The Truck Driver Shortage- Part 1
Defining the Qualified Truck Driver
In the recent ATA press release, addressing the continuous “driver shortage” plaguing the trucking industry, their analysis states that the shortage has grown to nearly 48,00 and could increase more due to industry growth and the retiring truck driver community. According to analysis and if the current trend holds, the shortage may balloon to almost 175,000 by 2024
This October 6th report from the ATA raised questions about the “Driver Shortage” dilemma ,which has been a topic of discussion for as long as I can remember.
The first question that came to mind, is the definition of a driver shortage, and who is defining it, the driver or the carrier?
It is the definition of truck driver shortage which will also shape and define the cause and effects of the shortage, as ones perception of cause will also ultimately dictate their solutions for the shortage.
A drivers’ definition of a truck driver shortage “A lack of drivers willing to work for low wages”
A carriers’ definition is , “A driver shortage is a lack of qualified drivers”
Those are vastly different definitions! In order to address a problem, such as the Driver Shortage, both sides will need to at least recognize each ones perception of the problem. If not, solutions will be a long way off.
Defining the Qualified Driver
Let’s first begin with the definition of “Qualified Drivers”
Drivers would state that a qualified driver is one with knowledge, experience, and a safe driving record.
On the other hand, according to the ATA President and CEO Bill Graves, “The ability to find enough qualified drivers is one of our industry’s biggest challenges”
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said “An important thing we learned in this analysis is that this isn’t strictly a numbers problem, it is a quality problem too,” … “Fleets consistently report receiving applications for open positions, but that many of those candidates do not meet the criteria to be hired. According our research, 88% of carriers said most applicants are not qualified.”
The ATA report goes on to say, The truck driver shortage probably seems much worse to motor carriers than the current figures suggest because of a quality versus quantity issue. Many carriers have strict hiring criteria based on driving history, experience and other factors.
We spoke to John Peroyea, president of FindATrucker.com, who reviews thousands of driver applications. We asked him the question,
“Do you find many applicants who are not qualified to be hired? If so, what are the major reasons?
This was John’s reply:
“We are certainly not seeing a lack of experienced drivers registering for our website to apply for truck driver jobs. Many drivers have years of experience in various types of driver jobs and hold many endorsements. What can hold drivers back however are the specific application requirements at various carriers.
A factor that can disqualify otherwise experienced drivers is preventable accidents within a certain time frame and/or number of jobs held within the last few years. Also, many carriers have various requirements for length of time since a felony conviction or DWI for example.
Since the criteria varies from company to company an experienced driver may meet the criteria for most companies but fall short of others.”
John Peroyea, President of FindaTrucker.com
FindATrucker is a trusted AskTheTrucker partner providing a truck driver employment website, matching drivers to their specific job needs.
Now, I can definitely understand the questioning of “time since the last felony conviction or DWI”, but the idea of basing a drivers’ quality by “number of jobs held within the last few years”, raised my eyebrows. Why are drivers going from “job to Job?” Are employers asking drivers this question?
What does the ATA say about that?
In the ATA’s Truck Driver Shortage Analysis it states, “ Turnover is a reflection of demand for drivers, with higher rates generally indicating strong demand for drivers. The vast majority of driver turnover is churn in the industry – drivers going from one carrier to another. As demand for drivers increases, trucking companies try to take drivers from other carriers by offering sign- on bonuses, newer trucks, and better routes.”
Really? Drivers are leaving a great well paying job for a shinier truck and better route? But if the ATA says that drivers keep hopping, then why aren’t they staying with the company offering the shiny truck and better route? Are they then leaving for a shinier truck and an even better route? Or could it be something more sinister, like higher wages, better treatment, or maybe even being paid for all hours, such as detention time pay?
The idea that a driver is considered “not qualified” because they’re seeking better employment is ludicrous, and equally absurd is that the driver moves on to this next job with better promise… and yet does not STAY with them. Why aren’t they?
Are drivers really this fickle? Do they enjoy leaving one job and going to another, or is it possible that the industry continues to make promises they don’t keep.
If the job was truly what is was described as, would drivers not stay?
So is the problem therefore retention? And what is the correct cause of such driver behavior… Is it unstable drivers or perhaps companies who paint a rosy picture but do not follow through?
If criteria of a “qualified driver” is based somewhat upon driver job stability, and yet the employers are not following through on their driver hiring expectations causing driver instability, then I say, the industry MUST admit to at least partial responsibility of driver job hopping.
If they do, they may have to become accountable for the driver shortage problem.
For most of you reading this, this is nothing more than the age old recruiting tactics that have been going on for decades. The only difference is that they worked in the past, bringing in thousands of people to the trucking industry, only to see them leave after a short time. Turnover was not as serious a problem back in the day, it was welcome and part of the cheap labor business model.
It didn’t matter in the past as drivers were a commodity, used for cheap labor. The difference is now, drivers are an asset and companies would prefer to retain their drivers, mainly because those now entering the industry are fewer and have higher expectations. In other words, working 70+ hours/wk, living in a truck, and being away from home for weeks at a time, all for a whopping $500.00/week, just isn’t cutting it for those entering.
The fact is this, drivers go to job from job because they are dissatisfied with their job. Most often the promises made by the hiring company, which looked so appealing, were not kept. Drivers leave and continue to look for better employment.
Want to cure the number of jobs held within the last few years aspect of the “qualified driver problem”?
Answer: Pay and treat drivers well and keep the promises you made upon hiring.
Stay tuned for Part 2
The Truck Driver Shortage- Causes and Solutions