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The U.S. trucking industry’s driver shortage is quickly becoming a full-blown crisis. According to the American Trucking Associations, the industry is short 30,000 drivers, and companies are turning down business due to a lack of workers.
In 2014, the American Trucking Association reported driver turnover reached 103 percent, with many drivers switching jobs to pursue higher pay, better benefits and less time on the road. Some companies have responded by offering drivers signing bonuses, but this has only increased churn in the already troubled industry.
One of the most significant driving forces behind the industry’s driver shortage is regulation. In 2013, federal regulations reduced the number of hours truckers could drive each week from 82 to 70. This regulation compounds the driver shortage. More drivers are needed to sustain the current business demand – and the timing couldn’t be worse.
It is harder than ever before to attract young talent. Young workers are no longer entering the industry in significant numbers, driving the age of the average trucker up, according to the American Transportation Research Institute. For private carriers, the median driver age is 52 years old (compared to 42.4 years of age for the entire U.S. workforce), and there are more truckers 65 and older than there are between the ages of 20 and 24. As the numbers indicate, the industry needs to take steps to retain the drivers it has and recruit younger workers to replace retiring baby boomers.
The problem is that the trucking industry simply doesn’t appeal to new talent entering the workforce. Companies, therefore, must invest in innovative technologies to attract new talent. Here are five ways companies can appeal to innovative talent and retain their existing drivers.
- Make Drivers Feel Like Valued Team Members
Trucking can be a lonely job, with long stretches of solitude on the highway and days or weeks spent away from home. Millennials in particular crave engagement and collaboration at work, which is tough to come by when driving the long haul. One key to retaining drivers – especially young, energetic ones – is simply bringing them into the fold. If you can build a strong company culture with a family atmosphere, employees will feel valued and be more likely to stick around.
- Encourage Drivers to Engage with the Company
Feeling disconnected from the company can make drivers disengage from their work, which is detrimental to productivity and leads to higher turnover. Drivers are remote employees, and just like remote employees in the corporate world, they want to be part of the company culture and kept informed of the company’s objectives. By providing drivers with the resources needed to increase connectivity, such as mobile phones and tablets with broadband capabilities, drivers can attend company meetings and town halls, increasing their engagement with the company.
- Improve Communication with Drivers
Constant communication with drivers on the road is also extremely beneficial for the company. Drivers can report key information about the performance of their trucks or incidents along their routes – such as closed roads and detours – that can help reduce maintenance costs, improve fuel efficiency and increase productivity.
- Ramp Up the Driver Experience
Companies that have trouble retaining drivers should look at the gaping inefficiencies in their organization, and determine the small upgrades they can invest in to make drivers’ trips more efficient and enjoyable. Younger drivers aren’t the only ones who crave an improved experience. Besides salary, home time and benefits, new equipment was the top reason that truck drivers of all ages gave for hopping jobs. They are surrounded by technology in their personal lives, and they seek the same within the cab of a truck. It’s a win-win because upgrading the driver’s experience will also improve overall efficiency, accuracy and automation.
- Invest in New Technology
Millennials are digital natives, and they are 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters of technology than older generations. They want the tools that make it easier for them to do their jobs well, such as trucks with automatic transmissions, route optimization and form automation. For instance, most trucking companies still use paper forms to track processes. This is extremely inefficient and can be frustrating for drivers when they’re constantly hunting for the correct forms. Instead, companies should provide mobile technology that gives real-time connection to relevant files and documents. Comply365, which develops cutting-edge software solutions, partners with Samsung to bring real-time data transparency to the trucking industry. Its solutions like Forms365 make it easy for drivers to complete electronic forms quickly and efficiently.
As the demand for freight transportation grows and the economy continues to improve, the demand for qualified drivers is only going to climb. While increasing drivers’ wages is certainly a good way to attract experienced drivers, it isn’t necessarily the best option for attracting new blood and innovation into your company.
By giving drivers the tools they need, improving communication within your organization, and making drivers feel like valued members of the team, you can make your company an appealing choice for eager young people just entering the workforce and promote loyalty for life.