Attracting and Retaining Commercial Drivers
Commercial fleets need to maintain a workforce of loyal, qualified drivers in order to succeed. But recently, increased demand for freight volume has highlighted an ongoing driver shortage that’s left many motor carriers operating under capacity.
In fact, according to a recent report prepared for the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), there could be a shortage as high as 34,000 drivers by 2024.
In order to ensure that your business is attracting and retaining talented drivers, you need to evaluate how the shortage may be affecting you and the steps you can take to make your workplace appealing.
What’s Contributing to the Shortage?
The first step when attracting or retaining drivers should be to understand the underlying causes of the driver shortage:
- Age—The average age of drivers in Canada continues to increase while fleets continue to struggle attracting new truckers. The CTA report estimates that the average age of commercial truck drivers will be 49 by 2024—up from 44 in 2006. In Canada, many truck drivers are in their 50s and 60s, with about 17,000 of them being between the ages of 60 and 65. To make matters worse, the number of younger drivers in the industry continues to decrease over time. Fleets will need to attract younger drivers in order to balance the continued departure of older drivers.
- Lifestyle—Truck driving, and particularly long-haul truck driving, is a decent paying occupation in Canada. However, long-haul truck drivers are required to work long, unpredictable hours and spend a lot of time away from home. Many motor carriers also assign new drivers to long or isolated routes, which can make open positions unappealing to prospects. Drivers are often forced to be on the road for extended periods of time, which can lead to fatigue, sleep apnea, and other adverse health effects.
- Steady wages—As mentioned above, income for Canadian truck drivers is relatively reasonable. While exact figures vary, the average salary listed for truck drivers across the country tends to be above $40,000, with long-haul truck drivers making up to $80,000 a year. However, drivers are often paid by the kilometre, which means their income can fluctuate based on delays or traffic. This can lead to unpredictable wages and unexpected long hours.
In-house Adjustments to Attract Drivers
Before you consider changing your pay models or workplace benefits, there may be some operational changes you can review to attract or retain drivers:
- Offer flexible scheduling. Many prospective drivers are afraid of being away from home for long periods of time, and giving them the option to work closer to home can make your business more appealing.
- Consider new fleet management procedures or technology to help reduce your drivers’ average length of haul. Although you want to keep your drivers on the road frequently to increase your capacity, reducing the average length of haul can help drivers improve their health and manage the balance between their work and home lives.
- Adjust training programs to target other departments or industries. Prospective drivers may be intimidated by the amount of experience or legal requirements needed to obtain a commercial driver licence. Simply adjusting your training programs can help your business integrate drivers from outside the industry.
One of the most effective ways to appeal to drivers is to increase wages. Although this can be done by simply giving drivers a set raise or bonus, there are alternative payment models and other considerations to keep in mind:
- Bonuses—Many carriers now offer staggered bonuses that incentivize retention. Often, these bonuses are split into payments after a driver has worked for 30 days, 90 days and six months. However, some experts believe that these bonuses may also cause drivers to leave once they’ve collected all of their payments.
- Hourly pay—Drivers aren’t typically paid by the hour because it’s hard to prove when they’re on duty. But now, tracking technology like GPS and electronic logging devices can make it easy for carriers to know when their drivers are on the job.
- Flexible models–Many businesses have started to incorporate multiple pay models into their operations to accommodate drivers. For example, drivers who are paid by the kilometre earn very little when slowed by traffic or unloading. Now, tracking devices can detect legitimate delays and switch to a different pay model during that time in order to make long or congested routes more appealing.
When considering raises, bonuses or other pay models, keep in mind that your drivers’ wages could impact your liability rates.
Another way to make your business appealing to talented drivers is to offer a competitive benefits package and create a positive work environment. Fleets should consider the following:
- Paid time off to allow drivers to visit home or take a break while still making an income
- In-house programs that reward successful drivers with priority at service stations, pay bonuses or new equipment
- New equipment and vehicles to make drivers’ day-to-day operations easier and attract tech-savvy applicants
Additionally, an emphasis on respect can help your business attract and retain drivers. Experts believe that drivers may be turned away from the transportation industry due to a perceived lack of respect for the long hours they put into their jobs. Make sure to show drivers they’re respected by paying attention to their feedback, recognizing their accomplishments, and staying involved in their personal and professional lives.
Finding Consistent Success
The driver shortage isn’t going away anytime soon, and you need to constantly review your operations to ensure you’re attracting and retaining a talented workforce. Get in touch with Harvard Western Insurance today for more resources on driver training, legal requirements, and transportation-specific news.