In the United States today, there is a serious shortage of truck drivers. This downward trend in the numbers of qualified drivers was already in play before the Covid-19 pandemic caused problems for all industries around the world. That said, the falling rate of drivers has had a considerable effect on related sectors. As private fleets are unable to take new contracts because they do not have the workforce to meet the demands, retailers and suppliers are also suffering and forced to seek alternative methods.
The truck driving industry itself is suffering from a demand-driven scarcity––private fleets are simply unable to keep up with driver shortages, and therefore cannot meet the demand of the market. Although the Covid-19 pandemic did not help matters (since, for many, unemployment benefits were more cost-effective than being in a job) the lack of professional truck drivers is also an indication of how successful the industry has been up until now.
The main reason for driver shortages is very simple. Older drivers, with their many years of experience, are retiring, and there are fewer newly professional truck drivers to take their place.
The reasons why it seems that there are fewer drivers ready for hire to replace those who are moving on are a little bit more layered. Many recruiters may be still approaching the industry in outdated ways. Truck driving is considered to be a largely traditional job, with a somewhat romanticized view of drivers being on the road, having been called up for the right job. The hiring process has not moved with the times, and driver candidates are not where they would traditionally be.
With this changing of the guard, truck fleet operators have to take a more modern approach to find the new generation of reliable drivers to take the wheel. A top priority, according to FATj (which is an acronym for "find a trucker job" for those new here), is to go where the drivers are now.
Traditionally, driver recruiting would simply involve posting a vacancy on a trucker's job board and then taking the right drivers who applied. In many ways, the industry was freelance-based, although there were firms that would use the same people.
The recruiting solution for fleet operators now is to let driver recruitment services take the reins and look in the new places that drivers will be. This involves advertising more online, with social media, or with methods that are more suited to this generation. Essentially, this means applying new methods to finding new drivers. The issue isn't so much that there aren't enough new drivers per se (although there is still a shortage), but that there is no connection between the new and right drivers for the fleet, and the job itself. Operators need a more robust hiring strategy, and FATj has a few ideas that help.
The insight-driven method that FATj employs has to do with pooling the operator's money as a resource into modern advertising techniques. Recruiters aim to effectively, and efficiently, reach the drivers where they are. This can be by contacting private fleets that are downsizing, running a social media, or online marketing campaign. Since there is no such thing as the job boards anymore, the recruitment agency will look to the venues that they are aware of, and select the right drivers from there. After all, within the truck driving itself, there are also multiple categories of workers. If an operator is looking for a particular specialty, then the recruiter will need to ensure that their chosen venues are known to have drivers with this.
Ultimately, the recruiters are consolidating all of the resources––finding the drivers where they are, recognizing their skills, and bridging the gap between them and the operators.
This will not solve the driver shortage overall. The decrease in professional truck drivers is due to the aging demographic, and is impacted further by the effects of Covid-19. That said, with the stimulus checks and unemployment benefit packages also starting to taper off, there is a large potential workforce that is out there who can be marketed to. This means that the gap between outgoing and incoming truck drivers should start to narrow, but there are plenty of other things that can be done to help keep the younger generation enfranchised.
Changing With The Times
FATj's suggestions to operators in need of new employees, as it pertains to younger drivers, include helping them pay off their student loans, as well as debt accrued for their driver training courses. They may even want to assist or pay for professional qualification courses and help establish a more specific and significant career path. In addition, they should look to diversify their workforces, as it has emerged that less than 6% of truck drivers are women, and the legal interstate driving age is 21 years old.
The enticements for potential new drivers do tend to center around more compensation for work done, and while more perks and gains would help, other ideas could make a difference. A focus on driver's health and wellness would be a welcome step forward for drivers and operations alike. This can be by focusing on little things like helping with healthy eating to prevent bad nutrition on the road, helping with health insurance costs to remain accessible, or even employing spousal teams to prevent homesickness and low morale.
Ultimately, FATj's main suggestion to reduce the driver shortage is to focus on retention. After all, if a considerable amount of money has been spent to find drivers, then it makes sense to ensure they are taken care of and not wooed towards a competitor's fleet.
One such way to do this is by offering an Earned Wage Access.
Earned Wage Access
Beyond the truck driving industry, 73% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. Earned Wage Access is a financial system that is operated via an app on a smartphone that lets drivers have access to their wages in real-time. This means that they can access their funding immediately and are not bound to a typical date in a month, or to a weekly pay packet. Operators who offer this service are already feeling the benefit, as 37% of drivers are more likely to choose and stay with them should they offer this initiative. It is proving to be so successful, that it is believed this pioneering system will be available in more industries going forward. Furthermore, this is considered not only a contribution to better health and wellness for the driver but to their financial wellness also.
The shortages in the truck driving industry are a natural decline as older drivers retire, and old methods of finding replacements are out of date. By modernizing, diversifying, and looking to help drivers' health and financial wellness, as well as expanding on retainment, the shortages should shrink and the industry can weather through the challenges.