The Truck Driver Shortage and How Telematics can Help
One of the biggest challenges facing the trucking industry today—and for the past several years—is the shortage of truck drivers. This has only been exacerbated from the COIVD-19 global pandemic, which caused truck driving training schools and truck driving testing sites to shut down, eliminating the pipeline of new licensed drivers.
The main issues causing the truck driver shortage stem from the harsh working conditions that the job demands. Low pay, long hours away from home, dangerous conditions, and more all have deterred younger generations from pursuing the profession; and likewise, has led to such a high turnover rate for current drivers. According to the American Trucking Associations, the driver shortage was 50,700 in 2018, but if current trends continue, that number can grow to 160,000 by 2028. Let us examine the difficulties of being a truck driver shorter, and then some ways fleets can retain and gain more drivers.
Why a truck driver shortage? A Closer Look
While there are many elements that make truck driving a difficult job, a few main ones stand out: work structure, compensation, and working conditions.
The actual structure of the job is very different and harsh compared to other jobs. For me, I sit cozily at my desk writing from 9-5. But truck drivers spend up to 11 hours driving in a 14-hour shift. Those hours are long and arduous as anyone who has done a road trip can attest. With a road trip, though, the next day you are in paradise whereas a truck driver does the same thing. To make matters worse, many truck drivers sleep in the truck in a “sleeper cab”. Also, when contextualizing the driving, it means being isolated from friends and loved ones more often than not. Truck drivers travel very far distances and therefore do not return home every day like most workers in other jobs. Those elements of the job are very significant factors when choosing this profession and reduces the pool of interested drivers immensely.
Another deterrent for the truck driving profession is the lower salary. A while back, drivers were better compensated, but wages have not increased with the pace of inflation, turning this job into a much less profitable one. Likewise, the structure for compensation often negatively impacts drivers. There are two main methods of paying drivers: by the hour and by mileage. Most fleets pay drivers using the second method, which on the surface makes sense, but when looking further has some flaws. First, due to Hours of Service regulations, there are only certain times in the day when a driver can drive. However, when a weather and/or vehicle issue occurs, drivers cannot make up the lost time and therefore do not get paid even though they are still working/on the road. The same goes for when drivers face traffic. Also, the mileage compensation method often results in poor driving behavior because drivers will try to get every mile they can in their allotted time and resort to speeding or driving when fatigued/in need of rest.
Lastly, the driving itself is dangerous. Truck driving is one of the most dangerous jobs and because of all the time spent on the road, truck drivers are at higher risks of getting in accidents. On top of that, truck drivers must prepare to drive through many different weather conditions that add to the riskiness of the job. Snowstorms, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. can all be expected when driving a truck for a fleet.
How to Retain Truck Drivers
While these factors seem like major deterrents, there are a few things that can be done to help retain and gain truck drivers. We will walk through strategies that both use and do not use telematics technology.
Driver Retention without Telematics
First, providing better and more comprehensive training will help drivers feel more prepared to take on all the obstacles that the open road presents. Driver safety is a huge area of concern for many drivers, and by preparing them and showing investment in their livelihood, drivers will be more inclined to join/stay with the fleet. Next, supporting driver’s well-being is critical. Encouraging drivers to get their rest when they need it and practice safe driving practices without fear of losing pay eases the pressure off drivers to cram as many miles as they can into their schedule. Overall, by taking active steps to show your investment in your drivers, truck drivers will be more likely to stay with you.
Driver Retention Using Telematics
Technology can also help with driver retention as well. First, telematics devices such as Positioning Universal’s FT7500 locates drivers and allows drivers and their fleet managers to be more connected than ever. In terms of driver safety, devices like this are crucial and can help fleet managers respond quickly to any weather and/or vehicle issues. Having technology like this ensures drivers that they are not alone when on the road, no matter where they are. Also, this specific device can be paired with the AI Fleet Camera Solution which comes with driver scoring capabilities. Rewarding drivers that score well not only allows for more financial opportunities for the drivers, but also sends the message that safe driving is more important than squeezing miles into a day. Likewise, in general employees of any nature like to be rewarded for their good performance, and telematics can unlock an effective way to measure that.
The truck driver shortage is only getting worse. Because of the overall lack of opportunity and difficult working conditions, potential drivers are becoming less and less incentivized to pursue the profession. However, if fleets can actively show their investment in their drivers and their safety/well-being, they can retain more of them and not suffer significantly from the driver shortage. Leveraging telematics devices are a very effective way to do this.