Inside Look: Truck driver shortage and how to retain them
One of the biggest and most important crises that the trucking industry is currently facing is the driver shortage. This problem has existed in Mexico since 2017, whereas in the US, according to Forbes, the shortage was approximately 80,000 drivers in 2021, and is very likely to increase to 160,000 by 2030.
This challenge has persisted for several years mainly due to labor conditions, safety, wages, and certification requirements, all of which worsened during the pandemic. This is due to the fact that truck drivers decided to change industries or retire, which ended up causing a bottleneck problem in the supply chain.
The situation has become so critical that, at this point, most carriers prefer to lose a customer than a driver. But, while faced with this problem, the question remains: how can you retain a truck driver?
Here are 6 tips to tackle this situation:
- Routes matter: There are drivers who run only certain routes, either for safety reasons, or simply because they understand the road to perfection. This can be beneficial to ensure better conditions on the road. Therefore, it is advisable to prioritize the driver’s happiness and peace of mind by assigning them their preferred route.
- Round trips. Having return trips can make the ride worthwhile. In addition to the initial trip, having a trip to help them return is necessary, especially to make it profitable for both the carrier and the driver.
- Time is gold. Punctuality is key… Loading and unloading times are crucial for the driver to continue with more trips, which is mostly the shipper's responsibility. Some actions are likely to make a real difference, for example improving the field conditions at their facilities, as trucks can be hard to maneuver on unstable terrain, which delays the truck’s entry or exit.
- Long-term investments: A long-term solution is to invest in an incubator. This means giving young adults the opportunity to work with the best drivers, encouraging their growth within the industry, and building a better relationship of trust between carrier and driver.
- Constant feedback: Commitment. As in any company, showing commitment from top management, getting closer to the drivers, knowing and understanding their needs, is a great incentive to recognize their work and increase productivity.
- Constant training. This not only helps them learn best practices such as fuel economy or how to act in risky situations, but by involving older drivers, who would provide most of the training, it will encourage professionalization based on experience. Giving both opportunities for professional and personal growth and development, and helping to prolong the drivers' productive cycle.
Trucking accounted for 56.9% of Mexico's freight movement in 2020. While in the United States in 2019, it represented 72.9%. Truck drivers are a fundamental part of our economy, they’re the ones who move the world despite the challenges that have arisen in recent years, such as the pandemic, or political conflicts that have affected the supply chain. We must recognize the sacrifices involved in this profession.
There is no perfect formula or recipe for retaining a driver, but you can start by understanding the different needs of each one, listening, empathizing, and finding ways to unify them into a good team. Finally, in order to solve this issue, it is not only necessary to involve the carriers, or the drivers, but also the shippers, in order to create better working conditions and practices across the supply chain.
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