Perhaps the trucking industry’s long-standing R&R system – recruitment and retention – needs another R: Revolution.
As the truck driver shortage becomes a bigger and bigger problem by the day – with one projection estimating the US trucking industry will be short a million drivers just 10 years hence (plus over 33,000 in Canada) – many are beginning to wonder if current driver recruiting, hiring, and retention processes need to be completely overhauled, if not disposed of entirely, reports Fleet Owner in a recent feature.
“We’ve been dealing with this driver shortage problem since the 1980s and the industry really hasn’t stepped forward with what I would call a ‘holistic’ solution,” explained Duff Swain, president of consulting firm Trincon Group, during a webinar this week designed to lay out new solutions for the driver shortage. “The industry has only selectively looked at the issue, often focusing on the idea ‘de jour’ to address it,” he said.
Throwing money at the problem, using it as a carrot to lure drivers from one company or another, hasn’t slowed down the shortage,’ he added. Driver turnover still hovers around 100% and the shortage grows.
“We need to look more comprehensively at the problem, in particular the role individual carrier’s play in improving the image and reality of truck driving as a long term career,” Swain stressed.
Fleet Owner explained how Trincon highlighted four major points need to be addresses by fleets, regardless of size, in order to truly craft a long-term fix for the driver shortage:
- Solve turnover first: Adopting “onboarding” strategies to build better relations with driver candidates on the front end of the recruiting and orientation process.
- Have something to sell: Developing a career path for drivers in terms of measurable pay increases, ongoing training, the ability to shift into different job functions within a trucking company, and of course healthcare benefits, retirement plans, vacation and home time not only bring drivers through the door but help keep them long term.
- Keep the pipeline full: High school students, immigrants, displaced workers, military veterans: the industry needs to extend its outreach beyond the existing driver pool.”
- Relationship with drivers schools a must: More than anything, carriers must form close relationships with accredited driver training schools as well as find ways to help driver candidates pay for training. “Carriers need to be able to influence the curriculum, especially the ‘driver finishing’ part of the program, because insurance providers look closely at that in determining risk exposure.”
[textbox padding=”20″]The Canadian Trucking Alliance’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Driver Shortage arrived at similar conclusions in a 2011 study that focused on examining the underpinning of the driver shortage and identifying industry strategies towards solving the problem[/textbox]
Overlaying those points, however, is the need for the industry to recognize that pay is not the critical linchpin of the driver shortage issue, states Fleet Owner.
“Is compensation an issue? Of course it is. But once you establish competitive pay, it is how the driver gets treated that determines whether they stay or leave,” Swain stressed. “Pure and simple, we’ve been trying various methods of pay and bonuses year after year in this industry with little change in driver shortage and turnover rates to show for it.”
Still, there is no “silver bullet” for the increasingly challenging aspects of the truck driver shortage.
John Larkin, managing director and head of transportation capital markets research for Wall Street firm Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., noted in a research brief, noted that “linking compensation to performance has proven to be effective in improving operational performance.”
Bonuses incentivizing fuel efficiency, productivity, on-time performance, and safety all help drivers focus on these areas, he explained. “The personalized treatment of each individual driver, well-maintained equipment, and alignment with driver friendly customers can help maintain a positive outlook and ultimately improved performance.”
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