Trucking Firms Responding to Labor Shortage

By Staff Report

Feb. 22, 2005

With a labor shortage hitting the trucking industry, companies are “raising driver pay like never before,” according to Crain’s Chicago Business. 

A spokesman for Wisconsin trucking company Schneider National says that this is the toughest driver recruitment market in the history of trucking. The top 195 trucking companies in the United States raised their per-mile pay an average of 8.9 percent last year, according to the National Transportation Institute. They’re passing along those costs to customers.

Even with the pay raises, driver turnover is high. Last year, it hit 121 percent, according to the American Trucking Association. Many drivers find themselves working very long days-as much as 14 hours-and are away from their families for long periods. 

Jason D. Shaw is a management professor at the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics. He says that as the transportation industry has become less regulated and less unionized, pay over the years hasn’t kept up with inflation. It’s finally catching up with companies; Shaw believes there’s been a severe labor shortage for at least 10 years. 

“It’s hard to recruit people in the trucking industry,” Shaw says. “Living in a sleeper cab for a long period of time, three weeks at a time, is not that attractive. When you combine that with the expansion in the economy, the amount being shipped, the number of drivers needed-that’s kind of a bad combination.” 

Transportation giant J.B. Hunt has been working to reduce turnover, according to Shaw, by improving pay and benefits and generally being much more flexible with employees. Other companies are following suit. 

Shaw’s research shows that the most consistent predictor of turnover is driver pay. Flexibility is important, but not as much as pay per mile. “It’s very easy to change jobs,” he says. “You can pretty much go to the another company if you decide to quit. The drivers are just looking around for a (better) deal. If they find one, they move on.”

Among the additional resources available online: a list of fatigue management programs implemented in the transportation industry; an article about turnover in trucking; as well as a report called “Critical Success Factors in Truck Driver Retention.”

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