The driver shortage hasn’t permanently disappeared
September 1, 2008
The current plight of the trucking industry may provide some relief to one of its biggest problems: the shortage of qualified drivers. However, it would be naive to think this issue has permanently di...
The current plight of the trucking industry may provide some relief to one of its biggest problems: the shortage of qualified drivers. However, it would be naive to think this issue has permanently disappeared and would be a major mistake to place human resources issues on the back burner.
There’s reason to believe the lack of qualified drivers will once again be at the forefront of carrier concerns when the industry recovers. In fact, the problem may even be greater than it was before the current downturn.
While some carriers have reeled in their fleet size and others have disappeared altogether, it must also be remembered that this is a cyclical industry and demand for drivers will return as soon as the freight does. When it does rebound, it may be more difficult than ever to find qualified drivers. Consider that many owner/operators are also going out of business during these difficult times. There’s no guarantee they will return to the trucking industry when the industry recovers. Chances are good that they’ve already moved on to ‘greener pastures.’
Also, while the industry remains mired in its current slump, its driver population continues to age. Drivers
are continuing to hang up their keys and despite the best efforts of the Canadian Trucking Human Resources Council (CTHRC) and the industry as a whole, there still aren’t hordes of young folks beating down the doors to get into this business.
So instead of pretending the driver shortage is no longer an issue of concern, now may be an excellent time for fleets to re-evaluate their hiring procedures and take a closer look at how they can minimize turnover. Recently at the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s annual convention, the CTHRC’s Linda Gauthier provided an excellent analogy (which she borrowed from some of the CTHRC’s most recent training material).
She likened turnover to the foundation of a house. Without a solid foundation, the walls (recruitment) and roof (retention) will not remain intact. The issue of driver turnover must be addressed -or all the recruiting and retention initiatives in the world will not provide any meaningful long-term relief, she pointed out.
Why address turnover? The CTHRC estimates it costs between $7,000-$8,000 to replace a single driver, and that’s not even considering the related intangible costs. Too many fleets have accepted turnover as a cost of doing business, but Gauthier said it doesn’t have to be that way.
“We can stop turnover,” she insisted. But with an industry turnover rate of 20-32% per year (which believe it or not, is better than it recently was) tackling the issue may seem like a daunting task.
To that end, the CTHRC has developed many tools for fleets, one being: Your Guide to Human Resources:Practical Tips and Tools for the Trucking Industry. This comprehensive guide serves as an HR toolbox for managers who generally wear many hats, HR being one of them. It’s currently being supported by a half-day course the CTHRC offers when and where there’s enough interest, which helps unlock the guide’s vast capabilities.
The shortage of qualified drivers may not be top of mind at the moment. But forward-thinking fleets will continue to invest in HR-related training and solutions even in the toughest of times, with the knowledge they will be better positioned to compete when the industry bounces back. •
-James Menzies can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6896 or by e-mail at jmenzies@