Tight Turns: Ensuring consistency in today's tight truck driver market

By Richard McDuffie | Memphis Business Journal

The trucking industry is currently experiencing the tightest capacity I have witnessed during my 30 years in the logistics business.

NPR recently reported the American Trucking Association’s research, which said more than 70 percent of goods consumed in the U.S. are moved by truck, but the industry needs to hire almost 900,000 more drivers to meet rising demand. Additionally, according to an industry analysis by DAT Solutions, just one truck was available for every 12 loads needed to be shipped at the start of 2018, which is the lowest ratio since 2005.

In summary, the industry is experiencing the perfect storm.

Our nation’s unemployment rate of under 4 percent reflects a growth in other manual labor and trade-type jobs that don’t require one to be on the road or away from his or her family.

Construction jobs, for example, are experiencing growth nationwide and offer consistent hours, predictable situations and comparable compensation.

And, though truck owner-operators are feeling pressure to move products, current and potential drivers are equally feeling pressure due to technological implementations and insurance insecurities.

Electronic logging devices are pushing the envelope of service, holding drivers to an electronic, rather than manual, standard. While safety is a top priority for companies and drivers, the automation instills additional pressure for performance and accountability.

The average age of drivers continues to rise. Young talent needs to take the wheel, yet insurance typically requires drivers to have 2 to 5 years of experience before the company will insure them at all.

Therefore, it is difficult to recruit drivers straight out of school who can feel secure and supported in the profession.

Until self-driving trucks come into fruition or we experience a huge downfall in the economy, we do not believe this challenge will end. So, how do we recruit and retain high-quality drivers in the industry’s current climate?

Drivers appreciate the familiarity of freight; therefore, low turnover in both company management and customers help to retain drivers and ensure consistency in load sizes, distances and even the same contact at the load destination. A commitment to customer consistency is paramount.

Additionally, drivers want to be treated with respect. Transporting freight is a vital occupation. Though the role might not be perceived as technical, the requirements for the road — for certifications and coverages — are robust.

Across the industry, we are committed to keeping and attracting drivers for the welfare of our consumer and the commercial economy.