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Driver Market: Tight Getting Tighter

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With the holidays fast approaching, many companies have found themselves once again scrambling for extra help as shipping increases with the season. And once again, the struggles of holiday recruitment have shed light on the driver problem many companies face in trucking today.

According the Wall Street Journal, a steady increasing shipping demand over the past couple of years has allowed carriers to increase rates. However, the majority of trucking companies will not be buying more trucks because they still can’t solve the “driver shortage."

If you have read this blog before, you probably know that we adamantly disagree with that term. There is a driver problem, but not a shortage. We do agree that demographics are making this problem harder and harder to solve. But there are solutions to the driver problem.

Money and Lifestyle

The Wall Street journal piece mentions that many companies are raising wages in an effort to attract drivers for the holiday season. Cents per mile increases are going up every day. Carriers are making noise with sign-on bonuses between $10,000-20,000. The wage war for drivers is just beginning. Unemployment under 5%, increased shipping demand, and the fact that driver wages have not kept up with inflation since deregulation are the perfect ingredients for a Molotov cocktail. You should expect to start hearing “show me the money” from your current and prospective drivers.

While you need to remain competitive with your wages, Bob Costello from the American Trucking Association hits it right on the head when in this article he says it’s also about the “lifestyle”. Everyone knows trucking is a tough job and getting the next generation behind the wheel is a major challenge. The cowboys who used to run two to three weeks at a time for you are a dying breed. Your operations and sales teams need to adapt to the market demand for work/life balance.

Driver-Centric Culture

A driver-centric culture puts driver’s first in every decision they make. They structure their operations and sales processes around driver pay and lifestyle. They put safety nets in place so drivers can still make a living when things happen outside of their control. The best companies keep pay packages so simple a fifth grader can understand it. They commit home-time in writing for each driver and deliver on their promises. They recognize things happen in transportation and only make promises they can keep. If you can offer such qualities to a driver and then back them up every time, your word becomes gospel and other drivers will find out about it. These actions are more sustainable than sign-on bonuses. Focus there and the word will get out for your recruiting efforts.

Invest in your driver brand and work on developing a driver-centric culture. You can let the industry have a driver shortage while you mitigate your driver problem. Keep it simple: Put drivers first in every decision your company makes.

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