September 12–18 is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. If you haven’t thanked a trucker lately, it might be a good idea to do so. Truck drivers continue to be the vital link to the goods we rely upon every day.
It is not an easy job. Driver turnover rates are evidence of that. Statistics from the American Trucking Associations released earlier this year show large truckload fleets have an annual driver turnover rate of 92%. It is only slightly better for smaller carriers, at 72%. Finding new drivers is never easy. This year, we’ve seen shortages of commodities because there simply aren’t enough drivers to deliver them.
Unless something changes, we will continue to experience a driver shortage for years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a commercial driver is about 55. And the average age of a driver entering CDC (commercial driver’s license) training is nearly 35. It is not an easy life out there on the road, and the profession certainly is not attracting younger people.
The demand for freight service is only going to increase. So, what can we as an industry do to make life better for truckers and the job more appealing to prospective drivers?
I’ve heard it said many times that there would be no driver shortage if driver pay were higher. Better pay is certainly one way to value drivers. Another is to provide good health benefits as part of their compensation package.
As an industry, we need to lobby for safe places for drivers to park overnight. We must oppose efforts by municipalities to restrict parking and encourage them instead to find suitable overnight space for trucks.
We must invest in driver training and new technologies—such as lane-departure alerts, speed controls, and automatic braking—to make the job easier and safer. We should also equip trucks with good routing tools to avoid the frustrations of traffic and road construction. Technologies that enable good communication between the cab and dispatch are essential as well.
At the DC level, facilities should make it a point to have loads ready when drivers arrive and not make them search for empty trailers in the yard. It’s also important to provide amenities such as comfortable waiting rooms and access to restrooms.
The industry should further encourage diversity. Women still make up only 7% of drivers. The profession needs to attract more minority drivers as well.
We often hear that a company’s workers are its most important assets. It’s time to value our drivers as they deserve.