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NPTC execs give overview of US private fleet trends

KING CITY, Ont. – Private fleets in the US have never been in a better state than they are right now, according to executives from the National Private Truck Council (NPTC) who gave a presentation at this year’s Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s annual conference.

Gary Petty, president and CEO and Tom Moore, senior vice-president of the NPTC explained to conference attendees why private motor fleets are in such a good position in the trucking market today, according to the NPTC’s annual benchmarking survey that includes more than 100 private fleets.

“Private fleets in the states have never been in a better position than they are right now,” Moore said. “They’re doing more economically, efficiently and I think that’s one of the main messages here.”

Comparing 2016 with 2015 survey results, private fleets recorded 6% more shipments and 12% more volume. In addition, they recorded 18% more value and 5% more miles.

“We’re running a few more miles, but we’re doing a lot more,” he said.

As well, driver turnover is low and drivers are getting paid more than ever.

“We are blessed in the private fleet community with a low driver turnover,” Moore said. “We’re at about 17%. That’s much better than what you’re finding in the for-hire segment which flirts with triple digits.”

Moore said the number one reason drivers are leaving, according to the survey, is for another driving job because they believe “the grass the is greener.”

Discipline is the secondary reason why drivers leave, Moore said.

“To me those two are tremendous opportunities for us as fleet operators,” Moore said.

As far as discipline, Moore said fleets should go back to review their hiring practices and try to identify why that driver initially might not have been a good choice to hire in the first place. From there hiring standards should be put in place. As for drivers leaving for another driving job, Moore advised that perhaps fleets need to look at how that driving job is structured or review driver compensation. He said fleets should look at having drivers being home more nights a week.

Moore said that the average salary for drivers in the private fleet sector is now US$65,000. Top drivers are maxing out at close to US$80,000. These salaries are on top of generous benefits, like tuition reimbursements, Moore stressed. He added that one fleet surveyed, reported that its top drivers were even earning more than $120,000 a year.

“My sense is, this is going to be the competitive playing field,” Moore said. “My prediction is drivers are going to be like the free agents in football or baseball. They can command salary and they will find someone to take them.”

But even though drivers are getting paid more than ever, it doesn’t mean trucking for private fleets is going to be a smooth ride into the future.

Perry said to the audience that despite the good position of the private sector, there is still a major a driver shortage looming that shouldn’t be forgotten about.

“We’re projecting, of course, a huge shortage of drivers –175,000 – by 2024,” he said, adding the days of owner/operators may be over.

“We see a sunset in the over-the-road owner/operator as a business model,” he said. “It’s harder and harder to get people to choose that as a lifestyle.”

The NPTC said despite having low turnover and being in a great position so far,  the biggest issue facing private fleets today is the aging workforce.

“Today, we’re operating with older drivers,” Moore said. “The average age is 51 years old for the fleets in our network….Three years ago fuel and drivers were the top two challenges…now you can see fuel has dropped off the list because we’re not paying as much for fuel so it’s no longer a challenge. Drivers are the biggest challenge in terms of our future.”

To help solve this, Moore said fleets are and should be investing in safety and other driver programs. Close to 85% of the private fleets surveyed said they offer employees a wellness program of some sort, like smoking cessation and nutrition and fitness courses.

“With their average driver age of being over 50 years old, we need to do a better job of…making sure our drivers are staying in shape and can perform their duties,” Moore said. “In our survey this has been one of the fastest growing trends. Four years ago, less than half of our fleet population was actually offering driver wellness programs.”

“If you’re not safe, you’re not going to be efficient. That’s what our members are telling us. Safety is that key strategy to improve performance,” he said, adding that more fleets are turning to safety bonuses and referral programs and are seeing results.

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