For the past several years one of the top concerns in the trucking business is a shortage of drivers. It’s estimated that nationwide there are currently about 48,000 fewer commercial truck drivers than needed, and the American Trucking Associations (ATA) calculates that in the near term, the industry will need to add approximately 89,000 new drivers per yeari—an ambitious goal, given the widening gap between empty seats and the available pool of personnel to fill them.
There are many factors responsible for the deficiency. One that stands out is the increase in demand for truck delivery as more consumers replace shopping in brick-and-mortar stores with online purchases. A survey reported by Fortune magazine highlights a significant milestone: 2016 is the first year that Americans bought more goods via internet than in store visitsii. The Wall Street Journal cited data indicating that about 190 million U.S. consumers will shop online this year—more than half the populationiii.
This is a rising trend. And it heralds a shortfall of drivers that will only increase.
The other aspect of this driver deficiency—aggravating the problem caused by increased demand—is retention. Turnover in the trucking industry is, for want of a better term, immense. In 2015, the rate at large truckload fleets reached a staggering 102 percentiv. Among all businesses that require skilled workers, this is a challenge that few others have to confront.
There are two ways in which this shortage can be addressed: one is better retention of existing drivers, and the other is a shorter training cycle for new ones.
The introduction of electronic logging devices will help in both areas. Here’s how.
Replace paper driver logs with electronic logging device (ELD) record keeping and you improve working conditions for drivers. Nobody likes filling out paperwork—least of all the people who choose driving a truck over working in an office somewhere. Those who have already made the switch to ELDs report increased job satisfaction. Anything you do that makes the job more pleasant is likely to result in fewer employees heading for the door.
This may bolster your retention rate. Now consider the replacement issue. ELDs automate some tasks that, depending on individual company rules, were formerly the duty of a driver: monitoring and recording Hours of Service, engine data, miles traveled, and more. Driver training for these functions represents some investment of time. Cut down on the training and practice required, and the process of putting new drivers on the job is streamlined. Even a small decrease in the number of things to learn should help speed up the cycle and reduce repetitive training sessions.
Making the driver’s job a little easier to learn and making it simpler to perform are positive steps in tackling an issue that promises to bedevil this industry for some time to come.
i “Truck Driver Shortage Analysis 2015,” American Trucking Associations, accessed August 9, 2016, http://www.trucking.org/article.aspx?uid=ad3cff3e-7c8b-400f-8c68-afbf3dde6898
ii Madeline Farber, “Consumers Are Now Doing Most of Their Shopping Online,” Fortune, June 8, 2016, accessed August 10, 2016, http://fortune.com/2016/06/08/online-shopping-increases/
iii Laura Stevens, “Survey Shows Rapid Growth in Online Shopping,” Wall Street Journal, June 8, 2016, accessed August 10, 2016, http://www.wsj.com/articles/survey-shows-rapid-growth-in-online-shopping-1465358582
iv Clarissa Hawes, “Driver Turnover at Large Truck Carriers Climbs to 102 percent,” Trucks.com International, accessed August 10, 2016, https://www.trucks.com/2016/04/26/driver-turnover-at-large-truck-carriers-climbs-to-102-percent/