The infamous driver shortage — or driver squeeze — has been a hot-button issue across the transportation industry for years. The lack of qualified drivers, coupled with sky-high turnover — has affected every segment of the industry. While the impact on carriers is most apparent, shippers have been tasked with navigating related challenges, including capacity constraints.
Many companies have implemented different types of programs to address the driver shortage. Carriers have offered enticing recruitment and retention incentives, and shippers have worked hard to become shippers of choice. These efforts have led to improved conditions and a newfound level of respect for drivers. Still, various rules and regulations have continued to make it difficult to increase the number of drivers entering the industry significantly.
“The value of drivers is at an all time high. We are seeing better efforts to increase driver pay and greater understanding of the value of creating an environment in which drivers want to stay with a company rather than hopping around,” said Christopher Thornycroft, Senior Vice President of Carrier Operations at Redwood Logistics. “That said, we still have a lot of regulations that restrict the driver population.”
Thornycroft pointed specifically to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s relatively new Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. In addition to a complex reentry process, drivers and carriers rack up hefty fines for each violation. While serving an important purpose, this barrier to entry is making it more difficult than ever to add and retain drivers.
For shippers, the burden of the driver shortage tends to be cyclical. Like most things in freight, capacity constraints wax and wane with the market. When the market is hot and capacity is tight, however, the lack of qualified drivers behind the wheel certainly makes shipping more difficult. In this type of environment, shippers should focus on choosing the right third-party partners to help them secure capacity more efficiently and effectively.
Ease of doing business
“Redwood engages with smaller, fragmented fleets, as well as larger, more centralized operations. Our reach allows us to provide freight flow to a valuable carrier base that is difficult for shippers to reach and manage on their own,” Thornycroft said. “Through next-generation tools such as our Dynamic Freight Matching platform, we provide load generation for our carrier base, matching them to loads that fit their unique profiles.”
Redwood’s approach to freight matching offers unique benefits for shippers and carriers alike, especially as they cope with the challenges of an industry-wide driver shortage. Shippers have access to previously hidden capacity, while carriers are presented with only relevant loads. To navigate long-term challenges like this one, solutions that also solve problems for carriers will be front and center.
“We all need to become carrier-centric organizations. That’s easy to say and tough to accomplish. Lots of companies talk about being driver-centric — or shippers of choice — but a lot of the real progress starts with examining your weaknesses and being able to hear criticism,” Thornycroft said. “The best you can do is start by reminding your organizations that these drivers are essential people with hard jobs that deserve your professionalism and respect. Then, you must provide an invaluable service.”
There may not be an end in sight for the driver shortage, but holistic supply chain solutions are well-positioned to help shippers and carriers alike weather the storm.