A Few Good Truckers: How Fleet Owners Find (And Keep) The Best Drivers

Category: Uncategorized
Published: Dec 3, 2014
Is the American trucker a dying breed?

Is the American trucker a dying breed?


Across North America, fleet owners are grappling with a truck driver shortage that only seems to get worse.

Trucking suffers from high turnover rates, an aging workforce, and waning interest among young workers. As fleet owners look to lose many veteran drivers in the coming years, the question is who will replace them.

Fair Pay for a Tough Job

Many analysts agree that workers have lost interest in trucking because they don’t think the pay is adequate to the work. Workers who would’ve considered a career in trucking a generation ago, are now opting for work in construction or repairs, which offer similar compensation but better hours and more predictability. While yesterday’s drivers were attracted to the freedom and independence of the profession, truckers today feel just as micromanaged as they would in more traditional jobs, contributing to the exodus of truckers.

For those who do become drivers, the demands of the job and limited compensation create ideal conditions for burnout. A high turnover rate is just as costly to fleet owners as a lack of drivers, since they have to spend more time training new hires and creating new partnerships from scratch.

Many trucking companies are already responding with hefty pay raises, as much as 13%, and other perks like sign-up bonuses and retention bonuses. But experts warn that pay raises are only part of the equation. If fleet owners and trucking companies want to find a long-term solution to the trucker shortage, they’ll have to get creative.

On the Road

Along the highway, perks and discounts for truckers may become a thing of the past

Along the highway, perks and discounts for truckers may become a thing of the past

Simply put, trucking requires sacrifices that other careers don’t. The job requires long hours, strict attention to safety, and time away from family. Fleet owners are thinking more and more about how they can balance these realities with their drivers’ demands.

Many drivers are complaining about the risings costs of long hauls, in terms of food and lodging. Many rest stops have abandoned discount policies for truckers, and have increased prices for all their customers. More and more drivers are lobbying for better ways to offset their personal costs while driving. Fleet owners that offer support with these costs have a key asset in attracting, and keeping, the best drivers.

Rewarding the Best in the Business

The key to preventing burnout is to make trucking an attractive long-term career. In addition to long hours and low pay, many drivers leave out of frustration with an accountability system that they don’t perceive as fair.

To keep the best truckers, fleet owners will have to balance productivity measures with other benchmarks, including experience, safety records, and skill sets.

In addition, carriers should be in an ongoing dialogue with drivers about performance, and be extremely clear about bonuses and benchmarks throughout the year, so drivers have continuous opportunities to improve.

The Truckers of Tomorrow

Carriers and driving schools can partner up to find the best young drivers

Carriers and driving schools can partner up to find the best young drivers

Today, the average American truck driver is 57 years old. While older drivers have unmatched experience and knowledge, they won’t be driving for much longer. Unless younger Americans are enticed to become truck drivers, the shortage will only get worse in the coming decade.

In order to build partnerships with younger drivers, fleet owners must know what those drivers want out of their careers, and must be willing to support younger drivers in skill-building and growth. Like younger workers across professions, young drivers are looking for some key elements to a career, in addition to a paycheck. Many younger workers prioritize on-the-job support, a stable schedule, and good work-life balance more highly than their parents did.

Some carriers are partnering with professional driving schools to recruit new drivers. This can be a great way to nurture young drivers with great potential, and build lasting partnerships between fleet owners and truck drivers at the beginning of their careers.

The Root of the Shortage

There are several strategies for fleet owners who want the competitive edge in attracting the best talent. Unless big changes are made, however, in recruitment, compensation, and support of America’s truck drivers, the shortage will only get worse. A good team of drivers can help carriers in a variety of way, from lowering operation costs to helping you deliver your loads on time and keep a spotless safety record for your fleet.

It’s not only fleet owners who are feeling the crunch of the driver shortage, but also shippers, freight brokers, and anyone who relies on truck drivers for their business. To attract more workers to truck-driving careers, the industry has to treat them as valued professionals and emphasize that trucking requires skill sets that take a lifetime to build. To build a team of great truckers, carriers should always work with brokers who have all the proper licensing and freight broker bonds. With bond protection, carriers and drivers know that they’ll be paid for their work.

Are you a carrier looking for good drivers? What are your strategies for finding, and keeping, the best drivers? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Vic Lance is the founder and president of Lance Surety Bond Associates. He served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. He served as a logistics officer during a combat tour to Afghanistan. and as an officer in charge of an Iraqi Police Transition Team during a subsequent tour to Iraq. Later, he was assigned to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, serving as Assistant Professor of Naval Science and Marine Officer Instructor. Victor graduated from Villanova University with a degree in Business Administration and holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.