The driver shortage remains a top concern for private fleets and for-hire carriers alike. The National Private Truck Council (NPTC) called the driver shortage a “chronic problem” in its 2012 Benchmarking Survey, and the American Trucking Research Institute’s (ATRI) 2012 “Critical Issues” survey said the driver shortage placed fourth on the list of top industry concerns,with nearly 13 percent of respondents selecting it as the most serious issue.
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) estimates that there are currently 200,000 long-haul trucking jobs open in the United States and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects 300,000 more jobs to open by 2020.
NPTC reported that driver demographics, meaningfully higher qualification requirements and chronically low wages in many industry segments are detracting drivers. Liability concerns in addition to increased competition from less demanding occupations are also keeping more drivers from entering the industry.
Truckers are projected to exit the workforce in a growing wave with the first baby boomers beginning to turn 65 in 2012. At the same time, the pool of CDL-eligible 21 year olds starts to grow at a slower rate.
NPTC reported that private fleets do a better job of retaining drivers than for-hire carriers. In 2011, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) for-hire carrier driver turnover averaged 83 percent for the year compared to an 11 percent turnover reading amongst NPTC’s 2011 benchmarking survey.
Private fleets are able to keep drivers happy with shorter lengths of haul, regular trips home and better pay, according to the NPTC report.
However, driver demand will continue to increase, and carriers are responding in a number of ways. ATRI said the top proposed solution to the problem is to examine the competitiveness of truck driver pay and benefits as compared to other industries.
NPTC predicts that the for-hire segment is likely to experience greater driver wage inflation as the economy continues to expand.
Benefits also play an important role in attracting and retaining drivers. Younger drivers in particular are interested in having more sick time and a 401(k) retirement account.
In addition, many fleets are turning to driver wellness programs. NPTC said the number of carriers offering wellness programs is on the rise. This year 67 percent of the survey respondents reported having a driver wellness program, up from the 57 percent that reported operating a wellness program over the last two years. Only 14 percent of the respondents reported having no driver wellness programs.
Individual components of these programs include weight management, smoking cessation, sleep apnea assessments and nutritional counseling. Fleets also reported providing drivers with gym memberships, diabetes testing, exercise classes, stress management, mental health counseling and blood chemistry testing.
For a wellness program to be effective, drivers need to get onboard. Creating a strategy to disseminate information to drivers can help get drivers involved. Text messages, emails, a company message board, social media page or intranet site may be effective ways to reach drivers who are on the road.
Although labor issues remain a significant challenge, the NPTC survey reports that the 10.9 percent turnover rate, up from 10.3 percent turnover recorded in 2011, reflects the increased number of drivers opting for retirement.
Penske Logistics is currently hiring truck drivers. For additional information visit Penske’s careers page or follow the company on Twitter, @GoPenskeCareers. The company offers competitive wages and a wide range of benefits. Penske is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
By “Move Ahead” Staff