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3 Lessons on Solving the Driver Problem | OTA Conference

Last month, we attended the Ohio Trucking Association (OTA) Annual Conference. The conference offered opportunities to connect with other professionals in the transportation industry, rally advocacy support for carriers all over the state and learn how to solve the driver problem that all companies face. Trucking companies all across the nation are feeling the pain of high driver turnover. They have the need for more and more quality drivers, but have a hard time finding them. If this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Here are three lessons learned this year at the OTA Conference that can help you overcome the driver problem.

1. Freight is Moving. Do You Have the Drivers to Move It?

Simply put, freight is moving. The shelves are stocked because goods are being delivered every day. If not by you, then by your competition. In fact, there’s more freight to move than there are drivers. According to Anirban Basu from Sage Group, Inc., freight traffic has soared to new heights since a major lull in 2009. National trucker employment is up. Truckers are making, on average, over $4 an hour more than 9 years ago. That’s a great start, but driver pay hasn’t kept up with inflation. This raise gets driver wages closer to where they need to be we’re going to start attracting folks outside of the industry to drive professionally, but we’re not there yet.  

It comes down to the law of supply and demand. Your supply of drivers is less than the opportunities your customers demand each day. If you want more candidates, you must create a job that will attract more drivers. If you keep your job and operations model the same as it was five years ago, you’ll watch your candidate pipeline dwindle. The pipeline shrinking will only get worse with unemployment staying below four percent. You have to drastically change to get better results.

2. Do You Give Your Drivers an Excellent Experience?

It’s one thing to attract and hire solid drivers. Getting them to stay is something else entirely. If you want to retain the best of the best, you have to create a driver-centric culture and improve your driver experience. Remember, your most in-demand driver can find a new job in less than 24 hours. Treat your drivers like you want them to stay.

Bob Pacanovsky presented eight simple steps to improve your relationship with your drivers: The 8 Principles of Black Tie Hospitality Leadership. Here’s a quick summary of what the principles are and how to put them into action.

  • Being present - Give your drivers your full attention when you speak with them. Make eye-contact and focus on the person in front of you. This will show that you respect them. They’ll build rapport with you and want to stay with your company longer.
  • Listen - When you listen to your drivers, you can learn about them and the problems they face every day. Use this knowledge to make their work lives better.
  • Active - There are two ways to be active: proactive and reactive. One of them allows you to anticipate the problems and needs of your drivers. The other keeps you back-pedaling and putting out fires. It’s clear which one will allow you to retain better drivers.
  • Class - You don’t necessarily have to change the way you dress or speak; you just need confidence and a strong character. Class will follow, and class commands respect and admiration.
  • Knowledge - You need to be the best at what you do. Always be learning about the industry, your drivers, or training methods. Then, put that into action. Teach this knowledge to your drivers.
  • Thank - Give thanks. Sometimes, that’s all drivers want to hear. This small showing of appreciation can make the difference between a driver quitting and a driver staying.
  • Invisible - This doesn’t mean what you think. You want to have a presence, but you also want your actions to speak for themselves. Do your job so well that the experience seems seamless for your drivers. Don’t make your job look burdensome, and don’t go seeking kudos. Just carry-on in greatness.
  • Excellence - Excellence is a choice. You can either slack-off, achieve the minimum goal, or exceed expectations. You make this choice every day, all day. Going above and beyond for your drivers will make you the employer of choice.

Your drivers are the lifeblood of your company. If they don’t have support and respect, they will find a job that gives it to them. Use these 8 principles everyday and your driver retention can only go up.

3. The Benefits of Advocacy: How to Address the Driver Problem with Legislation

The OTA is pushing four legislative bills that would help solve the driver problem that could use your support:

  • The authorization a tax credit for expenses incurred by an employer to train a commercial vehicle operator.
  • The creation of a study committee to research strategies that will reduce the cost of insurance premiums among commercial drivers ages eighteen to twenty-five.
  • To establish the Commercial Truck Driver Student Aid program which would provide financial aid to students working towards their CDL.
  • To waiver the skills test for a commercial driver’s license that applies to present and former military personnel.

These bills could deepen your pool of driver candidates. You would have the opportunity to reach more quality drivers than ever before. Plus, they would make it cheaper and easier to train them using existing products like CDL Finishing School. You can’t afford to sit around and wait for them to pass, though. You have to act now. Support the OTA’s Team 88.

Freight is moving, and if it’s not you, it’s someone else. There’s plenty you could start doing today to recruit, hire, train and retain more drivers while your competition sweats over the driver problem.

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