“I think for a lot of drivers last year, they saw that they couldn’t get home, and once they did get home, they saw the things they were missing in their families’ lives, and it makes you take a look at that,” said vice president of client services for Conversion Interactive Agency, Steve Sichterman, in regards to the growing worries over the truck driver shortage.
The continuing shortage, tough labor market, and increasing number of drivers testing positive for alcohol or drugs are causing relentless obstacles for trucking industry companies and their recruiters–a major concern that was discussed during the annual Recruitment and Retention Conference. This was the first meeting of its kind for recruiting professionals to gather since before the pandemic.
Recruiters explained that they have witnessed more and more truck drivers seeking roles allowing them to drive regionally instead of over-the-read and to be at home much more often than in the past.
“I think all of us have taken a look at our lives and said, ‘This is where I want to be and what I want to do,’” Sichterman continued.
As there aren’t currently sufficient numbers of potential new drivers entering the industry, trucking company recruiters are now competing heavily against one another.
“In this market, unless you’re a top-tiered paying company and your drivers are going home every day, it’s going to be a challenge,” said vice president of driver recruitment at Roehl Transport, Tim Norlin. “There is no silver bullet. We’re all short [on] drivers, and there are not enough coming in.”
To incentivize drivers to sign on with the company, Roehl has boosted wages to over $1,400 a week–an increase to $72,000 a year from 2020’s $59,800 a year.
“All we are doing is chasing each other’s drivers with higher cents per mile, a bigger sign-on bonus, more paid time off,” Norlin said.
Making matters worse, 91,370 truckers were deemed ineligible of operating a commercial motor vehicle after a positive drug or alcohol test; of those, only less than 20,000 have requested reinstatement, according to program chief for FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, Bryan Price. Over half of the disqualifications found were for marijuana or other violations involving THC, and another 13% included drivers who refused to take a test at all.
“These aren’t tests verified with the results being marijuana or cocaine,” said price. “This is higher than I expected it to be, and a common scenario is: a driver is selected for a random test, and they say, ‘You know, I’m going to quit this company, I’ve got another job lined up, and I’m not taking the test.’”
Still, some aspects of current industry upgrades may help ease the shortage, such as the boosted positive public attention surrounding truck drivers as they stepped up to our nation’s front lines during the pandemic, which Sichterman and Norlin believe helped raise current enrollment numbers at driver training schools.
Veterans in Trucking’s vice president of business development, Matt Roland, also noted that there should be a much stronger focus on recruiting military veterans into the industry–especially as one-quarter of all trucker drivers are already veterans.
“We want trucking companies to identify the military veteran population, and we want to connect the veterans to trucking companies, and we want to ensure those trucking companies have the resources available to hire these veterans,” he said.
There has also been positivity around Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill, which incorporated a pilot program to help younger drivers become qualified to drive interstate and be more easily hired by trucking companies.
“I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Jeremy Reymer, founder and CEO of DriverReach. “If the data proves young people can drive [safely], even [more safely] than their counterparts who are over 21, I think it will lead to a longer-lasting federal rule, but that may be five or 10 years down the road.”