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Photo Sean KilcarrFleet Owner
<p>Photo: Sean Kilcarr/Fleet Owner</p>

It’s not just trucking that lacks skilled workers anymore

So the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recently posted the results of an interesting survey of business executives from across the U.S. business landscape. And wouldn’t you know it: a variety of industries are starting experience what’s been a long-term problem for trucking companies.

They can’t find enough skilled workers.

[Oh sure: many folks argue that driving a commercial truck isn’t “skilled work.” I beg to differ – big time. And I’m not alone in taking that view.]

According to the third-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, which polled nearly 1,000 CEOs, CFOs, controllers and others, there is “a dark cloud” on the horizon: the growing scarcity of suitable job candidates.

For the first time in this particular poll, “availability of skilled personnel” got cited as the top challenge facing companies, up from the second spot last quarter. In fact, 75% of respondents said they were seeing at least some increased competition in recruitment efforts, with 21% reporting a significant increase.

At the end of 2014, the last time this survey question was asked, only 16% said they were experiencing a significant increase in hiring competition.

“One out of five business executives said their company has lost out on top job candidates because of increased competition, and a majority said they’re having trouble finding the right candidate to begin with,” according to AICPA’s Arleen Thomas, in a statement. “For some companies, the scarcity of skilled workers could have an impact on productivity and growth over time.”

You don’t say? You should see how that particular issue fosters all sorts of problems for the trucking industry.

Yet despite the challenges noted in AICPA’s survey, half of business executives polled said their companies had the right number of employees. Nearly one-in-four (24%) added that they planned to hire immediately, the same as last quarter, while another 15% said they had too few employees but were hesitant to hire.

Business executives who said their companies had too many employees dropped from 8% to 7%, quarter over quarter, AICPA noted.

On top of that, 64% of those business executives polled said they were optimistic about the 12-month prospects for the U.S. economy, the same as last quarter.

Revenue and profit expectations also returned to levels from the start of the year after dipping last quarter, AICPA added, with business executives now expecting revenue growth of 4.3% over the next 12 months, up from 3.9%, while profits are expected to grow 3.5%, up from 3.2% last quarter.

A few other findings unearthed by the group’s survey include:

  • 64% of business executives expressed optimism about their own companies’ prospects over the next 12 months, up two percentage points from last quarter.
  • The percentage of business executives who expect their company to expand in the coming year increased from 64% to 65%, quarter over quarter, but remains below the level reported at the start of the year (67%).
  • Besides ‘availability of skilled personnel,’ the top three concerns for business are ‘regulatory requirements and changes’ at number two and ‘domestic competition’ at number three. ‘Employee and benefit costs,’ meanwhile, dropped from the top slot last quarter to number five this go around (though that remains a big concern in trucking, to say the very least).
  • Interest rate concerns fell from 22% last quarter to 15%.
  • Information technology remains the strongest category for planned spending over the coming year, with an expected growth rate of 3.5%. That’s not surprising when you think about the growth in cybersecurity concerns in the logistics and transportation sector.

We’ll have to see how other businesses solve their skilled worker shortage going forward. Maybe trucking can learn a few tricks along the way to help find and keep more drivers as part of that process.

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