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truck driver shortage
Anyone who has been in trucking for even a few years is no stranger to the trucking shortage. This phenomenon has been growing for several years, and despite the unexpected twists of the past year, the truck driver shortage continues. As a single company, there is little you can do to change the overall industry conditions. However, there are ways to combat the trucking shortage in your own fleet.

Overview of the Driver Shortage

The current trucking shortage is a combination of several intersecting factors. First, there are still limited numbers of drivers entering the trucking field. This has been an ongoing trend for several years, and the industry as a whole has struggled to recruit and retain millennials and younger drivers. Second, the FMCSA’s Clearinghouse is in full effect. The Clearinghouse cleaned driver databases and removed tens of thousands of drivers who did not pass the drug and alcohol screening. The majority of these drivers have not taken steps to re-enter trucking. Both the lack of young drivers and the decrease as a result of the Clearinghouse were relatively expected influences. COVID-19 has added several additional challenges. 

When COVID-19 hit the trucking industry, there was a wide range of consequences depending on the company and haul type. For some, demand spiked overnight, and hiring drivers immediately was the biggest challenge. For other companies, business dried up, and they may have laid off drivers to keep the business afloat.

As we move through 2021, there continues to be mismatched supply and demand within different trucking niches.

In addition, drivers who were laid off have likely been collecting unemployment benefits. With the additional stipend provided by many states, some drivers are getting a good payout and are not incentivized to return to their driving jobs. The increased federal aid for unemployment is set to run through September 7, 2021, but many states intend to reduce unemployment benefits sooner. This may help reduce the trucking shortage, but fleets will still be contending with the other ongoing challenges. 

An Inside Look at the Shortage

The combination of factors mentioned above meant that it’s a driver’s market right now. Top drivers have their pick of jobs, and companies must have compelling offerings to attract drivers to their fleet. 

Drive My Way’s CEO, Beth Potratz, has deep expertise in HR and the trucking industry. She shared these insights on the ongoing driver shortage.

Beth Potratz

Beth Potratz, CEO of Drive My Way

“In the industry, there has been a stark decline in drivers searching for jobs, advertisement cost per lead is at an all-time high, and the average cost per hire has increased 41% higher month over month. ​

With local jobs aside, results with Drive My Way are consistent with the trends. Throwing more money at advertising will not fix the problem. Focus on the quality of your offering: pay, home time flexibility, and equipment quality. ​

The critical thing is that with fewer drivers looking for a job, those that connect first will win. It’s vital that you aggressively make a timely connection with drivers that express interest. Other recruiters are trying to reach them as well. Make those that express interest and who have completed a full app a priority.”

There is no single solution to becoming a top recruiting company, but successful hires start with an appealing job offer and a driver-centric culture. Optimize your offerings to bring in quality drivers that are right for your fleet.

How To Combat the Driver Shortage

Improve Your Job Offering

Because demand for drivers is high and supply is low, drivers can be particular and choose from top companies. Attracting drivers has to start with a top offering. At a minimum, your total compensation package – pay, home time, and benefits – should be at or above the industry average for that job type and region. If you offer a significant sign-on bonus, make sure that the rest of your package is also strong. The majority of drivers prefer higher pay to a large initial bonus and may be skeptical if the bonus is too big. Historically, some companies withhold pay in job advertisements to stay competitive with drivers. With demand for drivers as high as it is, that is a luxury that no company can afford. Drivers are looking for the best offer. Bring something valuable to the table, and make sure drivers are clear on your offer. 

Your total compensation package – pay, home time, and benefits – should be at or above the industry average. If you offer a significant sign-on bonus, make sure that the rest of your package is also strong.

In addition to a compelling compensation package, it’s important to clearly communicate the job description. The best job descriptions are specific and transparent. Drivers want to know what they’re getting into, and they don’t want surprises down the road. Make sure the most important details stand out, and use clear, concise language and formatting to convey the information. A well-written job description tells drivers that you are organized and understand their priorities.

Fine Tune Your Recruiting

A good job description may bring drivers in the door, but it’s up to recruiters to keep drivers interested. When a driver expresses interest in a position, it’s important to contact drivers quickly. That may mean changing staff hours to include shifts that are outside of the typical 9AM to 5PM. When demand for drivers is so high, even a few hours can be the difference in making the hire. If you have a top driver who is unsure about the position, put them in touch with a current driver. This demonstrates your trust in your drivers and is a clear commitment to transparency and company culture. If the compensation package is strong, one good conversation may be enough to convince a driver that you are the right fit.

female trucker

If drivers are not responding to your digital advertisements and marketing efforts, expand your candidate pool and evaluate your minimum qualifications. Reach out to underrepresented driver groups such as women, drivers of color, and young drivers. There are many great employees out there who you may be missing because your ads are not in the right places.

Another opportunity to bolster driver interest is through referral programs. Offer incentives (financial or otherwise) to current drivers who bring in new candidates. To incentivize driver retention, offer the referral bonus to your current driver after the new driver has stayed for 90 days or a similar trial period. Expanded marketing efforts and referral programs are a great way to help combat the truck driver shortage. 

Retain Current Drivers

One of the best ways to combat the effects of the trucking shortage in your fleet is to reduce the number of new drivers you need. Retention is just as important as recruiting. Start your retention efforts in the structure of your jobs. For example, if you are planning to give bonuses, reward longevity and performance over time rather than a hiring bonus. In addition, make sure your current drivers feel valued. Appreciation can come as a financial incentive, but you can also use home time, company or truck gear, or recognition to show drivers they matter. 

truck on the roadThe final, but perhaps most important, retention strategy comes from driver input. Drivers have years of valuable experience, and if they stay with your company for a long time, there’s a reason. Find those drivers who have stayed loyal, and ask why they stay. Then, amplify the things you are doing well! Many people focus on eliminating problems to improve retention, but it can be similarly effective to increase positive aspects of the job.

Ultimately, one company won’t resolve an industry-wide truck driver shortage. Instead, do your best to get clear, compelling, and concise job postings in front of the right drivers. Then, respond quickly to top candidates to make the hire. For current drivers, ensure that your HR structure supports driver retention so you can keep the good drivers you already have. 

truck driver incentive program checklist

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truck driver shortage

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.

Solution:

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.

Solution:

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.

Solution:

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.

Solution:

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.

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Just like any other employees, truck drivers consider a variety of factors when deciding which company to work for. Some factors are obvious, such as compensation and benefits. Some other factors may surprise you. As a recruiter, you may think that you’ve all but sealed the deal on a new candidate but then they end up declining the job. Drivers may not be open with you about why they declined the job, but it is useful for recruiters to have this information.

Drive My Way’s unique service matches drivers with companies based on professional qualifications and lifestyle choices. Sometimes our drivers turn down these offers by employers. We’ve asked our drivers why they turn down the jobs, and the results may be eye-opening. According to our Drive My Way drivers, here are the top seven reasons truck drivers decline jobs.

1. Another Job

The number one reason why drivers decline jobs is because they got scooped up by someone else. They were offered another job by a competitor and they thought the offer was too good to pass up.

As a recruiter, you know this is always a possibility you should try to avoid. Always be in touch with top prospects and know when is a good time to offer the position and sign them on. If you wait too long, you’re more than likely to lose the candidate to a recruiter from another company who was just quicker. In the Drive My Way database, over 3,200 drivers cited this as the reason they decline other jobs.

2. Salary

Okay, this one shouldn’t come as a major shock—drivers care about compensation. Considering the reality of the driver shortage, drivers have considerable bargaining power to be able to look for a better deal elsewhere. In the Drive My Way database, a whopping 1,500 drivers declined jobs because of the compensation.

The average yearly salary for truck drivers is around $41,000. But industry average doesn’t paint the whole picture. Driver pay should be dependent on a number of factors including years of experience, type of haul, and the overall benefit package. Offering packages above the industry average is the best practice, but make sure to take into account other factors when crafting a compensation package.

Bottom line, if drivers aren’t being payed as much as they think they deserve, they will not think twice about declining your job offer and looking elsewhere.

3. Hours, Schedule & Home Time

The third most cited reason truck drivers decline jobs is work schedule and home time. The average driver works 70 hours a week and goes 8 days before taking a day off.

That’s a tough schedule, especially for those with families. Finding time to spend with family can be difficult enough, but is especially rough for OTR truck drivers. In the Drive My Way database, over 1400 candidates cited schedule as a reason they declined job offers.

When recruiting candidates, take care to offer packages that will suit their schedule preferences. Drivers aren’t looking to slack off half the week—they’d just like to keep some time for home time. Get to know their family situations, lifestyle, work habits, and keep these in mind while offering packages. Keeping home-time a consideration not only shows drivers that you care about them as employees but builds a more productive and motivated workforce. Drivers are more likely to be retained long-term if they are happy with their work schedules.

But wait, I thought there were 7 driver decline reasons?

These are just the top three reasons truck drivers decline jobs offered by recruiters. But, this is just the tip of the iceberg. For the complete list of reasons that truck drivers decline jobs, download the complete ebook below.

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Access More Driver Decline Reasons

Unlock additional reasons why truck drivers decline your CDL jobs by downloading our free ebook. The book shares insight to what drivers really want.

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