Jan 11, 2024

The Ongoing Challenge of Recruiting and Retaining Drivers in the Transportation Industry

The transportation industry plays a crucial role in the global economy, facilitating the movement of goods and people across vast distances. However, in recent years, there has been an ongoing challenge in finding and retaining qualified drivers and potential drivers to meet the growing demand for transportation services.

Despite offering competitive salaries and benefits, the industry continues to face high turnover rates and struggles to attract new talent. This issue is not limited to a specific sector of transportation, as both trucking and public transit companies are impacted.

The shortage of drivers not only affects the efficiency and profitability of transportation companies, but it also has a ripple effect on the entire economy. With the rise of e-commerce and the increasing need for goods to be delivered quickly and efficiently, the demand for drivers is only expected to increase in the coming years.

In this article, we will explore the underlying factors contributing to the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining current drivers in the transportation industry and potential solutions to address this crucial issue.

The Ongoing Challenge

Many trucking companies face the ongoing challenge of managing driver retention. McLeod Express, a family-owned company based in Decatur, Ill., has found that their company culture is a key selling point in addressing this issue. To retain talent, the fleet offers a variety of route options, including local transport, shuttle, over-the-road, and flatbeds.

However, McLeod driver recruiter Randy Gretz acknowledges that recruitment and retention are challenging aspects of enticing drivers. He emphasizes the importance of providing realistic expectations during the recruitment process.

While companies may share the high earnings of their top experienced drivers, this may not be feasible for new drivers. Therefore, it is crucial for companies to set honest expectations.

The economic landscape of driver recruitment and retention has recently become more complex due to a slowing freight market. The uncertainty in the industry has led to a shift in the driving workforce.

In the midst of what many refer to as a freight recession, retaining the best drivers has become even more critical. Scott Dismuke, the vice president of operations for the Professional Driver Agency, emphasizes the heightened importance of this issue.

A Wise Decision

According to Dismuke, investing in recruitment and retention efforts during a slowdown is a wise decision that will yield benefits when freight demand increases. His group has observed a growing trend among companies to focus on finding and keeping qualified truck drivers and skilled drivers, while also prioritizing driver satisfaction during this period of economic downturn.

The Q3 2023 Driver Recruiting and Retention Download, produced by PDA in collaboration with Conversion Interactive Agency, revealed that drivers have expressed concerns regarding equipment and compensation. While there are some promising developments in the recruitment and retention landscape, the report highlighted that driver apprehensions about equipment problems and limited freight opportunities continue to impact the industry.

Notably, a significant number of drivers identified a lack of miles as the primary reason for their compensation challenges, with the unavailability of loads and inconsistent mileage being the two major contributing factors.

The report emphasized that the trucking economy operates in cycles, with periods of recession being a regular occurrence. However, it also asserted that when the freight market rebounds, it does so swiftly.

This insight underscores the importance of effective strategies planning and preparation to capitalize on the rapid recovery that will inevitably follow.

Released Its Top Industry Issues list

In October, the American Transportation Research Institute released its Top Industry Issues list at the American Trucking Associations' annual Management Conference & Exhibition. One notable issue highlighted was the intersection of the economy and driver concerns.

While the economy took the top spot on the list, the shortage of truck drivers ranked at number four, with driver retention at number eight. ATA is yet to determine the official driver shortage number for 2023, but their forecast for 2022 predicted a decrease to 64,200 from the previous year's figure of nearly 78,000.

The peak of the shortage occurred in 2021, reaching 81,000.

During the freight surge of the pandemic era, many fleets responded by increasing pay rates and offering higher retention bonuses. According to ATRI's 2023 Operational Costs of Trucking report, the average retention bonus for drivers had risen to $1,272, representing a significant 90% increase over the past four years.

Incentives May Diminish

However, as the market slows down, these incentives may diminish, leaving drivers with fewer options and potentially leading to a higher likelihood of them remaining in their current positions. Motive Inc., a fleet management technology firm, highlighted this trend in its Holiday Outlook Report released in October.

The report noted that the number of drivers leaving their jobs steadily declined from the third quarter of 2022 to the third quarter of 2023.

Interestingly, certain industries such as passenger transport, retail, and warehousing experienced significant improvement in driver retention. However, this improvement may be attributed to carriers leaving the market and a slowdown in hiring, thereby limiting drivers' job choices and increasing their propensity to stay in their current roles.

Highlighted The Growing Trend of Companies

Gary Johnson, the head of safety and compliance strategy at the company, highlighted the growing trend of companies utilizing advanced technologies to enhance driver retention. One such technology is the dual-facing dash camera, which can capture and support drivers' actions during accidents.

Johnson emphasized that technology does not drive people away; instead, it empowers companies to proactively address issues and improve driver satisfaction.

Johnson compared the use of technology to how athletes review game footage to enhance their performance. With current technology, video mentoring has become more efficient, allowing for almost immediate response instead of the previous delay of 24 to 72 hours.

However, Johnson stressed the importance of maintaining drivers' privacy and safety, necessitating proactive communication.

The Impact of Driver Benefits

The ATRI operational costs report emphasized that fleets should assess the impact of driver benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, on driver retention. The report revealed that over 80% of participating motor carriers offered a comprehensive benefits package, including health insurance, paid vacation, 401(k) plans, and dental insurance.

Additionally, an increasing number of fleets are recognizing the significance of these core benefits in retaining drivers.

ATRI advised fleets to conduct market research to understand drivers' experiences and perspectives, particularly the differences between new and veteran drivers. Fleet managers need to comprehend not only how drivers feel about their job but also the unique viewpoints of different driver groups.

In Conclusion

The transportation industry continues to face the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining drivers. While there is no easy solution to this issue, companies must continue to adapt and find innovative ways to attract and retain drivers.

This may include offering competitive salaries, comprehensive benefits, and a supportive work culture. Additionally, utilizing technology and implementing efficient processes can help alleviate some of the burdens placed on drivers.

As the industry evolves, it is crucial for companies to prioritize the well-being and satisfaction of their drivers in order to maintain a strong workforce and effectively meet the demands of the market.

If you want to stay updated with a wide range of trends, actionable insights, and innovative solutions in the trucking, freight, and logistics industry, stay connected to us.

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