The ongoing driver shortage has been the highest hurdle fleet carriers faced in the last decade — and it’s not going away anytime soon. According to the American Trucking Associations, the driver shortage is expected to surpass 160,000 drivers by 2030.
The government has passed measures such as the Trucking Action Plan, Driving Good Jobs initiative, and Drive Safe Act to help fleet carriers hire drivers quicker, increase training and improve driver engagement and retention.
So far, more than 50,000 commercial driver’s licenses and learner’s permits were issued each month in 2021, 72% higher than the 2020 monthly average, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCSM).
Nevertheless, closing the gap on drivers alleviates only one issue. Retention of quality drivers remains a challenge for fleet carriers of all sizes, and compliance challenges complicate matters further.
The FCSM was on track to double the number of off-site audits it performed in 2021. Plus, fines for compliance issues have increased — and in the case of each violation of the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, the fine has jumped to $5,833.
Unfortunately, it is a perfect storm for fleet carriers and other industries that use truck drivers to move materials and goods. Fortunately, innovative technology is stepping up to meet the needs of fleets better and faster.
Happy, Healthy Drivers = Healthy Workforce
Drivers have little time to focus on their health. In fact, 54.2% of truckers suffer from obesity; 47.2% have liver disorders and 32.8% are diabetic, according to Healthy Trucking of America.
To combat this, more of them are now seeking the same health and wellness benefits that white-collar office workers typically get, including:
- Mental health care.
- Elder care.
- Child care.
- Gym discounts.
- Health savings accounts.
To hire and retain quality drivers in this economy, fleets must offer more attractive benefits to help engagement, and they need to be holistic and driver-centric. The right technology can help tie benefits together and manage any follow-through for drivers — both employees and independent contractors — in any size fleet.
Use technology to turn the downsides of long-haul driving (sedentary time behind the wheel, minimal breaks, etc.) into positives to improve driver health. Behavioral health counseling via phone can help drivers keep their mental health in top shape, even while out on the road.
In addition, apps exist to help drivers with caregiving services and streaming workouts that drivers can do any place, any time, even just for a few minutes at a rest stop.
How it all Plays into Retention
Drivers want to be part of a great fleet. And a carrier’s reputation is built in part around how it treats its drivers.
This starts during the application process and continues through onboarding and beyond. Carriers can make it easier for drivers to apply by streamlining the application process online, digitizing safety training, and making audit/safety inspections trackable on a company portal.
Drivers are more likely to stay with a motor carrier if it offers the following:
- Job security.
- Choice of routes.
- Good income and benefits.
- Customized options such as pet insurance.
Carriers who are creative and focused on driver engagement and incentivization have seen success in retention. One carrier printed drivers’ names on the cabs after six months and saw a 40% reduction in accidents.
Make incentives a game-based opportunity for drivers to ramp up engagement and drive results.
Since a driver spends more than 100,000 miles per year on the road, every point of communication is pivotal to job satisfaction.
Honesty and integrity should form the foundation of any driver communication strategy. Technology may help carriers connect with drivers, but expanding engagement opportunities through new, digital tools can help drivers feel even more connected to the fleet.
Prioritizing Driver Needs
It is nearly impossible for fleet carriers to tie together all these recruitment, training, health and wellness, benefits, and other retention strategies without engaging technology to help.
The fleet carrier of 2023 will want to optimize operations while digitizing its onboarding, assessment, orientation, and certification programs to both efficiency, drive down costs, and reduce risks.
About the Authors: Wendy King is the Director of Health and Performance for global employee benefits insurance brokerage Hub International and a leader in the field of healthcare communications and corporate wellness strategy.
Scott Fouts is Vice President of global insurance brokerage Hub International’s Risk Services Division. He has 17 years of experience in occupational safety, health, and risk management consulting. This article was authored and edited according to WT editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of WT.