Trucks at Work
Photo by Sean Kilcarr for Fleet Owner

Photo by Sean Kilcarr for Fleet Owner.

Is a truck driver retirement wave beginning to rise?

A long-awaited facet of the ongoing truck driver shortage may now be starting to form, if a recent survey’s data is correct: a wave of retirements is building that will speed up the depletion of industry’s professional driver corps.

In the 2017 Annual Employment Screening Benchmark survey – a poll of 4,000 human resources, recruiting, security, and management professionals in the transportation space conducted yearly by background check and drug and health screening firm HireRight – truck driver retirement rates jumped to 33% last year, up from 22% in 2014.

I talked to Steven Spencer, managing director of transportation at HireRight, about that spike and he told me this is the inevitable conclusion to the “greying” of the truck driver population.

“Drivers that used to leave one [trucking] company to join another one are now just leaving the industry completely; they are leaving for retirement,” he told me.

Spencer added that driver health issues are also becoming a major focus for motor carriers partially as a way to keep older drivers in the industry for a little while longer.

He pointed to HireRight’s finding through its poll that there’s been a 6% increase in the number of both wellness education/workshops offered and weight loss contests/programs being deployed by transportation firms.

“There are two ‘silos’ to this trend if you will,” Spencer explained. “First, if you have a good driver, helping them stay healthy and fit will keep them working longer. But, second, such programs are appealing to younger hires. Emphasizing a ‘positive lifestyle’ helps attract younger talent.”

Still, to the surprise of what should be no one, HireRight’s survey found that pay and home time remain the key issues when it comes to recruiting and retaining truck drivers.

When asked why truck drivers left their current employers, those polled by HireRight gave these answers:

  • To make more money (47%)
  • To spend more time at home (42%)
  • For better benefits (27%)
  • Because of health issues (21%)

As a result, transportation firms are engaging in several efforts to address those issues:

  • First off, finding employees (68% of respondents) and retaining employees (68% as well) top the list of planned investments by transportation companies this year.
  • To make recruitment and retention strategies more successful,  transportation companies are using focused “new-hire engagement” tactics to avoid the “hire and retire” syndrome, with longer orientation and training periods being used by more than a third (35%) of survey respondents.
  • That also includes developing more effective employee training programs (33%) and improving the candidate’s experience from application through onboarding (30%).
  • Of course increasing pay remains a major factor, cited by 50% of the poll’s respondents.
  • Added to that is the growing use of performance-based bonuses (41%) to improve retention
  • Also, some 55% of the survey respondents said they are also deploying more “non-monetary” retention tactics such as driver appreciation events.
  • Finally, 36% are instituting more flexible work arrangements; probably an endeavor most likely tied to the home-time issue.

On a separate track, HireRight noticed another series of trends developing around efforts to recruit “the next generation of drivers” into the industry, especially in terms of how they are reshaping their communication and marketing efforts:

  • Firms said they are moving away from traditional recruitment tactics like online job boards, down 10% from 2016, as well as via outreach through print media and trade publications, down 6% from last year.
  • However, they are increasing the use of social networking, up 13% from last year, with 63% of large organizations (500 or more employees) engaging in social media recruitment.
  • Finally, the most common strategies for improving the candidate experience include increasing follow-up communication with candidates (61%) and using a mobile-friendly application and screening process (40%). 

“We’re seeing growing use of Instagram and Snapchat as part of the effort to connect with the younger generation,” Spencer told me. “We’re seeing real change in how companies reach out to connect with younger recruitments.”

Change that’s definitely needed as more and more of the industry’s stalwarts begin to hang up the keys for the last time.

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