Statistics show that there is a shortage of 51,000 more drivers in the U.S. trucking industry. The trucking industry projects a shortfall of over 100,00 commercial drivers by 2022.
Because of the increasing driver shortage problem, retaining good drivers has also become significantly more important for fleets. Fleet managers use several techniques that can improve the driver retention rate and solve the driver shortage problem, e.g., increasing driver pay, sign-on bonuses, setting clear expectations, refining the driver recruitment process, initiating performance-based incentives, etc.
However, understanding the demographic makeup of the trucking industry may contain the key to solving the driver shortage as well as the retention problem.
Understanding the demographic makeup of U.S. truckers
As of 2018, the average age of truck drivers hovers around 55 years. The majority of drivers fall under the Gen X category, drivers born between the early 1960s and early 1980s.
According to the American Trucking Associations, the rapid retirement of Gen X drivers accounts for nearly half of new driver hires. Industry growth is the second biggest factor that pushes the need to hire more drivers.
Demographer Ken Gronbach says there are fewer Gen X workers than Baby Boomers, and that the Gen Y population—more commonly referred to as Millennials—must step in and fill the “population hole” in terms of employment.
“You are going to have a talent pool for drivers like you can’t believe,” said Gronbach during the 2018 CCJ Symposium. “They are the largest population born in the United States, and many of them don’t even drive yet.”
U.S. Millennials, born from 1985 to 2004, total about 86 million people, with ages between 14 and 34 years. A huge portion of this group is about to take over the nation’s workforce.
Because the retirement of Gen X drivers is partly to blame for the ongoing driver shortage, carriers may be able to keep their fleet well-manned with recruitment and driver retention strategies aimed towards Millennials.
Improve the image of the trucking industry
In a survey conducted by The Washington Post, some drivers lament that truckers aren’t respected enough by retailers, authorities, and private car drivers. This is due to the deterioration of a truck driver’s public image brought about by stereotypes, particularly the notion that truck drivers are reckless on the road. However, data suggests that passenger vehicles—not commercial truck drivers—are at fault in approximately 85% of truck-passenger accidents.
Carriers can improve how Millennials perceive the trucking industry through online branding. Emphasize your safety scores, compliance metrics, company’s safety standards, commitment to service, and how the industry positively impacts other sectors of the economy.
Six of 10 Millennials value the “sense of purpose” in employment opportunities. If you have a website or social media page that clearly communicates your brand’s vision, you are more likely to attract candidates who tend to do online research on potential employers. While a good salary package is always important, these other factors shouldn’t be discarded if you are targeting Millennials.
Offer flexible schedules
Another aspect that may attract Millennials is the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance. In trucking, this can be attained with a reasonable amount of home time or some scheduling flexibility.
According to a report by Trucking HR, 75 percent of drivers who plan to leave the industry within the next five years cite the lack of flexibility as one of the main reasons.
Fleets with more flexible options, on the other hand, report a turnover rate of less than 22 percent. They also retain more employees within the 18 to 35 age bracket than other fleets.
Paid time off can also be an incentive you can offer to drivers with a proven track record in terms of efficiency, safety, and reliability. An electronic logging device with performance-tracking features can help you initiate such programs with transparency and accuracy.
Foster the right kind of company culture
Millennial drivers are capable of loyalty to a company. They need to feel part of a company culture driven by teamwork and mutual respect. Unfortunately, conflicts with dispatchers is one of the reasons why some drivers leave their jobs.
You can avoid this with strategies that encourage open communication between every member of your fleet, regardless of position.
Initiate mentorship programs to make new drivers feel welcome—especially during the first few months of their employment. Approximately, 56% of newly hired drivers leave within the first 6 months. Having a mentorship program that would facilitate the onboarding process may help your fleet fight against the driver shortage and retention problem—especially with Millennials, as some of them may be new in the trucking industry.
Also, have an active feedback system, so drivers know that their opinions are being valued. All these steps may help you formulate a company culture that promotes and encourages loyalty and lower turnover rates.
The shortage of good truck drivers in the U.S. trucking industry is a growing problem. While the industry will need thousands of new drivers in the next few years to accommodate retirements and the growing freight demand, you can solve the driver shortage and retention issues to some extent by focusing on Millennials.
Rethink your driver recruitment process and formulate strategies that are more appealing to Millennials.