There is a saying in the trucking industry that says “If your wheels aren’t turning you ain’t earning”. Trucker employment numbers should be growing with the rise in demand, however, the declining landscape has employers concerned about the future of the industry. Washington is eliminating hiring barriers while some employers are ready to provide up to $15,000 bonuses to compensate for driver shortages and diminish supply-chain disturbances. But drivers are still hard to come by. Not to mention the difficulties of hiring the ones who are with the changing landscape around hiring processes.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the trucking industry is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of drivers as the American Trucking Association estimates there is a lack of qualified drivers roughly close to 80,000 individuals. The truck driver shortage is causing major bottlenecks in delivery, with experts predicting that if this trend continues it could cost the industry more than 160 thousand drivers by 2030. The pandemic and supply chain crisis have also contributed significantly to these issues – which means consumers and company owners will ultimately pay the price for the stifled supply.
The Issue is Global
Americans are not the only ones facing a driver shortage. In places like Europe and China, where freight volumes are comparable, the shortage of drivers is the main bottleneck preventing the logistics industries from keeping up with rising consumer demand.
Trucking HR Canada has revealed that driver vacancies remained at record high levels, posing a challenge to the trucking and logistics sectors. Trucking employment in Canada has been on a downward trend for the past three years, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
The Domino Effect
According to experts, the transportation industry was already walking on eggshells when the pandemic opened a pandora’s box of new market physics that no one was prepared for. As a result of the overstretched supply chain capacity, leaders in the industry are working on learning a new juggle where the pieces remain in the air and go through arbitrary changes daily before returning to the hands of the juggler with various changes left behind. One week an apple is worth a dollar, the next week it’s an orange… It’s enough to make anyone’s head spin.
Not to mention the friction that comes from an aging workforce that would prefer to stick with an old method of doing business rather than jumping on a boat that hasn’t even proven it can sail yet. Employers are responding by boosting pay, changing company hiring requirements, adopting new technology, and overall just adapting to the storm.
Calling out the Elephants
One major reason why individuals are hesitant to stay in the trucking industry is the compensation system. At many companies, drivers only get paid for the time spent driving or on duty while loading/unloading a trailer. Drivers often spend hours waiting to get unloaded or to pick up cargo. In an average week, a significant chunk of the time is spent waiting. If they are compensated by the mile, however, the incentive for them to drive efficiently and induce dock workers to speed up the process has two benefits. First, it incentivizes the drivers to eliminate as much downtime as possible. Second, it gives drivers decision-making power that can go a LONG way in improving their perception of their role in a company.
If the current trend continues, the future will include more ‘newly proposed bills’ that further complicate things by uprooting and replacing existing foundations that are already very delicate and hard to maintain in the first place. It’s like walking on a concrete sidewalk around a lake when suddenly it turns into a glass bridge guarded and tolled by regulators. Many of which are in the pockets of lobbyists.
Cause for the Labor Ceiling Has Been Defined
Another cause of the artificial labor ceiling is the awareness of the actual job environment. When weighing the options, could be drivers are quick to realize all of the downsides of being a driver. Long-haul drivers deal with many unique problems that no one seems to care much about. Hesitation to pursue a tough career that entails a complete change in lifestyle full of risk and discomfort is completely justified. This means that employers need to attract and train new workers by changing the narrative and creating positions that empower drivers to get the job done while finding satisfaction from it at the same time.
Drivers Should be Prioritized by Employers
With the ever-changing landscape, companies need to take note of feedback from applicants, current drivers, and drivers on their way out. Attention should be allocated to streamlining all parts of the process and making the experience better and more efficient. The trucking industry has suffered from having a full plate of expectations since the beginning. Of the things that should not be overlooked, driver experiences should be the focal point when it comes to setting initiatives.
Technology Solutions Exist
Technology might be the answer to this booming problem. By incorporating new fleet management tech into their operations, companies can open up the door to major opportunities. Tools available include fleet compliance software for keeping track of paperwork, driver management software for streamlining hiring and retention processes, Fleet GPS software for optimizing load sequencing and routes, etc.
Implementing freight technology can be daunting, especially for companies that have only used paper files. But it is worth the effort when you look at the data. One challenge that all companies should aim to solve as soon as possible is data standardization throughout their organization. The implementation of new technology can be measured by three key indicators to start with: efficiency, reduced costs, and labor morale.
- Efficiency being the time it takes from the start of a process to the point at which it reaches its desired or natural conclusion.
- Reduced Costs come from finding the faults in existing processes and integrating the most optimal solutions to compensate for or eliminate those faults entirely.
- Labor morale is probably the most underrated of them all. It’s also the most difficult for most companies to solve. This is because it has to do with guiding people to predetermined destinations. Something many people find to be unethical and ultimately ignore as a possible solution all together. Always to the detriment of the company
In short, all companies should be utilizing training and education techniques to increase the efficiency of operations. When it comes to the things that matter, anything that can be setup once that continues to provide value long into the future, is probably a good bet.