The transportation industry covers a wide variety of occupations, including tractor-trailer truck drivers, hazardous material movement, bus drivers, delivery drivers, and many more. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the transportation industry employs over 13.3 million workers, which accounts for about 9.1 percent of total employment in the United States. Trucking is in particularly high demand within this industry, to the point that truck driving is the most common job in 29 states. A big reason for this is the fact that, thus far, jobs in transportation companies have been relatively immune to automation, and globalization just increases the need for top talent in the trucking industry. Transportation recruitment also tends to be ongoing, as everyone from Walmart to logistics specialists needs new drivers.
Some great news for those looking for full-time jobs and a secure career path is that truck driving is still in incredibly high demand, and it's only looking to increase. Even before COVID-19, the need for drivers was increasing, and the surge in popularity for online shopping and delivery has only fueled the fire. Still, large numbers of drivers reaching retirement age and the rapid growth toward a pre-COVID economy after lockdown means that transportation companies aren't getting enough new drivers to keep up. These aren't the only concerns affecting the transport industry, either. Here are just three major shortcomings the industry faces right now and what leaders can do about them.
1. Compliance, Safety, and Accountability
Most people have been told at some point that getting behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous things that they'll ever do in their daily lives, and it's true. It's estimated that there are roughly 6 million car accidents in the U.S. per year, and over 37,000 people are killed in crashes each year. Of these annual fatalities, approximately 918 are truckers, making truck driving the seventh most dangerous job in the country. With expectations for fast deliveries (even single-day turnaround) becoming the norm, drivers are working under more pressure than ever.
Naturally, all of this means that safety has to be the highest priority for transportation jobs, from big box retail drivers to food delivery drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces its CSA program to hold drivers and their carriers accountable when it comes to best practices and safety. This program, along with hours of service rules, is typically among the top concerns for transportation companies each year. Essentially, CSA identifies drivers and carriers who have safety violations and delivers warning letters or carrier out investigations, depending on the severity of the issue. They check drivers and carriers according to seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs).
- Unsafe Driving: Incidents such as reckless driving, speeding, improper lane changes, and other basic safety issues.
- Crash Indicator: Private history of accidents and their frequency.
- Hours-of-Service Compliance: How well drivers and companies abide by driving limits (consecutive hours and weekly limit) and properly log driving hours.
- Vehicle Maintenance: Keeping brakes, lights, and other indicators in check as well as making immediate repairs when needed.
- Controlled Substance/Alcohol: Any record of a driver using alcohol or prohibited substances while on the job.
- Hazardous Materials Compliance: Ensuring proper packaging and containment, as well as making sure all drivers have a Hazmat endorsement in addition to their appropriate CDL.
- Driver Fitness: License and health check to ensure drivers can safely operate commercial vehicles.
Company leaders can reduce the frequency and severity of accidents (or other CSA violations) by promoting a strong safety culture in their workplaces and enforcing high standards. For example, speed tracking systems and other monitors can be installed in trucks, and thanks to the internet of things, they can send near real-time updates to managers whenever incidents occur.
From large fleet drivers to factory floor managers, a digital, customer-centric world means that everyone is pushed to work as efficiently as possible and get products delivered quickly. While these norms can be great for customers, they can also be logistical nightmares. This is why it's so important for transportation businesses to embrace technology and automation moving forward.
With autonomous vehicle tracking powered by artificial intelligence, it's possible to evaluate road conditions in real-time and plan the most intelligent routes possible to cut down on fuel use—something that's extremely important as costs continue to rise. Predictive analytics software can also be used to make accurate forecasts regarding inventory, ensuring that the supply chain works as efficiently as possible. Such technologies can be installed and maintained by third-party logistic (3PL) providers, meaning that company leaders can still focus on the core aspects of their transportation businesses.
3. Driver Shortages and Increasing Demand
While safety and logistics challenges have to be met, the transport industry falls apart if there aren't enough qualified candidates to hire, and that's the biggest problem most companies are facing right now. When you're hiring drivers, you obviously want the best candidates, and that goes beyond drivers with a CDL who can pass a background check. If you want to reach the right candidates for each job offer, you may need to go beyond highlighting benefits and offering bonuses. For example, what if you just aren't advertising to the right groups conducting job searches?
Of course, no matter what candidates you're targeting, it's imperative that you keep up best practices to be an equal opportunity employer with an inclusive workplace that makes job offers to all qualified candidates, regardless of national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or veteran status. Providing a workplace environment that encourages professional development, employee appreciation, and generally makes work seem meaningful is the best way to boost employee retention, so your need for constant truck driver recruiting can become a thing of the past. If you need more ideas for effective recruiting, check out our FATj blog for plenty of information on the truck driver hiring process.