Increase lead time and limit deadhead. Last-minute loads often increase stress on both drivers and operations teams. Instead, offer pre-dispatch and plan as far out as possible to allow drivers to curate their own schedule while also working to limit deadhead miles by providing drivers with roundtrips as much as possible.
What’s the first thing you would do to address the truck driver shortage?
Use technology that plans driver schedules according to their preferences. If drivers have greater control over their work week and their managers are working hard to improve their quality of life, improvements in recruiting and retention will follow.
Instead of adding more to what you have, using what you already have more efficiently is the way to go about it. See where the gaps are in your planning and routing, and how you can optimize that.
Organize a day session for leaders of the National Association of Independent Truckers and the National Association of Small Trucking Companies to meet with Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs. Using Rowe’s personality and audience, with their reach and funding, give them a mandate to develop a continuous national campaign to change the image of truck driving to one that provides independence, fiscal rewards, and a positive lifestyle to destigmatize the profession and recruit new drivers.
Performance-based rewards for drivers, similar to commission bonuses, would boost the role’s attractiveness. Despite the extensive training required, driving has historically been classed as low-skilled, and the pay has reflected that. But in the same way the commercial team is important for winning the business, drivers are important for retaining it.
create an online network to connect qualified drivers to prospective brokers and transportation companies so that when one contract ends, drivers can quickly pick up another one. I’d also develop a driver-specific education program focused on the fundamentals of owning a delivery business.
The answer isn’t only money. Driver wages do need to improve, but we must also recognize driving a truck is a lifestyle. Addressing the truck driver shortage comes down to improving the culture and making it a better experience. This means taking steps to improve productivity, which includes implementing more efficient routes, more flexible appointment windows, and faster loading and unloading times.
Enhanced national recruitment campaigns and allowing 18-year-olds into mentorship programs could help curb current and future truck driver shortages.
Intelligent fleet and safety management solutions are a great way to abate driver shortages—this technology gives fleet managers the ability to do more with less and create the most efficient business model possible. With limited vehicle supply due to the chip shortage in addition to the ongoing driver shortage, it’s important for fleet managers to have access to real-time location and health of the fleet and equipment as well as data about their workforce so they can make smarter decisions.
Understanding the next generation of drivers’ expectations is critical. Our Drivers Wanted research study uncovered that delivering on these expectations through investments in driver safety and quality of life, providing pathways toward career advancement, reducing barriers to entry, and building long-term strategies can help businesses attract and retain drivers.
Focus recruiting efforts toward untapped markets such as females or couples in general. Women make up roughly 47% of the nation’s workforce but currently account for only about 6% of commercial truck drivers. The pandemic has more people working from home; some of those individuals may be ready to travel the country. What better way than for a couple to partner up as a team to drive a truck?
Innovate driver engagement programs with technologies that align driver and company goals. For example, new tools are available that gamify the driver experience and increase daily collaboration and engagement. The result is increased satisfaction and savings opportunities that can be shared with drivers via incentive programs.
Change the rules to be more flexible. Allow the industry to recruit veterans with similar experience without the need for retraining and certifications, encourage diversity—more people of color and women—focus on driver compensation, and utilize advanced technologies such as automation.
Focus on the driver experience. From an intermodal drayage perspective, this means improving intermodal ramp fluidity to reduce cycle time. Drivers who experience delays and poor equipment quality will often leave for what they consider to be `easier` freight. Focus on improved in-gate and out-gate processes combined with proactive equipment maintenance.
Strengthen the talent pipeline to ensure we engage the next generation of drivers. As an industry, establishing apprentice programs for new drivers and creating a welcoming environment for women and under-represented groups is critical.
Start by dispelling myths about trucking. Many potential drivers feel deterred by learning a new skill set, but the highly automated functionality in today’s modern trucks reduces the learning curve. With route optimizations, it’s possible to offer drivers shorter, regional routes so they can get back home to their families quickly.
Rebrand the role; truck drivers are often the only personal touchpoint with the end customer, suppliers, and partners. This is more than simply driving from point A to point B, it’s about the customer experience. And then, we need to revamp the education system, introducing this career earlier on in high school or vocational school to legitimize and elevate the role.
I have found engaging and empowering truck drivers that are involved with the delivery of healthcare-related goods and equipment with the knowledge that they serve a vital part of the health continuum instills in them a passion of purpose. I think management in any industry can borrow from this, highlighting how driving a truck is more than just a salary, it’s an integral part of a business’ success.