Fleet managers across the country are struggling to combat the shortage of truck drivers. The truck driver shortage is challenging the capacity of the trucking industry. It seems like there aren’t enough drivers to keep the country’s goods moving. On top of the shortage, many fleets are seeing drivers unexpectedly quit. Companies can face a loss of revenue of over ten thousand dollars when a driver departs. Finding and retaining skilled drivers is at the top of the list for many fleet managers and fleet owners.
A report on trucking trends found that finding good drivers is the top challenge for over 70% of mid-size fleets. 60% of fleets polled said they had difficulty finding experienced drivers in the past year. The truck driver shortage traditionally impacts mid-sized fleets more than smaller owner-operated ones, but all fleets, no matter their size, are affected.
Timeline and Statistics of the Truck Driver Shortage
Analysis done by the American Trucking Associations notes that the first report of a truck driver shortage in the United States was in 2005. It has been an industry-wide problem since then, with only a light reprieve in the 2008 recession. With freight volumes temporarily down, the industry could meet demand without as many drivers. However, as soon as freight volumes started to recover in 2011, the shortage of truck drivers again became an issue.
Let’s take a quick look at truck driver shortage statistics over the past few years. In 2016 the trucking industry needed 36,500 more drivers than it had. The next year, during the truck driver shortage in 2017, the industry was short 50,700 drivers. The most recent reports from American Trucking Associations estimate a slight improvement in 2019 due to several factors, such as slower economic growth and a small increase in the supply of drivers. But make no mistake, the truck driver shortage in 2020 is massive and, if it stays on its current trajectory, it could balloon to over 160,000 drivers by 2028.
Why is there a Truck Driver Shortage?
The truck driver shortage in the United States is at an all-time high and has never been worse. But what are the factors causing it? One of the reasons for the current shortage is that veteran drivers are aging out of their jobs and younger generations aren’t interested in a truck driving career. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 55 as the average commercial truck driver age.
Derek Leathers, CEO of a large Omaha-based trucking company explains how the image of truck driving has changed for the worse when he says that “being a truck driver was something that carried a certain level of honor with it… [truck drivers] were kind of the 'knights of the road,' and we lost that somewhere along the way, and I think often trucks are portrayed as sort of this negative reality on the road."
There is a very high turnover for truck drivers. Many things contribute to this fact like the low wages truck drivers are paid. In addition, drivers in some organizations are asked to work unpaid. Drivers are generally paid mileage and are not compensated for the time they spend stuck in traffic, or in delays due to construction zones or bad weather. Pay based on mileage can cause accidents when drivers push themselves to stay on the road long after they should have taken a rest. However, resting often can mean lower pay in some cases.
Another reason for the truck driver shortage is restricted driving hours. The trucking industry is heavily regulated and requires drivers to keep digital records of their hours on the road known as Record of Duty Status (RODS). These devices dictate whether a driver is allowed on the road or not. Drivers who are delayed may be penalized and lose money because they are not allowed to continue driving.
Tips to Combat the Shortage
Invest in Fleet Managers
If you want to combat the truck driver shortage one of the best things you can do for your company is invest in your fleet managers. They are the primary point of contact for your drivers and can let you know in advance if any problems arise.
Support your Drivers
Drivers like to know you’ve got their back. Supporting your drivers can help them feel valued. This keeps them loyal to your organization and attracts other loyal drivers. One way to support your drivers is by providing cab cleaning to them at zero cost. The cab is where truck drivers spend the majority of their time. Investing in a deep clean for your drivers provides a healthier work environment, boosts morale, and demonstrates support for your drivers.
Understand Your Drivers’ Concerns
Become familiar with the reasons your drivers have for leaving. Fleet managers sometimes assume drivers are only motivated by compensation but often drivers leave for other reasons. Truck drivers want to feel like their time is valued. They want solid communication at their job and they want some degree of work/life balance. Figure out the reasons your drivers are leaving and see if you can make changes that convince them to stay. Find out about the problems drivers have in advance, before the exit interview. When you do things right there might not even be an exit.
Work on Driver Retention
Every driver that leaves creates a vacancy that often requires a new hire. With a truck driver shortage going on the last thing your fleet needs is a high turnover rate. Focusing on retaining the drivers you already have will prevent departures and ultimately save you time with HR pouring over endless resumes.
Proper fleet management is one of the best ways to combat the truck driver shortage in fleets large and small. Make sure you invest in fleet management software that keeps your fleet safe and boosts productivity. Find out what Azuga Fleet™ can do for your truck drivers today.