How Companies are Responding to the Driver Shortage in the U.S.
The truck driver shortage is not a new challenge. Prior to COVID-specific impacts on the transportation and trucking industry, many shippers and haulers struggled to meet the rising demand for OTR drivers to service lanes. As businesses face these on-going challenges, here’s how they are addressing the issue to meet surging demands.
How The U.S. Is Addressing This Issue
With more people shopping online nowadays, the demand for truck drivers is still spiking. Without enough drivers to carry the loads, this critical driver shortage is likely to continue. Pete Buttigieg and The U.S. Transportation Secretary is trying to find solutions to these supply chain disruptions by addressing the national truck driver shortage in clogged ports.
In February, the President issued an executive order for supply chain issues and the White House put together a task force for Supply Chain Disruptions in June. Directed by Buttigieg and the secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce, this task force provides a government response that addresses supply chain challenges. The team is working to find and fix problems small and large, private and public, or that help alleviate supply constraints and bottlenecks.
Driver retention and recruiting were discussed at a recent meeting between Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Buttigieg, the trucking industry, and some labor groups. The department stated turnover rates are more than 90% for long haul carriers. This, combined with the COVID-19 impact, played a major role in the supply chain disruption. It was also discussed at the meeting to not only lower the minimum age for interstate drivers from 21 to 18, but also allow truckers to bypass some immigration certification processes set by the Department of Labor.
What Companies Are Doing To Attract Truckers
To combat the driving shortage, recruiters and trucking companies are trying different tactics, such as increasing sign-on bonuses and pay. The problem is that was already done in 2020, when private fleet drivers saw an 18% increase in their pay since 2014, and their average pay was increased from $73,000 to over $86,000. Therefore, it’s not just an issue with pay, said Costello, so companies would have to find other ways to attract drivers.
Centerline Drivers have improved benefits that give drivers more control over how they work, including being home on weekends. Recruiters are also extending the choice of shifts, skills, current positions, and equipment preferences. Many offer steady and reliable hours, local routes, and competitive pay. It may mean providing more flexibility with work schedules and paying drivers more, but it sure would help with operational interruptions we are seeing now, stated Costello.
The U.S. is Looking Abroad for More Drivers To Help Fix The Trucking Crisis
The commercial driver shortage has become so severe that the U.S. is looking abroad for new drivers. For years there has been a shortage of truck drivers in America, but it didn’t become an actual crisis until the pandemic, in which the demand for shipped goods soared along with an early retirement surge. This resulted in far-reaching and dire consequences: airports ran short of jet fuel, filling stations had gasoline outages, and prices skyrocketed with some suppliers blaming delivery delays.
Holly McCormick, a Groendyke Transport Inc., recruiter, has been in the trucking business for 10 years and, for the first time, found herself looking to source foreign drivers in a South African agency. She has doubled her budget and is still having problems finding candidates. McCormick said, “If we’re not able to haul these goods, our economy virtually shuts down.”
Visma Solutions chief executive officer, Jose Gomez-Urquiza, says we are living in the worst driver shortage in recent history. As a result, the demand for Visa services for the trucking industry more than doubled during the pandemic, which he blames 100% on the driver shortage. Bringing in foreign drivers faces many hurdles, including complicated immigration rules and visa limits. However, trucking advocates believe those obstacles can be overcome with the task force created to address problems with the supply chain impeding the economic recovery.
What We Can Expect Moving Forward
A driver shortage threatens the functioning of the economy, supply chains, road transport, trade, and ultimately citizens’ welfare and employment. This is a serious issue that can’t wait to be addressed. It may take a while before this driver shortage subsides and things go back to normal, and before they get better, they may even get worse. However, little by little drivers will start getting back behind the wheel. Commercial truck drivers will always be in demand, especially now that more people are shopping online.
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