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A woman speaking on a radio in a truck with the text "How To Overcome the Tight Labor Market in the Trucking Industry"

How To Overcome The Tight Labor Market In The Trucking Industry

One of the most difficult issues shippers who operate their own fleet and most logistics companies today face is the persisting lack of available drivers. As a result of this labor shortage, companies have to shell out more cash to keep up with growing demand and ensure their products are moving on time. To effectively manage these tight job market conditions, shippers of all types and sizes need to understand why this phenomenon is occurring in addition to the impact it has on their business – regardless of how they handle their transportation requirements.

Some obvious macro-level things are happening in the industry that impact drivers’ availability, and therefore, the capacity available to shippers. For one thing, it’s hard to find recruits for positions that can require employees to travel for such long stints of time. This is especially true for acquiring long-haul driver candidates. Another factor that will soon make matters even worse is the impending reality of mass retirement. On average, most individuals who haul freight over longer distances fall somewhere around the age of 50, making the possibility of retiring a little too close for comfort for their employers.

As for the other side of the equation, logistics professionals then have to consider the legal restrictions placed on traveling across state borders in the U.S. Because the age minimum is 21, you’re automatically ruling out an entire demographic of young adults between the ages of 18 and 20. Once these individuals graduate high school and land positions in other fields, they’re most likely not going to seek out a job they would have to receive completely new training for three years after the fact.

Many trucking companies and their shipper customers have come to dread this labor shortage. If they don’t take the proper measures now, this hurdle will start to affect consumers on an even larger level than it already has. Here are some of the top ways to deal with this industry nightmare to help shippers overcome the trucking industry’s tight labor market before it has the chance to go too far.

Lower the minimum age requirement

Right now, the American Trucking Associations is fully backing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s first attempts towards decreasing the minimum age requirement for commercial driving from 21 to 18. By moving forward in this direction, trucking companies will be able to access a bigger pool of potential candidates, eliminating some of the barriers preventing suitable recruits from joining the field.

Improve incentives to attract new drivers

Whether it’s introducing more consistent weekly pay, competitive benefits, or sign-on bonuses, trucking companies have got to improve the incentives they offer to attract new drivers. Industry insiders expect the number of job openings for drivers to rise above 200,000 over the next 8 years as current drivers start retiring. So, start proactively prioritizing the hiring process to ensure your company has the supply to meet expectations for future demand.

Bring in more women

It should come as no surprise that men make up the majority of drivers in the trucking industry. This is why companies need to further expand their pool of candidates by recruiting more women. One suggestion for potentially accomplishing this that is growing in popularity is to improve the comfort and convenience of cabin conditions.

While hiring new prospects is critical for addressing the ever-increasing shortage of drivers, it’s equally important that you also concentrate on keeping the drivers you already have happy. There are many methods you can try to retain your current labor, including:

Raise pay

Raising your employees’ pay is an excellent way to ensure that they’re not going anywhere. The industry has made a lot of progress in this particular area, so it’s critical that the pay rate you offer can at least compete. Many drivers are also paid based on total mileage rather than the time they spend driving or any specialized skills they may have utilized during a haul. This kind of pay structure fails to acknowledge the weather or traffic hazards drivers can encounter and places unhealthy pressure on drivers to stay on the road to avoid losing money.

Develop solutions for better working conditions

A long-haul driver’s lifestyle isn’t easy with long hours on the road, traveling away from home, and the sometimes painful detention times. By developing solutions that will give drivers better working conditions, companies can make the position a lot more lucrative and worthwhile for their talent. For instance, simply making adjustments to your regular routes could allow employees to be home more often and vastly improve the job’s quality.

COVID’s Impact

Before the pandemic even entered the equation, the trucking industry was short tens of thousands of big-rig drivers. In the context of COVID-19, many are anxious to see how the virus will further contribute to this growing problem. When you consider how government-mandated shutdowns have led to commercial driver training schools and DMV closures, the outlook doesn’t seem too good.

It can take almost three months to teach a new driver the basics of commercial driving. That window of time doesn’t even include any additional training that some individuals may need extending beyond the bare minimum. Unlike their larger competitors, smaller carriers are most at risk because they may not provide the financial support that will attract and retain top-tier candidates.

However, if you want to take full advantage of these solutions, you’re going to have to invest the proper time and money into the onboarding process. With the possibility of younger drivers entering the picture, skimping on safety is not the answer to saving money. You don’t want to toss out inexperienced drivers on the road when it could jeopardize their lives and put your freight at risk.

Luckily, even smaller trucking companies can leverage today’s cost-effective technology like dashcams to protect new drivers, prevent accidents as well as theft, and even make room for teaching opportunities in real-time. Other potential methods small-scale carriers can use to build their workforce that are a little more on the affordable side include:

  • Thoroughly researching driver backgrounds and work history
  • Creating and upholding regulations that apply to everyone in the company
  • Following industry-wide commercial vehicle safety practices
  • Distributing routine written/road exams to keep employees up to date

Even though maintaining such strict hiring qualifications is partly why finding recruits can be so challenging, it’s necessary for a field that’s subject to life or death accidents and soaring insurance premiums. By implementing these strategies alongside programs that address the other practical needs of drivers, the industry can promote a better work environment that will help significantly decrease the current employee turnover rate.

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