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Fleet Management, Fleet Safety

Understanding the Truck Driver Shortage So You Can Decrease Turnover

February 24, 2020

Heading into a new decade, the nationwide truck driver shortage continues to be top of mind for most trucking companies. As the number of available, qualified truck drivers seems to keep dwindling, it’s easy to feel like there’s little your company can do to overcome this shortage. 

The good news is that you have a lot of power to overcome the driver shortage by making your company attractive to qualified and safe drivers. 

In this article, we’ll answer some common questions about the driver shortage. Using the findings from the American Trucking Association’s (ATA) Driver Shortage Report, we’ll help you understand why the shortage is happening and how it's impacting trucking companies. We’ll also present you with six potential ways you can attract, hire, and retain highly-qualified, safe drivers to help combat the effects of the driver shortage. 

What’s causing the driver shortage?

According to the ATA’s report, the driver shortage is influenced by a series of different factors, including:

  1. An aging workforce: The average age of drivers in for-hire and over-the-road trucking is 46. And private carriers and less-than-truckload carriers typically have even older drivers. Most of these older drivers are Baby Boomers, a generation that’s retiring at a staggering rate of nearly 10,000 people per day. And young people aren’t entering into the driving workforce at a fast enough rate to make up for this.

  2. Millennial career expectations: Why are millennials less likely than previous generations to become truck drivers? Career expectations have changed. Millennials are more likely than previous generations to pursue careers that require a college degree—which usually means a nine-to-five desk job. 

  3. A lack of diversity: Traditionally, trucking companies have struggled to attract minorities to their workforce—especially women. Only 6.6% of all drivers are women, mostly because they haven't been explicitly marketed to for open positions. By missing out on a large portion of the population, trucking companies are further limited by the pool of workers they can hire from.

  4. High hiring standards: Most trucking companies are very strict with their hiring qualifications, going above and beyond state and federal DOT requirements. While 88% of fleets surveyed by the ATA remarked they’re getting lots of applications, most of these applicants don’t fit their hiring standards. Because hiring underqualified or unqualified applicants can increase accidents—and thus insurance premiums—strict hiring requirements make sense. Companies want a proven record of safety on the road, which is often difficult to find in newer or younger drivers. So while there already is a smaller pool of available drivers to hire from, strict hiring standards are making it even more difficult for trucking companies to find new drivers and grow their workforce.

  5. Regulations: While new Hours of Service (HOS) requirements (part of the recent ELD mandate) have helped improve the safety of drivers, some trucking companies have found that they’ve also caused a loss in productivity. Due to HOS regulations, drivers have to take either more frequent or longer breaks. Trucking companies are looking to hire more drivers to make up for this lost productivity, which puts more strain on the pool of available drivers.

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Is the driver shortage getting better or worse?

This is a bit of a tricky question to answer. The driver shortage today is higher than ever before—but it’s expected to remain stagnant through 2020 and even 2021. Overall, however, the shortage will likely increase over the next decade in the trucking industry. In 2020, there is expected to be a shortage of about 60,800 drivers. And by 2028, the shortage is expected to soar to 160,000. 

So while the driver shortage isn’t expected to increase in the short-term, it is expected to double within the next eight to 10 years. 

Should I focus on attracting new drivers or retaining current drivers?

If the drivers you have now are able to keep up with the demands of your business, you shouldn’t feel the need to hire more. Over-hiring for a sense of security during this shortage can dig into your profits. If, however, you do have some drivers who have their eye on retirement, it might be worth starting the process to hire their replacements early. 

If you have enough drivers to suit your business needs, focus instead on ways to keep your current drivers happy so they’ll stay with your company for the long-haul. Driver churn is a direct effect of the driver shortage. If you can combat driver churn, you might be less impacted by the shortage. 

What can I do to combat the driver shortage?

The good news is that there are many ways you can attract and retain highly-qualified, skilled, and safe drivers. Some ways may even surprise you, like leveraging your fleet management platform as a competitive advantage to hire new employees. 

Here are six best practices for attracting, hiring, and retaining drivers: 

  1. Coach drivers to promote from within: Research has found that over 80% of drivers want feedback and coaching to become better at their jobs. Using your telematics system and dash cams, you can build out coaching programs that you can use as a way to promote internally. If your telematics solution provides insights into safety-related events, like harsh accelerating or braking, building out coaching is especially simple. With solutions like Samsara, you can receive alerts anytime one of these events occur. You can instantly retrieve dash cam footage to see why the event occurred and use this footage to coach your drivers. By promoting from within, you encourage drivers to stay with your company because they’ll be rewarded for doing so. You can attract new drivers, especially millennials, by showing you have clear career trajectories planned for them. 

  2. Attract new groups: Actively recruiting women into your workforce is a great way to combat driver shortages—they’re a largely untapped resource. Reaching out to female drivers is fairly simple. According to female drivers, the best way to attract them is to prove that you want them working for you. Running ads that include women, hiring or promoting women to leadership positions, and having separate locker facilities at terminals equipped with women-specific clothing and feminine products are all great ways to recruit women in trucking.

  3. Exonerate innocent drivers: Drivers are no strangers to false accident claims and you can retain them by letting them know you have their backs. When calls come in demanding payouts because your driver hit someone, it’s often a he-said-she-said situation between your driver and the caller. By using a telematics system and dash cam footage, you can prove when your drivers aren’t at fault and avoid costly payouts. With dash cams that let you instantly request video retrieval, you can exonerate drivers as soon as you receive a false claim. Safe drivers will be grateful that they can avoid having false claims on their records and are more likely to want to stay with your company.

  4. Prove your commitment to safety: You can also leverage your telematics system to attract new drivers by proving they’ll be safe on the job. Invest in keeping your vehicles in their best, road-ready condition to help prevent major breakdowns that could put drivers at risk. Telematics solutions that offer automated preventative maintenance schedules make vehicle upkeep simple. Engine fault codes and odometer data are constantly pulled from vehicles so your mechanics can easily schedule oil changes and brake pad replacements months in advance. With these real-time insights into the health of your vehicles, your mechanics can be alerted instantly when issues are detected so they can correct small problems before they become larger issues. 

  5. Reward safety: With a telematics solution that provides insights into your drivers’ safety, you can use this data to reward your safest drivers. Some telematics solutions, like Samsara, provide your drivers’ safety scores based on the number of accidents and harsh braking, turning, and accelerating events. Using driver safety data, you can build out creative rewards programs that incentivize safe drivers with bonuses, plaques, or even the best parking spot at work. By demonstrating that you value your drivers and their hard work, they’re more likely to be loyal to your business and stick by your side through this shortage. 

  6. Make up for lost productivity: Hiring more drivers and retaining the ones you do have is the most obvious way to overcome the shortage. But you can also make up for having fewer drivers by increasing their overall productivity through better routing and dispatching. With a telematics solution that provides real-time (rather than breadcrumb) GPS tracking, you can see if routes or deliveries are running longer than anticipated. You can then use this data to consolidate deliveries or reorder stops to improve routes so you can complete more on-time deliveries. 

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Attracting and retaining safe and skilled drivers can be difficult, but leveraging a robust telematics system can make this easier. By using dash cams and safety data to exonerate and reward your drivers, you can show you value them as employees. Feeling appreciated and respected makes them more likely to want to work, and stay, at your company. 

Fleets that have implemented a telematics solution equipped with dash cams to build out safety and coaching programs have reduced driver turnover by 10%. If you aren’t currently using a telematics provider, or are looking to upgrade, schedule a demo or a free trial of the Samsara platform today

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