The truck driver shortage is one of the biggest issues that faces the US trucking industry today .
The driver shortage stems from several factors including higher driver turnover rates , inflationary pressures , an aging workforce , increasing freight demand , reduced capacity as a result of regulatory changes , and lifestyle priorities that draw many individuals to competing industries .
The American Trucking Association ( ATA ) says that experienced drivers are retiring at a rate much faster than they are being replaced by younger truckers .
On top of that , add new competition from warehousing / delivery operations , such as Amazon . While heavy and tractor trailer trucking sees about nine new job postings for every hire , warehousing sees two hires for every one job posting .
Last year , the CDL Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse removed 40,000 drivers — about one percent of the driving force — from January to September due to failed drug test results , most of which were from marijuana use . If the Department of Health and Human Services publishes a hair follicle testing rule , then five to 10 times as many drivers may become ineligible for employment .
With demand for more CDL-trained truck drivers expected to rise over the next several years , there may be a tendency for companies to loosen their criteria for hiring drivers .
Ideally a company ( and insurance carrier ) would like to hire a CDL driver that is over 24 years old , has at least three years of experience , has no motor vehicle violations , has no out-of-service violations , and has a clean drug and alcohol history . And they want to pay the perfect driver at the “ industry rate .”
With the pool of perfect drivers dwindling , some companies are reaching out to a bigger audience by recruiting women , ex-military personnel , and foreign workers . They are also looking for younger drivers by pushing to have the CDL age requirement lowered from 21 to 18 . Some states already allow single state CDLs for 18 – 20 year olds .
While some companies think they can get by with hiring a low-pay , low-skilled workforce , the damage from liability claims that poorly trained drivers incur will eventually put some companies out of business . One only has to look at the increasing trend in “ nuclear verdicts ” ( you can read about nuclear verdicts and why you should care in this issue of Risk & Business ).
So what should a company do ? First , according to many trucking associations and safety advocates , is to increase wages . Higher wages will attract more qualified drivers and reduce turnover . Whether raising wages is a viable option or not , every business owner should consider telematics monitoring and continuous driver training . If you can ’ t find a good qualified driver , you can certainly train an unqualified driver to be a good driver .
There are several programs that can assist in driver training and behavior monitoring . Nowadays , telematics are a must . Fleet managers can monitor driver speed , harsh braking , location , and down time . Onboard dash cameras can provide managers realtime monitoring of driver behavior . Other tools available to managers are continuous monitoring of motor vehicles records ( MVR ). This allows the manager to identify violations almost immediately rather than waiting up to a full year . There are now apps that can provide targeted training to drivers to correct poor driving habits or to drivers who have out-of-service violations or traffic violations . In all cases , drivers can receive training materials , including quizzes related to the incident , directly to their smartphones . This helps keep drivers engaged and improves safety .
BY : ERIC P . WOKAS , CSP ARM RISK CONTROL CONSULTANT JGS INSURANCE
Eric Wokas has over 25 years of experience as a risk management consultant working for various major property / casualty insurance carriers including Continental , Zurich and Gerling as well as Aon an international insurance brokerage firm . At JGS Insurance Eric Wokas continues to assist clients in development and implementation of practical solutions in reducing risk .
In addition to improving the driver ’ s performance , the fleet manager should consider improving the vehicle ’ s performance . There are technological advancements that make trucks safer , more fuel efficient , and easier to drive . Some of the major advancements that are readily available include blind spot monitoring , braking assistance , variable cruise control , and collision avoidance warnings .
Even with telematics and training apps , you still need to have the driver complete a road test and supervisor observation before allowing a new driver behind the wheel .
Remember , trucking accidents can be the deadliest and most costly exposure that your company has . Let ’ s face it , a 26,000-pound vehicle hurtling at 60 miles per hour can be lethal . One nuclear verdict can send a company into bankruptcy . Don ’ t be that company . +