There may be plenty of fish in the sea (3.5 Million U.S. CDL Truck Drivers estimated by the American Trucking Association). But, when it comes to hiring CDL Truck Drivers – there’s only enough to even shoot in the barrel. It’s getting damn near impossible to find and hire enough CDL Drivers to fill the open opportunities across the United States. Current labor statistics show the trucking industry needs roughly 50,000 drivers, and counting. But, some regional places around the US are feeling the pinch even more. Companies can’t operate without safe, professional truck drivers. Almost every major US corporation requires drivers to function. Without drivers, the convenience of our daily lives would pile in a heap on the highway.
The problem has been looming for nearly 20 years. Since entering this Industry – I’ve heard so much hoopla about a potential truck driver shortage- coming soon. It’s always seemed scary – a shortage of available truck drivers. What would that be like? How convenient would our lives be now without the safe and professional drivers who deliver products we purchase to the stores we visit; and also at the steps of our own front doors? What about the drivers who take trash from our homes? Or, the ones that take our precious children to and from school? Geez- I’d hate to see anyone living in America with trash piling up all over, let alone children missing school.
So, what’s the problem with hiring CDL truck drivers? It’s simple. The current CDL truck driver workforce is aging- fast, wages haven’t even kept up with inflation since 2008, and there’s not enough new talent upstream.
Baby boomers are retiring, or moving into other careers. And, those still in the game have limitations. Most drivers over the age of 55 just can’t unload their trucks like they used to, forcing some drivers to change jobs due to their restrictions. Strict laws have continued to overregulate the trucking workforce, causing some great drivers to exit the business and move to new careers. Unfortunately, trucking remains one of the toughest careers to stay in forever.
Then, there’s the wages. After a recent spike in pay (2012-2016), an average CDL truck driver now makes about $51,000 per year; comparable to most other skilled trades like Carpenter, Electrician, or Mechanic. Each of those trades earn the same or more on average and have far greater long-term potential gains. Fuel & Maintenance Costs, DOT Regulations, and Reduced Shipping Rates have forced the trucking industry to hold off increasing driver wages over all these years. Overall, low wages have caused some drivers to leave the Industry, and attracts less new talent for the industry as a whole.
So, even for those die-hard truckers destined for the road, there are barriers to enter the career. Sure, you can get a Commercial Driver’s License at 18. But, you can’t cross state lines until you’re 21. Then again, good luck finding a reputable trucking company to hire you- the insurance companies won’t allow it. Thus, the Trucking Industry has been forced to wait for qualified hires until 3 years after students graduate high school, or much later as others fall back on trucking as a 2nd choice career.
When you put it all together, it makes perfect since that the Trucking Industry can’t keep up with the demand. Trucking operations large and small, and even some local schools, have already been forced to hire temporary driver fill-ins to keep their operations moving and just can’t find enough full time workers to operate without support. And, trucking schools can’t churn out enough new truck drivers to fill the widening gaps.
But, there’s still drivers out there- looking for the perfect carrier to dedicate their lives to. With the right mix of recruiting, safety performance, and relationship with your driver fleet, any carrier can make their goals of increasing their driver headcount.
Here’s some great tips to maximize your success:
1. LOVE YOUR DRIVERS
Host Driver Appreciation Events / BBQ
Create Reward Programs
Recognize Birthdays, Anniversaries, & Events
2. MAKE SAFETY A PRIORITY
Monthly or Quarterly Safety Seminars
Build a Culture of Safety; Get the entire company on board
Safety Shirts / Vests to promote safe driving
3. INCREASE WAGES & BENEFITS
Increase wages to or above Industry Median
Bonus Programs for Safe Drivers
Flexible Healthcare Plan options
Flex Spending Accounts, Gym Memberships, and other rewarding benefits
4. BE DIFFERENT
Share why your company is better
Find new places to recruit new Truck Drivers
Listen & Respond to what YOUR drivers want
Nothing in Trucking is easy. Every mile brings a new adventure, more challenges, and constant changes in the climate of the Industry. Not every logistics company will meet their hiring demands in the days ahead; but I suspect that the companies who put truck drivers 1st will have an easier time than the companies who don’t.