The U.S. Truck Driver Shortage And How To Fight It

The U.S. Truck Driver Shortage And How To Stop It

Learn about the trucking industry’s new biggest concern, proposed solutions from trucking industry organizations, as well as best practices to improve driver retention rates.

Driver Shortage Is Now The Trucking Industry’s #1 Concern

Driver shortage has now overtaken the ELD mandate as the trucking industry’s biggest concern.

This is the first time since 2006 that driver shortage has been the #1 concern on the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) annual survey.

According to a survey of 1,557 motor carriers, commercial truck drivers, and industry insiders conducted by the ATRI, the driver shortage is now the trucking industry’s biggest concern.

More specifically, a lack of qualified drivers seems to be the real problem here.

Many are concerned that with improving economic growth in the U.S., the demand for (qualified) truck drivers will outgrow the supply.

Some speculate that driver wages will significantly increase over the next few years, based on how bad the current shortage already is.

As of right now, it doesn’t seem the problem is getting any better – the American Trucking Association (ATA) published a report recently stating that the national shortage of truck drivers will reach 50,000 by the end of 2017.

Proposed Solutions From Trucking Industry Organizations

Both the ATA and ATRI have proposed possible solutions to solving the national driver shortage problem, all of which seem to involve some level of state or federal involvement.

One possible solution that was proposed is to have the federal government create a commercial driver’s license program to get “safe, younger drivers”.

This is perhaps due to the fact that the average age of truck drivers right now is 52, and it increases marginally each year according to the National Transportation Institute (NTI).

Another idea is for the federal government to create a new entity that will manage a national driver recruitment campaign.

There has also been talk of increasing driver wages in order to retain existing drivers and keep them from exiting the trucking industry altogether.

However, Leah Shaver, COO of the NTI, believes that the driver shortage may be related to an overall image problem.

Shaver refers to articles from mainstream media sources that have interviewed truck drivers, who have stated that “they really feel a continued disconnect with their companies and often feel like they’re ‘throwaway people’”.

Best Practices For Improving Driver Retention

Researchers at NTI believe that the driver turnover rate will remain at over 80% for the foreseeable future.

Less-than-desirable working conditions, low wages, and more recently, a bleak career outlook, have all contributed to the issue of declining driver retention rates.

Below are some effective suggestions that will help your fleet retain long-term, quality drivers.

Show Appreciation

While pay is always an important factor when looking at increasing driver satisfaction, it’s not the only one out there.

While it sounds like common sense, showing appreciation to drivers and their problems is not done nearly enough in the industry.

It’s on carriers’, fleet managers’, and dispatchers’ shoulders to not only listen to drivers’ problems, but also treat them as actual human beings.

Sometimes people forget that there is actually a person behind the wheel of the truck.  Managers must understand the role they have in a driver’s perception of the job.

Formulate A Plan

Having a plan of attack regarding driver turnover rate is the only way to combat it.

The driver shortage problem doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, so ignoring the problem will only cause it to grow bigger.

Base your plan around driver feedback and make a concentrated effort to understand the challenges that your drivers are facing both on and off the road.

Fleet-wide surveys, focus groups, and 1-on-1 interviews all go a long way towards developing an answer to the question of “why?” when looking at both your turnover and retention rates.

Most important is the need to follow-up on the results of these studies by actually implementing changes in your fleet to combat the problems that you learned about.

Create an environment based on open, reciprocal communication, so that drivers and managers better understand each other.

Recognize And Reward Top Performers

Regularly scheduled performance reviews are all well and good, but they’re boring and too mundane.

Monetary bonuses for the top drivers in your fleet are always appreciated – just make sure they’re based on a well-developed, fair scale.

Ideas such as “driver of the month”, banquets for drivers with the least violations, and other events that highlight the best drivers in your fleet make much bigger statements than simple performance bonuses.

Actions speak louder than words; or in this case, money.

A negative image of the trucking industry and flat wages are making new driver recruitment a challenge for motor carriers.

Coupled with the high turnover rate of existing drivers, this poses a real threat to the vitality of the U.S. trucking industry.

Implement the driver retention best practices in this article to make sure you’re keeping and rewarding the most qualified drivers in your fleet.



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