With Black Friday and Cyber Monday upon us, companies are feeling the nationwide truck driver shortage worse than ever before. Especially with the US economy seeing its strongest year since the recession ended in 2009. While some argue that the shortage is a myth in itself or a result of an overall ploy to keep salaries low, many hiring companies are saying otherwise. In fact more and more companies are offering higher salaries, more home time and whatever else they can do to attract more qualified drivers. With “qualified” being the operative word here.
“Fleets consistently report receiving applications for open positions, but that many of those candidates do not meet the criteria to be hired. According to our research, 88% of carriers said most applicants are not qualified,” says ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello in a recent report. "If the trend stays on course, there will likely be severe supply chain disruptions resulting in significant shipping delays, higher inventory carrying costs, and perhaps shortages in stores," the report warned. The report also acknowledged that a major part of the problem is the job’s accurate reputation for long hours and weeks away from home. The ATA said that addressing those problems is the key to fixing the shortage and listed “increasing driver pay, getting drivers more time at home, as well as improving the image of the driver and their treatment by all companies in the supply chain” as the most realistic solutions.
"Every one of my members is looking for drivers," said Jim Runk, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. After 47 years in the trucking industry he says the shortage "is as bad now as it's ever been." Jim Germak is one such employer that has been feeling the reality of the shortage and explains that usually five or six of his 40 trucks aren't operating simply because he doesn’t have enough drivers. He also knows that experienced drivers are going to the companies that offer newer equipment, better pay and even signing bonuses of up to $5,000. In addition to offering his drivers an 8 percent pay raise, Germak has begun scheduling his drivers for more regular home time and has instructed his dispatchers to adjust routes for drivers to get home in time for important family events. He says that he has also invested money on outfitting his trucks with comfort features such as refrigerators, better heating and air conditioning system, and more comfortable driver seats. "We probably have every amenity available," Germak said.
But while it remains a challenge for companies to recruit and retain “the cream of the crop” experienced drivers, the profession is managing to attracting more newcomers, such as Toby McGuigan. The former tow truck driver and crane operator is currently attending truck driving school and is looking forward to a career switch that will allow him more freedom and more opportunities. “I like the idea of being on the road and being your own boss. There's so much opportunity, not to mention good money," he says.