• Commercial fleets are combating a truck driver shortage
  • Understanding why can help your fleet address the challenge
  • Knowing what your drivers need can help attract talent to your fleet

American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello has to be getting used to delivering bad news about the truck driver shortage. The ATA states that the current driver shortage is rising to a 80,000 shortfall, “an all-time high for the industry.” 

But there are steps commercial fleets can take to help fix the truck driver shortage.

Is there a truck driver shortage?

You’re not alone in feeling that there’s a truck driver shortage. In fact, it’s supposed to get worse. If hiring trends aren’t turned around, Costello estimates “the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030.”

The ATA concludes, “in order to keep up with demand over the next decade, trucking will need to recruit nearly one million new drivers in order to close the gap.”

Why is there a truck driver shortage?

What is causing the truck driver shortage? The reasons include:

  • Increased demand for freight.
  • Experienced drivers retiring. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average age of a commercial truck driver in the U.S. is 55 years old.
  • Shortage of new entrants into the career.
  • The idea of trucking as a male career. Redwood Logistics states that “women make up 47% of the nation’s workforce but only account for 6% of commercial truck drivers.”
  • Low retention rates for drivers. 
  • Pandemic pressures, such as the closure of truck driving schools and DMVs.
  • Wait times for commercial driver’s license courses have increased.

This all adds up to what the ATA describes as “tremendous pressure on the driver pool.”

Then, there’s the surge in demand brought on by COVID-19 changes. “A thing to note about the shortage is that before the pandemic, we were adding drivers to the industry — even though we had a shortage, more people were entering the industry,” says Costello. “The issue is that new entrants into the industry didn’t keep up with demand for goods.”

Retention and recruiting are difficult. Drivers are under constant pressure and work long hours in tough conditions. “The average annual turnover rate for long haul drivers at big firms is 90%,” according to the ATA.

The upside is that there are steps commercial fleets can take to make the job more satisfying, less stressful, and safer.

Keep drivers safe with these tips for avoiding driver fatigue.

How bad is the truck driver shortage?

The truck driver shortage is making headlines globally, and is one of the factors attributed to the worldwide supply chain crisis. With containers idling in ports and packages delayed for months, commercial fleets are under great pressure to get cargo moving. Yet every logistics manager knows that there’s only so much you can transport without drivers in the trucks.

“We have an aging workforce, a workforce that is overwhelmingly male and finding ways to address those issues is key to narrowing the shortage,” says Costello.

How to solve the truck driver shortage

With the truck driver shortage making it difficult to get products from and to store shelves, and the supply chain crisis driving up prices, even the U.S. government is working to address the issue. The Drive-SAFE Act, signed into law in November 2021, establishes an apprenticeship program for young adults, who are already eligible to hold CDLs and operate Class 8 tractors, to get involved in interstate long haul trucking.

At the same time, there are many ways commercial fleets can adjust to the continued tightness in the driver market.

Many fleets are increasing driver pay. “The industry is raising pay at five times the historic average,” says Costello. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median pay for a truck driver in America is $48,310 per year. Freight operators are also offering large signing bonuses to address the shortage. That has average weekly earnings for long-haul truckload drivers up over 25% from the beginning of 2019.

Spending less time on the road is another solution. This may sound counterintuitive when the issue isn’t enough drivers. But keeping drivers on more localized routes can help reduce burnout and improve their work-life balance as well.

Prioritizing recruitment is also critical. Commercial fleets are doing more now to recruit minorities, women, and veterans to their driving ranks. Efforts include offering paid training programs and making the job more attractive by recognizing what drivers need to succeed.

Important things a truck driver needs

Better work-life balance is an employee priority across industries, and commercial fleets can’t get away with ignoring it. Drivers also want better working conditions. Fortunately, current technologies makes it easier for your commercial fleet to provide drivers with the tools they need.

Start with safety. Drivers are on the road all the time. Anything your fleet can do to make the job safer for them will help with driver recruitment and driver retention. Strategies can include training new drivers to bring them up to expert levels more efficiently. Or coaching tools that support drivers while they’re out on the road. Some electronic logging devices, such as Motive’s ELD, can monitor driver behaviors to identify issues in near real time and flag individual drivers who might need further guidance.

Streamlining processes can also improve the truck driver’s work experience. With the right ELD technology, fleets can: 

  • Standardize pre-trip vehicle inspections.
  • Simplify logging Hours of Service (HOS).
  • Instantly communicate with managers and customers, all within an app.
  • Upload documentation for greater accountability and to expedite inspections.
  • Give drivers peace of mind with a backup record that can prove their innocence in accidents.
  • Automate dispatch for more efficient trips.
  • Optimize shipments to ensure efficiency and safe loading and unloading.

How drivers can help you combat truck driver shortages

While commercial fleets work to address the driver shortage, don’t underestimate the impact drivers can have as well. Word of mouth is your best recruitment tool. Meeting your drivers’ needs and providing them with positive working conditions will have your team speaking highly of your fleet.

The fleet might also implement a referral program to encourage current drivers to bring others on board. 

Applying tips for retaining truck drivers with Motive

The truck driver shortage is a complex issue. Commercial fleets have many daily operations to monitor and manage. Retention and recruitment is only one of the challenges. Nevertheless, an all-in-one fleet management software can make a real difference in your efforts to combat driver turnover and bring new people onboard.

Motive’s telematics make it easier to keep assets moving. Maximizing vehicle uptime with maintenance and performance reporting supports driver efficiency and improves vehicle safety. Plus, GPS tracking helps increase productivity with ongoing route optimization. Geofence alerts also give drivers support in theft prevention while out on a route.

Make it easier for drivers to do their job using the Motive Driver App. Logs and inspection reports can be less time-consuming when drivers use the Driver App to keep up. Drivers can use pre-existing templates for inspections, upload necessary documentation, track their hours, or communicate with the back office. The app helps keep drivers on the road as well. or off of it when they need to be. Pre-violation alerts notify drivers of impending HOS violations, giving them time to find a place to park.

The Motive AI Dashcam and automated coaching technology also works to prevent accidents and protect drivers. The AI Dashcam detects unsafe driving behavior with unrivaled accuracy, and alerts drivers in real time.Your drivers will know you take their safety and professional development seriously with Motive’s turnkey coaching workflow and Safety Scores. 

Fleet management can also use metrics from the Safety Hub to identify drivers with excellent risk scores. Retain and recruit drivers by rewarding top safety performers and incentivizing drivers who move their scores from fair to good.

Request a free demo to learn more about how Motive’s all-in-one fleet management solution can help your business.