• ITVI.USA
    15,285.540
    -94.080
    -0.6%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.776
    -0.010
    -0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.450
    -0.050
    -0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,256.620
    -93.130
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    -0.240
    -6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.950
    -0.020
    -0.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.440
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.310
    0.060
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.150
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.950
    -0.100
    -2.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,285.540
    -94.080
    -0.6%
  • OTLT.USA
    2.776
    -0.010
    -0.4%
  • OTRI.USA
    21.450
    -0.050
    -0.2%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,256.620
    -93.130
    -0.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.300
    -0.240
    -6.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.950
    -0.020
    -0.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.440
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.310
    0.060
    1.8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.150
    0.020
    0.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.950
    -0.100
    -2.5%
  • WAIT.USA
    126.000
    1.000
    0.8%
American ShipperShippingTrade and Compliance

On the Surface: Recruitment drive

While the nation’s unemployment rate has been declining, truck driver turnover has been on the rise.

   Although many trucking companies are increasing pay, the low unemployment rate is one big reason why it is difficult for them to recruit drivers.
   The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It hasn’t been that low since April 2000 and hasn’t fallen below the 3.8 percent mark since 1969.
   While the nation’s unemployment rate has been declining, truck driver turnover has been on the rise. The annualized turnover rate at large truckload carriers — fleets with more than $30 million in annual revenues — totaled 94 percent in the first quarter of 2018, up 20 percentage points from the corresponding 2017 period, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA).
   At smaller truckload carriers, the annualized turnover rate hit 73 percent, up 7 percentage points from the first quarter of 2017, while at less-than-truckload carriers, the annualized turnover rate remained unchanged from a year prior at 10 percent.
   Truck driving is a tough job. A pay hike doesn’t change the fact that many drivers spend a lot of time on the road away from home.
   A Q1 2018 Driver iQ survey with the views of recruitment managers for more than 75,000 trucks found that total compensation was the top reason for driver turnover, followed by time away from home and lack of communication.
   The majority of recruiters surveyed expected that salaries would continue to increase, with 72 percent forecasting total compensation — pay and benefits — would rise in the second quarter of this year.
   More than 80 percent of the recruiters believed the average salary needed to be $75,000 to impact driver turnover — or 41 percent higher than the $53,000 reported by ATA in 2016, Driver iQ said.
   “One of the frustrations motor carrier executives have in changing compensation is that drivers tend to make the decision to change jobs based upon cents per mile rather than the total compensation,” Driver iQ said. “As a result, more recruiting ads emphasize cents per mile, and the benefits on the side of compensation, e.g. performance bonuses, often get lost.” 
   Lowering the age for operating a commercial motor vehicle across state lines to 18 also could ease the driver shortage. In March, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe Act) to amend federal regulations that prevent truck drivers under the age of 21 from crossing state lines. Hunter argued that most states already allow the issuance of commercial truck driver’s licenses to 18-year-olds.
   The legislation had nearly 60 co-sponsors at the end of June.
   The International Foodservice Distributors Association supports the DRIVE-Safe Act, saying the “restriction on interstate deliveries is particularly problematic in regions like the greater D.C. metro area, where an emerging driver would be prohibited from making a quick trip between Arlington, Va., and Bethesda, Md. But the same driver could haul a load from Arlington to Norfolk, Va., a more than six-hour drive roundtrip.”
   The ATA also supports the legislation. “Eighteen- to 21-year-olds are currently allowed to drive Class 8 commercial vehicles in 48 states. America trains 18-year-olds to fight our wars. There’s no reason we can’t train them to cross state lines,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear.
   Stay Metrics, which provides evidence-based driver feedback, engagement, training and retention solutions for the transportation industry, found that drivers between 21 and 25 years of age were less likely to leave their jobs than those who were 26 to 30, when driver turnover peaks.
   Driver iQ said the number of carriers hiring entry-level drivers has steadily increased from 30 percent in Q4 2012 to 54 percent in Q1 2018. 
   “Larger carriers are more likely to hire entry-level drivers than smaller carriers by a 2-1 margin,” Driver iQ said. “This is most likely because entry-level drivers need more training and, therefore, are less productive for the first several months.” 
    However, insurance for younger drivers can be especially expensive. “Those who are particularly old or young are usually the ones who get into driving accidents,” according to TruckDrivingJobs.com. “This makes their insurance rates higher on average. The ideal age for truck drivers is between 30 and 65 years old.”
   Another option to cut down on the driver shortage is changing the national twin trailer standard from twin 28-foot trailers to twin 33-foot trailers or increasing the current federal weight limit of 80,000 pounds for the tractor trailer and its cargo combined.
   Increasing the national twin trailer standard to 33 feet would increase each trailer’s volume capacity by 18.6 percent without exceeding the current federal weight limit, according to a study commissioned in 2017 by the Americans for Modern Transportation, which consists of prominent shippers and retailers like UPS, FedEx and Amazon.
   Typically, twin-28 trailer configurations fill up by cargo volume well before they reach the maximum weight limit, according to the study, which was conducted by Ronald Knipling, a 35-year traffic safety researcher.
   However, increasing the twin trailer standard or truck weight has gotten pushback from the Association of American Railroads, which said doing so “would further stress the nation’s deteriorating roads and bridges.”
   The Truck Safety Coalition also protested that heavier trucks would increase both crash risk and severity, while longer trucks would require a wider stopping distance, result in a bigger blind spot and increase the exposure to side underride crashes. 
   Autonomous vehicles are another solution to combat the capacity crunch, but although the technology is there, overcoming regulatory roadblocks will take quite some time.
   Despite various viable solutions that could help combat the driver shortage, each option faces its own set of challenges, and the reality is the driver shortage will not let up anytime soon. 
   Meanwhile, shippers, carriers and third-party logistics providers must work together to keep goods moving.
   “The increasing strain on capacity and resulting burden on shippers’ bottom lines is here to stay,” said Maggie Turner, a national account manager at Niles, Ill.-based 3PL AFN. “3PLs use carrier knowledge to save shippers’ bottom lines amid shifting market conditions by implementing drop-trailer programs to save drivers time, working with shippers to reduce wait times at the dock  — with tactics like preloading trailers and planning around peak loading hours and dock capacity — and advising on driver break locations to avoid incremental costs like parking tickets.”
   Desmoreaux is Associate Editor of American Shipper. She may be reached by email at hdesormeaux@shippers.com.

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