Trucks at Work
The hunt for workers goes on

The hunt for workers goes on

It’s certainly no secret that finding and keeping workers is getting to be pretty tough task for many businesses today, especially in trucking.

Take the oft-discussed shortage of truck drivers. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) noted late last year that the shortage increased by 27%, and though that’s eased somewhat of late, it’s due to the wrong reasons – namely, a sluggish freight environment.

ATA noted, for example, that turnover at TL carriers large and small declined in the first quarter this year – down 13 points to 89% and one point to 79%, respectively – below the 93% turnover rate suffered by this segment of the industry for all of 2015.

“While still fairly high, the decline in turnover is reflective of the softening in the freight economy during the first quarter,” noted Bob Costello, ATA’s chief economist, in a statement.

“[But] should the freight economy witness an uptick during the second half of the year, we should see both turnover and demand for drivers rise as well,” he stressed.

It’s worth noting that turnover for LTL carriers is much, much lower, falling three points to 8% in the first quarter of this year – the lowest turnover number for the LTL segment since the second quarter of 2013, ATA noted – in part because LTL operators tend to offer better pay and more home time.

Yet if that “freight uptick” does occur and demand for truck drivers ratchets back up, will the industry be able to find folks willing to jump behind the wheel?

Even with all the advances in comfort and ease of operation for big rigs, plus reduced paperwork – yes, we’re talking about electronic logging devices (ELD) here; some fleets view them as a retention tactic – not only are fewer people inclined to become truck drivers, workers are in short supply overall.

Small businesses are especially suffering from this “worker pinch,” and if you didn’t know so already, the bulk of the trucking industry is made up of small businesses (and they haul more freight than you may think).

Indeed, according to a quarterly survey conducted by Vistage Worldwide, small business owners said hiring and retaining talent remains the most significant challenge they face.

More than one-third of the 1,300 respondents to Vistage’s most recent poll cited “staffing” as the most significant issue they are currently facing, including identifying qualified candidates, hiring, retaining valuable staff members, and training.

Additionally, CEOs note that their companies’ biggest barrier to innovation is talent, pointing to a common theme, and the importance of having a talent management & acquisition strategy in place.

“Talent is key to the success of any organization, especially in small business,” stressed Michael Molina, Vistage’s chief human resources officer, in a statement.

“Having processes in place to recruit top talent, transparent communication with employees and a program for the CEO’s growth and development are critical to keeping an organization moving in the right direction,” he added

With half of survey respondents planning to increase their firms’ total number of employees in the next 12 months, Vistage discerned some interesting patterns trucking firms might want to take note of:

  • Some 83% of the small businesses in this survey said that their “team” is now made up of multiple generations – college interns through employees nearing retirement. And half of respondents are planning to hire recent college grads.
  • Due to the influx of Millennial generation workers, nearly two-thirds of companies have adapted their management style in the past five years, with 57% of respondents now offer different benefit packages or perks to attract “young” talent.
  • Yet one of the biggest barriers to innovation for 30% of small business CEOs is finding employees with the right talent and skills.

Something to think about as the industry awaits the return of more robust freight demand.

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