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. During this period and faced with uncertainty, many truck drivers decided to change industries or retire, which ended up causing a bottleneck problem in the supply chain industry.  

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:

  1. Routes matter: There are drivers who run only certain routes, either for safety reasons, or simply because they know the road to perfection, which helps secure better conditions on the road. Therefore, it is recommended to prioritize the driver’s happiness and peace of mind by assigning them their preferred routes.
  2. Round trips: Having return trips can make the ride worthwhile. In addition to the initial trip, assigning them a suitable return trip can make all the difference, especially to make it profitable for both the carrier and the driver.
  3. Time is money: Punctuality is key… Loading and unloading times are crucial for the driver, so they can continue with more trips. In most cases, this falls under 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, delaying their entry or exit.
  4. Long-term investments: A long-term solution is to invest in a talent incubator. This means giving young, inexperienced drivers the opportunity to work and learn from top drivers, encouraging their growth within the industry, and building a stronger sense of community and trust among the drivers.
  5. Feedback culture: Showing commitment. As in any company, it is important for top management to be involved and engaged with its workers. This, in turn, will help establish a closer relationship with the operators, allowing for a better understanding of their needs and proper recognition of their work.
  6. Constant training: This not only helps drivers learn best practices such as fuel economy or how to act in risky situations, but by tapping into older drivers to provide most of the training, it could encourage professionalization based on experience. Thus, giving both opportunities for professional and personal development, and helping 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 their different needs, listening, empathizing, and finding ways to bring them together as a team. Finally, to better tackle 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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