Perfect fix for the driver shortage: 'No Drivers'

Other ingenious and serious ideas offered by university report

"Eliminate the driver!," exclaims the ultimate suggestion from a list of creative ideas put forth by a report that could help remediate the driver shortage. "This may sound radical, but is potentially more realistic than we might think, and within the lifetimes of some reading this paper," states a newly-published study titled Supply Chain Talent; Our Most Important Resource.

Because driverless trucks are not yet in general service, the report's authors from the Supply Chain Management Faculty at the University of Tennessee also offer the following imaginative suggestions to help fleets cope with today's driver shortage.

To find new drivers, the authors suggest:

Look in high unemployment areas and offer to relocate people to where they are needed.

Expand the driver pool. Look to aggressively identify immigrants, veterans, retirees, and women. "President Obama announced recently that he is granting temporary legal status and work permits to nearly 5 million illegal immigrants. This group, along with legal immigrants, may represent a huge pool of potential drivers."

Work toward lowering the legal age to get a license. The gap between eighteen years old and twenty-one is significant, the report notes, and this age period is enough time for people to become interested in other careers. "Reducing the driver age requirement is somewhat controversial, with pros and cons, but clearly many eighteen year olds are ready to enter this occupation."

To recruit drivers, the authors suggest:

Provide a 401(k) savings program with company match.

Offer creative benefits such as the opportunity to attend a variety of sporting events such as NFL games or NASCAR races, dinners, and many other unique opportunities paid for by the company.

Provide military leave: Offer guaranteed time off for military training and service that does not come out of a driver's vacation time.

Tuition reimbursement: "After the driver goes to driving school and gets the CDL, one company will help foot the bill for recent driving school graduates," the report states.

More paid vacation escalating with time at the company.  

Bonuses and incentive plans.

To develop new drivers, the report recommends:

Have high quality training and on-boarding processes: 60 to 70% of drivers say they feel no allegiance to their company. Loyalty starts the first day of employment with the on-boarding process.

Form a relationship with accredited driver schools: "Pick up the cost of licensing (up to $6,000) for drivers who commit to stay for a certain length of time. This would be a great area of focus for more community colleges."

To retain drivers, the report suggests:

Treat drivers with respect. "Everyone wants recognition and appreciation… In fact, according to surveys, respect is more important than money for many people."

Create clear, predictable work schedules. Many drivers highly value stability and predictability.

Create flexible work arrangements. Customize jobs based on the driver’s preferred lifestyle, and let drivers participate in forming their work schedules.

Develop a career path with progressive pay raises based on longevity, and offer opportunities to those drivers who want to move into dispatch and management.

Provide better equipment and more comfortable cabs for drivers.

Find a way to get drivers home more often. "Forty-one percent of drivers say getting home more often is the biggest factor to get them to stay with a company. Drivers who have a local route allowing them to be home every day have a lower turnover rate (approximately 30 percent) or less than one fourth of over-the-road, long haul drivers."

Collaborate. Shippers and their transportation providers should work together to optimize shipments such that drivers can have single-day routes.

Last, Eliminate the driver! We may see this in our lifetime, the report says. "A huge amount of  technology is advancing rapidly in this area. Trucks may lead the way in the coming driverless revolution, perhaps someday beginning with caravans on the open road, with one human monitoring several rigs simultaneously."

The report published last month, was produced by the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It was sponsored by Ryder.

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