Turn to tech to retain drivers

REGINA, SK – The future is people-focused according to members of an industry panel titled “The Future of Trucking” featured at the Saskatchewan Trucking Association’s (STA) annual general meeting.

The panel started by looking at technological advancements in the industry, including autonomous trucks, platooning, and electrification, but quickly moved to focus on the increasing shortage of drivers, and what the industry must do to hire and retain younger employees.

Panelist Kyle Favel said the problem with recruiting younger workers lies in the perception of the industry. Favel said for years society has not seen trucking as a true profession, but that view needs to change if the industry wants to overcome the driver shortage issue.

Favel also said technology will never replace drivers, and shouldn’t be viewed as a solution to the shortage in that way. Instead, technology can be seen to make drivers’ jobs less fatiguing, as well as giving them a better work-life balance, making the jobs more appealing.

Professional driver for CS Day Transport, Cass Pidmen said that as a younger driver, one of the things he hears from his peers is that the uncertainty of the profession keeps them from considering trucking a career path.

Pidmen said those that he talks to are put off by the possibility of driving in poor or uncertain weather and road conditions, and not having a set schedule or knowing when they would be home.

Brenda Cuthbert, HR manager for Siemens Transportation, is hearing similar ideas from the under-34 crowd, saying younger drivers are looking for flexibility and a good work-life balance in their workplaces. Cuthbert also said employees are looking for mentors and not bosses, hoping to have some independence and respect in their work environments instead of being in a situation where they are micromanaged.

“You’re definitely looking for a company that values what you value in your personal life,” said Pidmen, but he added that that’s not all drivers are looking for. “Money is a great motivator.”

With wages remaining stagnant while the cost of living rises, Pidmen says it’s important to pay workers a good wage in order to get them in the door.

While pay is definitely a concern for so-called millennials, the panelists agreed that pay alone won’t keep them.

“When my peers look at trucking, you’re sitting all day, and you can’t be active,” Pidmen said.

With an increasing number of drivers reporting health concerns like diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea, younger drivers are looking for better wellness solutions while on the road.

District sales manager for Volvo trucks, Randy Fleming, said the company is designing new trucks with the technology to address these issues.

Fleming said beds on new trucks will help drivers with sleep apnea get a better night’s rest by allowing them to incline the bed and sleep in a semi-sitting position – something doctors recommend for those with the condition.

Fleming also said working out will be worked into future truck models.

“We do have a design team dedicated to designing exercise products into our trucks,” he said.

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