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How To Attract and Retain Truck Drivers in a Hot Freight Market

As freight demand increases, carriers are finding it challenging to find truck drivers. Solutions are being sourced from technology and better practices.

What’s covered in this article:

  • The negative impacts of Covid-19 on the trucking industry

  • The continuous driver shortage and potential solutions 

  • Ways to improve practices in the trucking profession

  • Technological advances in trucking

The global scarcity of professional truck drivers is evident. It is equally difficult to retain truck drivers. As economies inch towards a new normal, the dependency on truck drivers will continue to intensify. The American Trucking Association assesses that the current truck driver shortage of 63,000 could increase drastically in the next five years. Immediate measures on a larger scale are required to counter this inadequacy. The current attrition rate for this industry is over 100%. The reasons for such a shortage range from demography to working conditions.

Why Is It Hard To Find Truck Drivers?

The Covid-19 uncertainty highlighted just how capacity-constrained the market is and how any regional disruption could set it off. Before the pandemic, only 12-15% of all truckload shipments were spot loads. However, because supply and demand can barely be predicted during this pandemic, shippers have been forced to rely on the spot market for flexibility and added capacity. In 2020, 23% of all truckloads were spot shipments.

The pandemic has escalated the situation with manpower shortages and restrictions on the physical presence of labor.

With such disruptions in the cargo-industry, it is difficult to identify the manpower required for a carrier to operate effectively. Further, the pandemic has escalated the situation with manpower shortages and restrictions on the physical presence of labor. According to DAT Freight & Analytics, van load-to-truck posts are up 219% over prior year, signaling that there is massive demand for more truck drivers. For forecasts and further insight, read the latest truckload report.

In many states the national van demand has reached more than 5 times the available capacity.

Load-to-Truck ratio truckload map
Image Source: https://www.dat.com/industry-trends/trendlines/van/demand-and-capacity

Due to the pandemic, the facilities that long-haul truck drivers used to rely on the past are no longer available. Most rest stops and road-side restaurants have closed due to Covid-19. Portable restrooms are not the best of option in terms of cleanliness and hygiene. Further, these drivers are plagued by long working hours, lesser personal time and increasing work-pressures.

A survey from the International Road-transport Union (IRU) revealed that women and youth have had their misgivings with joining this industry. Further, the global average age of a professional truck driver is now close to 50.

This demographic time-bomb could explode soon, and the fallout will heavily impact the industry. When an employer invests and trains their staff, future expenditure to rehire is minimized. According to PGT Trucking Inc., the financial loss for every truck driver resignation is roughly $9,500.

To address the truck driver shortage, fleets have announced pay increases. But is this enough or is it only a small part of a larger solution?

How To Retain Truck Drivers:

It’s time that employers go above and beyond and help with other defining retention factors.

1. Better Pay

Truck drivers will certainly appreciate better pay. However, it’s time that employers go above and beyond and help with other defining retention factors. Truck drivers are looking for an emotional connection with their jobs. They want to be given respect and this politeness can go a long way.

2. Company Culture

A sense of trust can retain truck drivers. To build this, employers can show consistency and truthfulness especially in handling logs and reports. The company’s culture is what will attract the younger generation and reduce the average age of the truck drivers. Having diversity within the team (across age groups, demographic regions, and genders) is an important factor to become a preferred employer in this industry.

3. Technology that Performs

Another way to retain truck drivers is to have excellent customized equipment. As this job highly risky, carriers who monitor the safety aspects and take ownership of their truck drivers are the preferred employers.

4. Employee Support

To better the working environment, employers can resort to identifying regional routes to give them flexibility with employee schedules. Most drivers appreciate predictability in the form of dedicated opportunities and planned routes.

Truck drivers also worry that their profession is poorly viewed. Due to this, they seek employment that has opportunity for growth within the organization, such as promotions to an office job, for example.

An employer should show willingness to comply with government regulations such as basic pay and working hours to retain truck drivers. They should provide training to the truck drivers and invest in their future. Offering learning platforms on soft skills including patience, diplomacy, and communication will be beneficial, along with one-off trainings surrounding new technology.

The Future For Truck Operators And Their Employers

Developments in AI and machine learning are allowing for a more cohesive approach to training and retaining truck drivers. AI-based simulators are more effective when compared to monotonous classroom sessions. It provides the opportunity to systematically train and coach drivers remotely, especially for fleets that are based around the country. Camera vision systems and sensors can aid truck drivers in their day-to-day operations.

How can you increase truck driver retention through technology?

To attract and retain truck drivers, fleets can look at the latest technology adaptations. Some blockchain and AI-based options are:

  • AI-enabled face mask detection to support driver health and safety
  • Live-streaming that allows safety managers to do virtual “ride-alongs”
  • Sharing of event videos between drivers and safety managers
  • Apps that monitor the truck drivers on road timings and schedules their breaks
  • Apps that help plan routes better and find parking lots
  • Electro-hydraulic steering technology that helps with lane changes or keeping to lanes and even helps with traffic jam assists

While advancing technologies play a key role in safety and practices, there is also a heavy importance on building relationships and experience.

BlueGrace’s trademark tools BlueShip® & ORCA™, aid in navigating today’s fragmented market to help match the best truck to the proper load. They effectively utilize the truck drivers’ capacity and time to minimize downtime and increase profitability. Safety and reliability are taken to the next level to ensure BlueGrace’s quality shipping. While advancing technologies play a key role in safety and practices, there is also a heavy importance on building relationships and experience. This creates a positive impact and experience through every step of the supply chain.

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