“I don’t care if you’re running 50 trucks or 5,000, you have a driver problem,” proclaimed Covenant Transportation Group Chairman David Parker at CCJ magazine’s Market Movers, event held at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas.
Moderated by CNBC Reporter Morgan Brennan and Avondale Partners’ Donald Broughton, the panel discussed the driver shortage – and the consensus was that it is affecting carriers of all sizes and sectors.
Trucking must continue to make changes to address the issue, such as improving home time, working conditions and pay, said Parker and fellow panelists Derek Leathers, president and COO of Werner Enterprises and Richard Stocking, president and COO of Swift.
CCJ reported that Leathers said the problem is compounded that many high schools have eliminated vocational programs that might encourage graduates to consider jobs like trucking.
“The irony is that many college grads come out and take jobs that pay less than truck drivers or technicians,” he said.
However, Parker points out that that the pay drivers get in return for the length they’re out on the road is the biggest roadblock to a driving career. Covenant has raised pay 20 percent in the last three years and still finds it tough to attract drivers. A recently-introduced guaranteed pay package, however, has cut down on turnover by about 30 percent.
One of the biggest challenges in retaining drivers remains how they are treated at shippers and receivers. Swift works closely with its customers. “It’s wait time but also amenities. Can I use the rest room? Is there coffee? Can I park my truck here? It goes back to respect,” says Stocking.
Added Leathers: “In some cases we have to make shippers understand that dignity’s not for sale. He recounted how one shipper responded by saying they “would pay more rather than change” their driver treatment polices and behaviour:
“We walked away from the business.”