As the driver shortage returns to the highs of 2018, motor carriers are left scrambling to fill their driver population. But the 2021 shortage is different than 2018 in many ways.
COVID-19 has made a dramatic impact on the trucking industry, and we continue to experience the impact of this pandemic well into 2021. Unemployment and weakened CDL training infrastructure due to lack of in-person training have made this season’s trucking boom a significant challenge. In fact, due to driver retirement and CDL training disruptions in 2020, there are about 80,000 fewer drivers available than there were in 2019. Pair that with the nearly 40,000 drivers pulled from the market due to drug testing in the first quarter of 2021, and it’s clear we have a real problem on our hands.
This is a trend that is not slowing down anytime soon. The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Bob Costello has gone as far as to suggest that the driver shortage would reach an estimated 105,000 drivers by 2023 – a 91% increase from Q3 of 2019.
Although there are several factors impacting the driver shortage, one of the main causes is, perhaps not surprisingly, retirement. With the experienced talent pool getting smaller and smaller, motor carriers are finding themselves in a competition to acquire experienced CDL talent.
As a result, we believe it’s time to start fishing in new waters.
The business case for hiring entry-level drivers
According to the NPTC 2020 Industry Benchmarking Report, the second highest cause of driver turnover in today’s market is retirement. With few new graduates entering the workforce each year, the talent pool is dwindling.
For the sake of our industry, economy and customers, we must revive the driver pipeline. Sure, autonomous trucking may become the real deal in the next 10-20 years, but an autonomous truck is still “driver-assisted.” We need to invest in tomorrow’s drivers today. We aren’t alone in this stance; legislation such as the DRIVE-Safe Act also aims to make it easier for young adults ages 18-20 to become eligible for interstate driving.
Here are just some of the reasons hiring an entry-level driver is a practical choice:
Entry-level CMV drivers are highly trainable
Entry-level drivers are simply more adaptable than their more experienced peers. Before you shake your head, consider that this phenomenon is not unique to the trucking industry. It’s true in all industries employing individuals of diverse age groups.
Millennials and Gen Z’ers are eager to enter the workforce, find meaning in their jobs and please their employers at the prospect of improving their careers. Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are no different.
Entry-level CMV drivers demonstrate stronger loyalty to their employers
It’s a driver’s market, so it should be no surprise that even entry-level CDL drivers are starting to get inundated with job offers. That said, we’ve noticed that our own students are much more inclined to seek a long-term employer that they can grow with. We also find that new graduates often have more interest in the types of assignments their more experienced peers are simply tired of, including over-the-road (OTR) work.
For today’s motor carriers, it’s essential to consider the career path for your driver full-time employees, especially as the market shifts to focus on newer talent. These folks are going to take this into account during their employment selection process.
Entry-level CMV drivers are safe
The idea of hiring a CMV driver with no experience makes many safety and compliance professionals concerned with risk management. The reality is that recent CDL graduates have not only performed an extensive amount of training to earn their licenses, they have also spent a significant amount of time behind the wheel.
One of the ways we help our customers adopt entry-level CMV drivers more effectively is through our new-hire finishing school blueprint process. Over the course of 30-60 days, we help our carrier customers with on-the-job training and evaluation of their newly licensed drivers. As a result, we are not only able to ensure the success of the carrier and the driver – we are also able to support the organization by avoiding a stark increase in their insurance rates.
OK, tell me more about my insurance rates
Let’s debunk this myth here and now. Yes, insurance companies are apprehensive about insuring an entry level CMV driver, but there are also ways to soothe that apprehension.
A comprehensive driver finishing program is the smoothest way to put motor carriers, new drivers and insurance companies at ease. While some motor carriers are building these finishing programs in-house, others are seeking partner companies to implement them. Customers who leverage TransForce Group’s new-hire finishing school are typically able to insure new drivers at rates comparable to their more seasoned peers.
The bottom line
The driver shortage, while not a new problem, requires new approaches to resolve. At a federal level, the DRIVE-Safe Act is working to make it easier for young adults to enter the workforce and contribute to cross-state driving requirements. Motor carriers nationwide have begun to reduce their minimum driving time requirements, and companies like TransForce Group have begun to invest in the future of the industry through the recruitment and education of a new generation of drivers ready to take the wheel. Ask yourself, what are you doing to ensure your business meets capacity requirements today? Tomorrow?
About the author
Andrea Hanley is the VP of TransForce Group’s CDL Driver Education and Training Business Unit. She oversees The CDL Schools and Troops into Transportation, which are considered the nation’s leading CDL Job Placement and training programs. A third-generation business owner with a lifetime in the trucking industry – Andrea is an active public speaker and industry contributor.
About TransForce GroupTransForce Group is a recognized leader in the transportation and logistics industry offering innovative and integrated solutions including: Education and Training, Digital Recruiting, Employment Solutions, and Compliance and Safety. From driver development to carrier business needs, TransForce Group partners with third-party logistics, private fleets, and trucking companies to accelerate their growth, improve efficiencies and solve organizational demands. In addition, TransForce Group recruits and retains a diverse workforce, consistently putting new drivers and veterans to work. The company operates throughout the U.S. and Canada. Additional information about TransForce Group can be found at transforcegroup.com.