American Trucking Associations, ATA estimates the transportation industry is currently 80,000+ drivers short of ideal capacity. The driver shortage is caused by many factors, including more drivers retiring than joining the profession, the limited number of women and minorities in the trade, lifestyle issues, more well-paying employment opportunities for those without a college degree, and more.
Our new series will look at the issue causing the shortage, objections that younger people have to the profession, programs, and recruitment tips to attract the next generation of drivers.
For this, our first article for this series, today we will focus on the causes of the driver shortage and some of the ways it is being addressed.
Causes of the Driver Shortage
Many factors are coming together to create the perfect storm of driver shortages, and, without fast and aggressive action, this shortage is set to double by 2028. Recruiting young drivers with a full career ahead is vital in combating this shortage.
It is no secret that one of the main causes of the shortage is the number of retirements currently, and those expected over the next few years are higher than the number of newcomers to the field. The average age for over-the-road drivers today is 46, and, for private fleet drivers, the average age is 57. Trucking is not alone in this issue; with the retirement of the baby boomers, many industries are finding it difficult to cull enough interested people out of the smaller generations X, Y and Z.
Historically a male-dominated field, women only make up 10% of the drivers on the road today. The lifestyle requirements of a career in trucking can make it difficult for women to feel they have the flexibility needed to manage both this career and the demands of their home life. Added to this is the interpersonal conflict female drivers can have with their male peers; to even the design of their trucks not accommodating a shorter stature, women can feel as if they are not meant to be in this profession. For more information on recruiting women, please see Trucking Industry Recruitment: Why are we focused on Recruiting Women.
A federally mandated minimum driving age of 21 for interstate commerce impacts the effectiveness of hiring young drivers. For companies that handle only long-haul freight, this eliminates an entire segment of new drivers and denies young drivers the needed experience to advance in their careers. This regulation is partly due to the belief that younger drivers are more dangerous on the road. According to National Center for Surface Transportation Safety Excellence research, "Driving experience, rather than age, had a greater impact on driving risk."
A good work-life balance is often cited as the main goal in switching positions and leaving career fields, and trucking is no exception. Truck driving is not known for its work-life balance. While this has always been a drawback for those interested in the field, it has been amplified by the reevaluation that people worldwide are having about their lives and careers since the pandemic. The negative health impact of driving compounds this issue; if you want to take a closer look at the health impacts affecting your drivers, please see Trucking Industry Recruitment: Driver Health and Wellness.
The quality of your drivers is of the utmost importance, not only for maintaining the company's reputation but also to keep costs, like insurance, down. It is not just a shortage of drivers that affects the industry, but a lack of quality drivers. Be it the lack of experience, driving records, or inability to pass drug tests, the lack of quality drivers is exacerbating the current shortage.
What is being done to encourage young people to become drivers?
Ensuring accessible training programs for high school and young post-grads increases interest and training success. Through Next Generation in Trucking and other programs, high school curriculum and advocation are vital to introducing the transportation industry to young adults. Community colleges offering CDL training are seeing classes booking out and a waiting list for future courses. Interest is out there, but easy access to training is vital.
One of the key things that your organization can do to entice younger drivers is to adapt company culture to ensure buy-in from the younger generation. Millennials and Gen Z desire a company whose culture is open and understanding and fosters communication and team building at all levels.
Nonprofit Next Generation in Trucking offers resources to students, educators, and carriers to assist them in obtaining training and developing programs in their communities. For carriers, it provides a helpful list of suggestions for things your staff and organization can do to promote driving for the next generation.
Knowing the causes of the driver shortage can better prepare recruiters to understand objections they might encounter during the recruiting process. For companies, understanding these challenges and implementing programs to negate these issues will go a long way to improving retention and recruitment.
Our next article in this series will examine the objections recruiters may face in hiring young drivers.
Are you not meeting your recruitment goals? Join LzRecruit Network! Lower your Cost Per Lead and Time to Hire today. We offer 100% direct leads. For more information on the LzRecruit Network, contact us at 800-755-0623.
Debra Watkins covers recruitment and digital marketing for Lionzone. A Nashville native, after graduating from the University of Kentucky, Debra utilized her research and writing skills in the museum and heritage tourism fields, rising to director of two institutions, before returning to Nashville in 2020 to join Lionzone.