating parents, teachers, and school counselors how our industry has changed.

Yes, we still use vehicles that have engines, wheels, and steering columns, but today’s trucks are as different from yesteryear’s as today’s iPhones are different from Princess landline phones. Today’s trucks are amazing technological vehicles and it seems as though each month brings a new feature or application that would have seemed impossible as little as a decade ago.

All of us in the industry need to work to promote how high-tech the business has become in order to attract a generation that was spoon-fed technology at the earliest ages. In my IdeaXchange blog, I cited a press release that suggested we use the term “new collar jobs” instead of “blue collar jobs.” I agree. Only when transportation is seen as a “cool” vocation will we be able to attract people in the numbers needed.

See how you can spread the truth about tech jobs.

The future looks great for the private fleets but shortages of drivers and technicians are still of major concern. Maybe it’s a matter of perception.

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