There are several schools of thought to explain why there appears to be a shortage of qualified drivers for the trucking industry.
One position holds that drivers are simply moving from company to company and that the ‘shortage’ is therefore more artificial than real.
Fleets that can’t hang on to their drivers often believe that their problem could be solved by having more drivers available – hence the attempts to attract drivers from offshore.
The probability is, that even if more drivers were available in the marketplace the approach these companies take to human resource practices would preclude them from keeping drivers. These companies need grounding in HR101 to begin to address their issues.
Another view is that we are unable to find qualified drivers due to a litany of issues that begins with poor driver training standards and probably ends with a poor image of the job and trucking itself.
The lack of quality and consistency in driver training is seen as a significant issue.
There are schools that genuinely try to do a good job of preparing candidates for the trucking industry, but there are far too many that have the single purpose of getting their students to pass the test – no matter how many tries that might take.
This of course leads to entry-level drivers with the bare minimum of skills required to survive in the industry.
The efforts being expended to implement standards for training drivers and instructors, and to accredit schools that meet these standards are having some beneficial effect.
The industry, through the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC), has developed a much discussed driver training curriculum and a process for accrediting and auditing schools that wish to deliver the program.
The Advisory Council For Truck Safety (ACTS) in Ontario has developed training standards that it is trying to get the industry to adopt.
Yet a third view of the problem is that the industry lacks the tools to identify applicants that will make good, long-term employees who can be successful as drivers. Without these tools hiring drivers becomes little more than a game of chance further contributing to the churn we see now.
During the recent PMTC conference we hosted a seminar entitled “Tools You Can Use,” which featured three specific tools that are now or soon will be available to fleet operators for hiring new drivers and for developing training for existing drivers.
The hiring tools will reduce the risk of so-called ‘bad hires,’ which at the very least cost money and bad relationships with clients, and at worst can lead to accidents and poor safety records.
During the seminar CTHRC executive director Linda Gauthier described the Test of Workplace Essential Skills (TOWES) that measures an individual’s skills in three areas considered to be critical for successful drivers. They are reading text, numeracy, and document use.
TOWES compares an individual’s test results to an established minimum level of competency required in each of these areas. Upgrading in any of these crucial areas can be accommodated should the individual require it.
Mark Murrell, president of Carrier’s Edge described a series of online driver training programs tailored to meet the needs of individuals or fleets.
These programs can be used to address knowledge gaps within the fleet or with individual drivers, and because they are available online can help fill the training needs at convenient times and places.
Another research program that is being piloted by PMTC, a large for-hire fleet, and MBA Consultants is expected to result in an altogether different type of tool for fleet operators.
This program will identify the primary attentional and interpersonal traits of safe, high performing drivers, versus those of unsafe, low performing drivers.
This could provide the industry with a tool for identifying drivers with interpersonal issues such as anger management, inability to accept criticism or instruction, as well as those with attentional issues that could lead to a lack of awareness of the surrounding environment.
Either concern could lead to accidents or disruptions in the workplace.
And as Cameron Anderson, president of MBA rightly says, “The costs associated with a bad hire are very high.”
There is no single panacea for the lack of qualified drivers, but there is some comfort in knowing that the issue is being taken seriously and that there are tools in place now and still more being developed that will benefit the entire trucking community.
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