There seems to be an interesting anomaly here. With the national unemployment rate over twice what it was five years ago, you'd think an industry like trucking, with all its opportunities, would have long lines of people standing and waiting to apply for jobs driving a truck. But instead, there are ten times the available trucker positions open now than there were in 2006.
Is there really a truck driver shortage, or are other contributing factors creating the appearance of a shortage?
I recently had a conversation with a trucker with over 25 years of driving experience. He had an impeccable driving record during his entire driving career, but because he went and did something unrelated to trucking for five years, he's told that he'll need to go to CDL school and start at the bottom as if he had zero experience.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal asked why companies aren't getting the employees they need. The premise of the article is that companies are expecting new hires to be fully trained, ready to work the day they're hired. Employers are laying blame for the lack of “qualified” workers on an incompetent education system. In the WSJ article, the journalist wrote, “The real culprits are the employers themselves. To get a job, you have to have that job already. It's a Catch-22 situation for workers — and it's hurting companies and the economy.” The above example of the trucker with 25 years experience seems to verify this is also happening in the trucking industry.
Trucking companies need to stop looking for the perfectly trained candidates and start looking for trainable applicants. Wouldn't it be more productive for carriers to develop a training curriculum that meets their needs? Not only teach those who just entered the industry from a truck driving school the needed skills and knowledge to be a trucker, but have refresher courses for returning, experienced truckers so they can be brought up to speed on changes in the industry. If the carrier requires specific skill sets (tarping, load securement or whatever), those talents could be taught to their newly hired truckers, regardless of whether they're new to the industry or returning after a hiatus.
Add the apprentice to master trucker program outlined in last month's column and trucking companies could transition from not having enough qualified drivers to having truckers who have the necessary skills, have the opportunity for career advancement, and bring pride back to a profession that needs it to thrive.
Ask any successful company and they'll tell you that it's far better to teach your employees from within your operation than to rely on outside sources to provide the necessary knowledge to their drivers. Training and education needs to be the responsibility of the carrier.
The way we're doing things now just isn't working, as evidenced by the estimated 200,000 truckers needed and the increasing driver turnover rate. It will require a paradigm shift from the way carriers find and train their truckers.
Contact Tim Brady at 731-749-8567 or at www.timothybrady.com