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Changing Tides: The New Demographic in the Trucking Industry

The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) latest numbers on driver turnover rate show an alarming trend, that carriers are struggling to recruit and retain quality drivers. According to ATA’s report, the turnover rate at large truckload carriers climbed to 94 percent in the first quarter, six percentage points higher than the last quarter of 2017. The stark climb supports a 2017 fleet panel’s observation that the target driver demographic is changing tides, away from primarily white males reaching retirement age, to a younger, less experienced, woman and minority-prominent market.

According to ATA data, nearly 67 percent of the current 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States are white males. Following, are 14.6 percent Hispanic men, men of other nationalities at 14.8 percent, and women at 6 percent of the driver population.

Encouraging Diversity in Trucking

Groups like the Women in Trucking Association are looking for ways to “encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.” For the last decade, this non-profit group has worked to promote the employment of women in the transportation industry, increase the number of female drivers, and increase the number of women in leadership positions in the industry. The National Minority Trucking Association (NMTA) is another nonprofit geared toward assisting minorities “with establishing and growing careers and businesses in the trucking and logistics industry.”

It’s a Driver’s Market

According to ATA’s Chief Economist Bob Costello, the driver shortage should continue, meaning wages will continue to increase and turnover rate should continue to rise. Since there’s such a demand for drivers and not nearly enough of them to take available jobs, there’s not much holding drivers back from choosing a “better” opportunity. Since it’s really a market for drivers, carriers are finding a need to tailor their recruiting and retention processes to a different crowd.

Truck Driver Recruiting

The old school word of mouth, flyers, job boards, and printed advertisements aren’t the best way to reach this “Millennial” truck driver population. According to trucks.com, carriers are turning to more digital recruiting tactics, such as social networking, over more traditional methods like print publications, job fairs, recruiting at truck schools, using outside recruiters, etc.

According to data from marketing firm Randall-Reilly, 79.9 percent of company drivers and 69.7 percent of owner-operators are using social media, with Facebook and YouTube serving as the primary platforms of choice. Creating compelling posts and videos can reach a new driver demographic in the space that they frequent, with the average person checking social media 17 times a day (Digital Trends).

Driver Retention

As prominently displayed in the current driver turnover rate, recruiting drivers isn’t the whole problem, it’s recruiting drivers that will stay for the long haul. Since truck drivers can take their pick so to speak in the current market, perks of the job are more than or just as much of an appeal as the paycheck itself.

According to Inc.com, employees are looking to break the cycle of a “job” and find an employer that will help them have purpose, responsibility, attention, open-mindedness, transparency, to be appreciated, and of course, to be compensated. Drivers, like the rest of today’s workforce, are tired of feeling like they are overworked and underpaid.

It boils down to one overarching theme: employees want to feel appreciated and respected in the workplace. There are hundreds of articles about best driver retention techniques, and it may take some research and surveying your drivers to find out exactly what they’re looking for when developing your retention strategy. FleetOwner stresses the importance of keeping drivers engaged, implementing an orientation survey, an attitude survey that is either yearly or ongoing, and if a driver leaves, an exit interview to determine what caused them to make that choice.

Future of Trucking

The driver shortage and driver turnover rates show the great need to adjust recruitment and retention strategies to fit the changing truck driver demographic. Demand for trucking services is greater than the available drivers, directly increasing freight cost. Analysts at Morgan Stanley say rising costs in the freight industry won’t resolve any time soon, potentially bringing shippers to explore other options like self-driving trucks. Automated trucks of course have been a hotly-debated topic in the industry for years, as you can read in our Shaping the Industry blog post.

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