MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Prime Inc., a 5,000-truck outfit based out of Springfield, Mo., has constructed a Millennium Building for its drivers that could be considered the envy of the industry.
It includes: a cafeteria; aerobics equipment and gym with personal trainers; a weight room; a small movie theatre; a certified, subsidized day care; a day spa and hair salon; a doctor’s office; showers and hotel-style dorm rooms; and mailroom.
Prime’s president and founder Rob Low meets with drivers weekly to host an open mic-style drivers’ meeting, where any questions or concerns are addressed head on.
All that, and still Prime’s annual driver turnover sits at about 54%. Granted, 54%, by US standards, is well below the going rate. But still it’s a number that’s difficult to comprehend given the lengths to which Prime has gone in an attempt to accommodate and provide for its drivers.
Low spoke at the most recent Driving for Profit seminar in early November. The driver shortage was one of many issues covered during the seminar’s popular How They Did It section.
“The bad news is, we’re going to have a driver shortage and the good new is, we’re going to have a driver shortage,” Low said. “The driver shortage is the one constraint, in my opinion, that exists in the marketplace to keep that lid on capacity and prevent us from overexpanding. The folks aren’t out there in the numbers required to grow this industry to respond with adequate capacity to fill the needs of every shipper if we get a little more growth in the economy. I think we’re at the tipping point now. Business is not great, but it’s not horrible. If the economy gets back to the level it should be growing at, trucks are going to get tied up, rates are going to go up, drivers incomes are going to go up and to me, that’s a really good thing.”
Asked how high driver salaries will need to go before trucking is viewed as an attractive career, Low said it’s not all about the money.
“I think part of the solution is making the job better, making the lifestyle better, getting them home more, treating them with more respect,” Low said. “If they’re getting treated like second class citizens, even making $100,000 a year might not be enough to tolerate that.”
Low said the solution lies in employing more sophisticated routing techniques, getting drivers home more frequently and treating them with respect.
Prime’s investment in its 40,000 sq.-ft. Millennium Centre is one way the company has chosen to show it respects its professional drivers.
“Our idea is for the Millennium building to be a slice of the contemporary middle-class lifestyle,” Low said. “Our feelings are that drivers aspire to those same kinds of things that you and I would, and if you can provide them with that which they are largely deprived of while driving in many respects, you have a leg up on your competitors that maybe don’t value those things.”
Looking ahead, Low said an ability to recruit and retain professional drivers will be of monumental importance to carriers.
“Companies that can’t recruit and retain high quality, safe, productive drivers are not going to make it in this environment,” he said.