Since 2018, various news agencies, such as the Washington Post, and economic experts revealed that the United States is facing a growing shortage of truck drivers. In fact, Thomas Black, reporting for Bloomberg, said that the percentage of lack could double within a decade.
Although the demand slightly dipped due to the tension between China and the country, the need remains critical because of the popularity of e-commerce. The data suggests that this multibillion-dollar industry could account for as much as 19% of the total retail spending in 2024.
For carriers, how can they attract and retain great long-haul truck drivers while dealing with the shortage? Here are four tips:
1. Diversify the Talent Pool
A typical truck driver is a white middle-aged male, according to a 2014 report. This group then make up over 50% of the pool. Fortunately, carriers have learned to open their doors to other types of workforce, who are just as skillful and committed.
One of the underrated groups are females, who account for less than 8% of the total truck drivers as of 2018. For many experts, women make careful and cautious drivers. Many carriers also like their willingness to learn and ability to ask questions when necessary.
Fleet owners can also tap on young drivers, particularly millennials. Around 28% of truck drivers today may need to retire in the next few years. The average age right now is over 45 years old. Infusing young people into the mix ensures that carriers can have a stable number of employees for a decade or two.
Lastly, carriers can invite more blacks and other ethnicities to apply. They can also encourage immigrants, who now comprise around 19% of truck drivers in the United States.
2. Keep Them Safe—and Protect Them
Truck driving as a profession is already dangerous. Accidents, such as road crashes or collisions, are common. In 2018, nearly 5,000 people died of these incidents, and about 18% of the fatalities were truck occupants.
Accidents can also lead to moderate to severe injuries that may incapacitate the driver temporarily. They will be out of work while bills continue to pile up. Worse, some may become permanently disabled, which implies that healthcare costs are forever.
While both drivers and carriers cannot guarantee that accidents won’t happen, they significantly reduce the risks. One, carriers can equip their drivers with the right tools from regular training, refresher education, and red-flag marking, as well as regular fleet checks and upgrade of vehicles.
3. Broaden Their Benefits
Contrary to popular belief, truck drivers hardly earn $100,000 a year. However, on average, they can earn no less than $45,000. Their hourly rate can be as high as $22 an hour. In some states like Wyoming and Massachusetts, drivers can take home over $4,000 weekly.
As a way of attracting and retaining truck drivers, carriers have also been increasing their pay. In a report in Transport Topics, those with at least a year’s experience can receive about 4 cents more on their per-mile pay. The most experienced ones can add 2 cents per mile.
But like other employees, drivers desire other types of compensation. For instance, employers may help them build their nest egg through 401(K) and pension plans, as well as IRA contributions through payroll deductions.
Health and life insurance policies are also essential. To be specific, truck drivers may likely stay if carriers can provide medical insurance coverage that extends to their family members and doesn’t increase in premium rates because of age.
4. Improve Their Health and Wellness
Truck driving can lead to a host of chronic diseases. The CDC revealed that long-haul drivers are more likely to develop hypertension and diabetes than the rest of the working population in the United States.
Meanwhile, a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) cited that over 60% of industry workers are obese. Drivers are also prone to mental health issues. Around 27% complain of loneliness, while 26% suffer from depression. Over 10% are anxious, and 20% have sleeping problems.
Fortunately, more operators are implementing health and wellness programs. One of the best strategies is to honor the 14-hour rule. In this setup, they cannot drive over 14 hours after coming on duty. Second, they are entitled to at least 10 hours of off-duty before they can resume driving. They can also take 30 minutes’ break they can count against their 14 hours once they worked for at least 8 hours.
Like in other industries, for trucking, it usually costs more to hire and train a new employee, and companies can suffer major losses if they have a high attrition rate. Learning to attract and retain drivers is essential, especially when one is facing a critical shortage.