There’s nothing that keeps trucking recruiters up at night like the ongoing truck driver shortage. Without a doubt, it’s the biggest factor influencing the transportation industry. Truck drivers and carriers alike know that it is difficult to hire and recruit top drivers for retention when there is tremendous competition for a small pool of drivers. Overcoming the truck driver shortage requires understanding the forces causing them. Here are 4 trends impacting the driver shortage and solutions on how carriers can overcome them.
Trend 1: Not attracting younger workers
As a whole, the trucking industry is currently failing to attract younger workers. Most current truck drivers are middle-aged and have worked in trucking or other industries for many years. In past generations there were more young truck drivers, but those trends have changed. In addition, the industry must comply with the federal rule which requires commercial vehicle drivers to be at least 21 years old. The regulations aren’t entirely to blame for the truck driver shortage. The labor force participation rate for ages 16 to 24 is trending downward. This means there is increased competition for a smaller pool of young drivers today than ever before.
If the trucking industry wants to tap into a larger pool of drivers, it needs to start appealing to millennial drivers. Millennials have different priorities and attitudes than their generation X and generation Y predecessors. In order to appeal to younger drivers, recruiters need to evaluate what millennials really want and then make sure a trucking job can provide it.
Trend 2: More workers go straight to college or the trades
The percentage of high school graduates going to college has increased over the last few decades. In 1984, only 56% of students went to college after graduating from high school. The rest of them went into the labor force including trucking and trades like welding, mechanics, and work as plumbers or electricians.
Today, nearly 70% of students are going to college, which leaves fewer workers for both trucking and the trades.
Sure enough, many of the trades are also experiencing a shortage, and they directly compete with trucking industry for a smaller pool of workers. If these workers find the trades to be a more attractive as jobs, it impacts the shortage in the trucking industry.
Recruiters need to focus on making trucking more attractive than the trades. While both of these industry paths have many things in common, there are important differences as well. The biggest factor is travel and the impact on home time. While this may seem like a disadvantage at first glance, recruiters need to turn this into a benefit. By highlighting the opportunity to travel and the independence and flexibility of the job, recruiters can make trucking more appealing. Trade industries don’t offer many of the same perks and benefits that trucking does.
Trend 3: Automation is hurting, not helping
Automation has yet to make a significant impact in reducing the driver shortage. Although many industry analysts had imagined self-driving trucks to be more prevalent on the road today, it is not yet the case. Autonomous trucks are still years or decades away from being a player due to technology, legal, and safety considerations. Instead of helping the driver shortage, autonomous trucks have hurt the industry in another fashion. The looming threat of self-driving trucks is discouraging career-minded people from the trucking profession. If drivers incorrectly believe that autonomous trucks will take their jobs in a few years, they won’t invest the time and money needed to pursue a career path in trucking.
Recruiters shouldn’t be waiting for automation to solve the driver shortage. Regardless of the future of self-driving trucks, recruiters need to focus on finding innovative ways to compete for the best drivers and retaining them. Have data and statistics available on how the hype behind self-driving trucks doesn’t stand up to reality. Drivers want to know that they are still needed and that you rely on them for labor.
Trend 4: Most current drivers are men
There’s no doubt about it, there’s a driver shortage because most truck drivers are men and they comprise only 50% of the workforce. There has been a significant increase in women drivers in recent years, but this hasn’t happened fast enough to offset the driver shortage. Most older drivers are still men, while younger generations tend to be less disproportionate.
When only half the population considers trucking as a profession, there’s no wonder there’s a driver shortage.
It’s a myth that trucking isn’t a career for women or that they wouldn’t enjoy the work. Although being a woman trucker comes with its own challenges, women who are passionate about the job and the independence it brings are happy to take on the role.
This one is simple: the industry needs to become more woman friendly. Recruiters can focus on hiring and retaining more female truck drivers. Industry stakeholders can partner with organizations like Women in Trucking to advance and advocate for women in the industry. Carriers can go the extra mile to make sure women are comfortable with their companies. As your reputation as a woman friendly company grows, more female drivers will consider trucking with your fleet. While there is a long road ahead, growing the number of women drivers will make a serious dent in the driver shortage problem.