Trucks at Work

Financial security and the driver shortage

So I dropped in for a visit with Mercer Transportation last week while in Louisville, KY, attending the 2016 Mid America Trucking Show, to talk shop about a wide variety of industry issues with Dale Corum, the company’s general manager – especially the ongoing driver shortage.

Now, for as long as I can remember at least, there’s always been a shortage of some type where truck drivers are concerned.

Some argue higher pay would solve the shortage problem pretty quick, but despite recent wage hikes, some economists don’t think pay alone is the answer.

The rigors of the typical truck driving job – long stretches away from home and family, navigating traffic congestion, and often being treated like a second-class citizen – are off-putting to even the hardiest soul.

Yet Mercer’s Corum also thinks that there are many other more positive aspects of trucking getting obscured by those negatives – such as the flexibility the job provides, especially for those with more than a touch of wanderlust in their make-up.

“Younger drivers want to be home more often; they want more family time, so they are looking for more dedicated runs,” he explained to me. “But the freedom of the open road and flexible scheduling, those are perks especially appealing to many of them, too.”

However, at the end of the day, Corum stressed that financial security remains paramount. “Anywhere you go now, from a pure dollar and cents perspective, the pay is pretty close,” he said. “We’re all fighting that same fight.”

The thing is, from an overall workforce perspective, the need for “financial security” may play a critical role in retaining employees for the long term – especially for the Millennial generation, which is projected to make up 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

In fact, MetLife’s 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study highlighted this very trend, with 45% of employees saying they plan to work for their current employer 12 months from now, compared with 41%, which may be due to increasing fiscal concerns: just 46% of all employees expect their personal financial situation to get better in the next year, compared to over half (52%) in 2014.

“While it’s common knowledge that Millennials are often more motivated by meaningful work than the size of their paycheck, our study shows that Millennials – and all employees – are looking to the workplace for guidance and support to achieve financial security,” stressed Todd Katz, executive VP of group, voluntary & worksite benefits at MetLife. “With only 44% of employees feeling in control of their finances, employers today have a unique opportunity to drive loyalty and retention by empowering employees to make informed benefits decisions.”

Here are some of the other key findings from this survey:

  • Loyalty is strong among all generations with 57% of baby boomers and 53% of both Generation X and Millennials saying they are “committed” to their current employer’s goals.
  • Employees, particularly Millennials, are looking to their employers for help when it comes to addressing financial matters. Just under half of Millennials (44%) say they want their employer to help them solve their financial concerns, a response more than double that of boomers (20%).
  • Three-fourths (75%) of Millennials say their employers have a responsibility for the financial well-being of their employees.
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of employees say they’re looking to their employer for more help in achieving financial security through employee benefits, compared to 49% in 2011.
  • Yet Millennials especially are “confused” about such benefit packages. Only 52% had an understanding of life insurance, compared to 69% of Boomers; similarly, only 38% of Millennials had an understanding of long term disability insurance, compared to 57% of Boomers.
  • Employees are also unclear as to the practical and financial value of voluntary benefits, with only 47% of employees agreeing that non-medical benefits can help them limit their out-of-pocket medical expenses.

For employees without a savings cushion of three months – including approximately 65% of Millennials – those expenses could create a financial drain, noted MetLife’s Katz.

“For employers, this is an opportunity to evolve into a more consultative role and provide meaningful education and training for employees, while also engendering loyalty,” he stressed.

Could that approach help attract and retain more drivers? That’s an as-yet unanswered question. We’ll see if one develops.

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