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Truck Driver Shortage: Fact or Myth?

Posted by Mark G. Gardner on December 28, 2016 in the category Recruiting, Retention
truck driving

You’ve seen the headlines since deregulation in 1980 about the truck driver shortage in America: it’s bad and getting worse.

Summon the camera crew. Find some stock footage of tractor trailers moving down the highway. Wait, better yet, show semis stuck in a big city traffic jam. Send out a reporter. Cue the trucking maven or wizened veteran driver to offer one, or preferably several, believable rationales.

It’s the aging of truckers. Young folks aren’t interested. Nobody wants to work especially given liberal unemployment benefits and welfare. Government regulations are taking the able-bodied off the roads. Drivers’ health is in bad shape and they’re going out on disability or worse, dying. The hassles of the road are too great and drivers are giving up. It’s not worth it to drive a truck and its corollary: wages need to rise.

Whether these thoughts are fact or fiction is irrelevant.

If you’re in the trucking business, I’ll offer a fact that won’t offer much comfort: from a big picture point of view, from a macro point of view, there is no driver shortage. There’s plenty of milk for babies in the stores. You can find all the trendy shoes or dresses that you care to buy at the mall. The gas stations have gas. The pro shop has plenty of golf balls and tees. I-beams are getting to construction sites.

The function of trucking is to move goods to areas of need. If not your company, someone else is moving those goods to the places they’re needed.

So what is the problem? It’s an individual company problem. It’s an “us versus them” problem. It’s a competition for the available drivers. It’s personal. “I’m disappointing customers. Customers want us to haul more but we don’t have the drivers. We’re turning down business. We can’t grow because we don’t have enough drivers.”

Companies need more drivers and it’s up to them to solve the problem. No one else will solve it for them.

In this competition, image counts. Yet there are thousands of companies with crummy images. They don’t look good and drivers notice. Their website makes it hard to apply for a job. Drivers notice. They want the driver to jump through hoops to apply. They give vague information about the job. Drivers notice. You really want a driver to download a PDF form, fill it in and then fax it back? Or you can’t handle inquiries from drivers who don’t have great computer skills? You’ve got paper all over and your staff is drowning in it? You lose good drivers because you’re too slow?

Take a look at yourself in the mirror. Look at your website. Look at your image. Look at how well you explain, in plain language, the jobs you do for your customers. Is your message coherent? Is it up to date? If you don’t like what you see, then change. Don’t make a resolution to change. Really change. Get help if you need it. But make sure you’re competing with other firms on equal ground for the precious drivers you need. If not, your driver shortage will only get worse.

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