Concerns related to drivers took the top three spots on the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) recently released report, Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry – 2021.

The driver shortage – which has been the No. 1 issue five years running – is followed by driver retention and driver compensation on this year’s list, which is based on survey responses from more than 2,500 carriers, drivers and others in the industry.

“It really is no surprise that truck driver-related issues – notably the driver shortage and driver retention – ranked so high on the survey,” ATRI President and COO Rebecca Brewster said in a statement. “Coming out of the pandemic, with the increased demand for goods and other pressures on the supply chain, getting and keeping drivers has been a real challenge industrywide.”

 

Top 3 Trucking Industry Issues: Drivers, Drivers, Drivers

A perennial problem in the trucking industry, the driver shortage grows worse each year as more commercial drivers retire or opt to work in different industries. The current shortage of more than 60,000 drivers is on track to grow to some 160,000 within seven years, according to ATRI. COVID has exacerbated the problem by pushing more drivers out of the industry and slowing new driver training.

The industry is exploring a variety of long-term solutions to address the driver shortfall, per ATRI. These include initiatives to expand interstate CDL eligibility for people aged 18-20 and outreach programs targeting high school students and young adults. Advocating for the expansion of work authorization permits for drivers from other countries is also on the table.

As for compensation – No. 3 on the trucking industry issues list – ATRI notes that drivers’ desire for more money must be balanced with carriers’ concerns about the “sustainability of continually raising driver pay.”

The report proposes these strategies for addressing compensation:

  • Analyze truck driver compensation in relation to other competing employment sectors.
  • Research and assess the effectiveness of carrier retention programs that financially incentivize drivers for performance in the areas of safety, fuel economy, and trip productivity.
  • Quantify the relationship between driver compensation models and driver satisfaction and productivity.

 

Recruiting and Retaining Drivers

In the short term, carriers must do their best to recruit – and then work to actively retain –drivers from the current available pool. While compensation is a major factor in both recruitment and retention, there are additional strategies carriers can use to attract and retain drivers.

 

Show Driver Appreciation

A survey conducted last year by the Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ) found that the No. 2 thing that truckers dislike about the job is: “It’s a thankless job – nobody respects truckers or appreciates what we do.” When asked why fleets have trouble recruiting drivers, 53% of respondents chose: “They don’t respect drivers and the job they do enough or treat them as part of the team.” And 23% responded: “There’s no career path.”

While the CCJ survey found that a drivers had a desire for higher compensation – and believed that raising pay would benefit recruitment and retention – the answers above provide a clear message from drivers to carriers: Show us that you appreciate what we do and give us opportunities to grow in our jobs.

Things like offering career development opportunities, incentive programs for safe and productive drivers, wellness programs and driver of the year programs can go a long way in creating a culture that attracts drivers and makes them want to stay with an organization.

 

Related: How to Show Driver Appreciation All Year Long

 

Technology Should Help Drivers

Technology tools can make fleet management more efficient for the back office. But carriers should also keep drivers in mind too. Easy-to-use tools that protect drivers and help their day run more smoothly can help boost their satisfaction.

A Professional Driver Agency survey of drivers found that equipment quality is among the top three factors that make a carrier attractive.

Tools that streamline workflow and navigation, dash cams that can exonerate drivers and smart trailer tracking solutions that can save drivers time and frustration can go a long way to increase driver happiness, productivity and earning potential.

 

Check Out the Full List of Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry

  1. Driver shortage
  2. Driver retention (see Modern Methods to Retain Drivers)
  3. Driver compensation
  4. Lawsuit abuse and reform (see Staged Accidents a Threat to Motor Carriers)
  5. Truck parking
  6. Compliance, Safety, Accountability (see Improve CSA Scores)
  7. Detention and delay at customer facilities (see Beat the Trailer Shortage with Telematics)
  8. Transportation infrastructure
  9. Insurance cost and availability (see Expert Q&A: Dash Cams and Insurance)
  10. Diesel Technician shortage

The full report is available at the ATRI website.

 

Luke Roney

Content Marketing Specialist
Luke is a writer, editor and journalist with more than 15 years of experience. His constant goal is to provide valuable content that helps people understand complex concepts, solve problems and make informed decisions.

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Driver Concerns Top Trucking Industry Issues for 2021

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