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Transportation sector lowest for job satisfaction in new survey

Sept. 12, 2023
ADP Research Institute's quarterly "Today at Work" report debuts the Employee Motivation and Commitment index, with the transportation and warehousing industry showing the least employee satisfaction worldwide. What's to blame?

Of the industries surveyed in the U.S. and 28 other countries by payroll services company ADP and its research unit, transportation and warehousing industry employees had the lowest job satisfaction—19%—in ADP's Employee Motivation and Commitment Index.

The ADP Research Institute, however, only recently began surveying workers for motivation and commitment, and these numbers reflect the organization’s first rendezvous with the subject—and it was a global survey at that. So how do American transportation and warehousing workers feel most recently in other surveys outside the new ADPRI study?

See also: ATRI launches 2023 Top Industry Issues Survey

In March, a popular U.S. truck driver app, Trucker Path, conducted a survey of its owner-operators and company driver users concerning job satisfaction. “With freight rates low, fuel prices still high, and trucking regulations on the rise, we were expecting responses ranging from bad to really bad,” that company stated in a blog post on its website.

Almost 75% of respondents said they were just as happy with their jobs as of March 2023 as they were at the same time the year before, and roughly the same number of Trucker Path respondents said they were just as satisfied with their jobs versus one year ago. The Trucker Path survey was conducted in March 2023, which generally was before the steep decline in rates to haul freight on the spot market and before fuel prices starting climbing again.

See also: Report emphasizes empathetic engagement for happier drivers

One section of the Trucker Path study did align closely with the negative sentiment in the ADPRI report: The Trucker Path survey flagged a less optimistic industry outlook. When asked if they feel 2023 will be better than 2022, only about 31% of respondents said they expect a year that is about the same, and 45% said they expect the year to be “somewhat” or “much” worse.

Lingering problems

No matter how optimistic drivers may indicate they are on a trucker app, there’s no denying the trucking profession has experienced some tough times, and those experiences are ongoing. In 2021 coming out of the global pandemic, Zippia, an educational platform for job seekers, reported that truck driving was rated in the bottom 10% of careers compared to all industries, and truck drivers rated their profession 2.7 out of five stars in career happiness.

Two years earlier, the American Transportation Research Institute published the Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry–2019 report, which was based on a survey of 2,119 individuals in the industry. Motor carriers made up half of respondents, a third were commercial drivers, and about 14% were other industry stakeholders. By viewing responses from only drivers, compensation was the highest concern, hours of service was the second highest, and parking rounded out the top three industry concerns.

See also: Fleet costs jump 21.3%, with fuel by far the leading expense 

ATRI will release the 2023 report in October, but its 2022 report—where drivers ranked truck parking, fuel prices, and driver compensation as the top three industry concerns—indicate that little has changed with drivers’ satisfaction between its top first and third concerns over the years.

An industry shakeup

This summer, less-than-truckload freight giant Yellow declared bankruptcy, adding even more instability to the ongoing problems in the industry.

The fall of Yellow Corp. resulted in a loss of 30,000 jobs, including drivers, dockworkers, and office personnel, accounting for much of the industry’s more than 36,000 jobs lost (2.27%) between July and August, just in time to be reflected in ADPRI’s quarterly report. Even with the current driver shortage, according to two former Yellow drivers, finding new trucking jobs is proving difficult.

Shane Smith, a former Yellow driver in Idaho, told FleetOwner that not many trucking companies in his area are hiring. It took Smith six and half weeks from the time he applied to land a job driving for another company. “Luckily, I had enough saved up to wait them out,” Smith added.

Horace Lyons, another former Yellow driver based in Pennsylvania, told FleetOwner that, although he found another job in a timeframe similar to Smith’s, he knows of several former coworkers with decades of driving experience that have yet to find other work.

ADPRI debuted its EMC index in its most recent quarterly report, and because this is the organization’s first stab at collecting this data, there’s no way to know for certain what is to blame for the low EMC index for transportation and warehousing employees.

No matter the cause—ongoing problems cited in other driver surveys, the slump in freight volumes and rates, Yellow’s demise, or a mixture of all factors—when only 19% of industry employees feel committed and motivated about their jobs, that number has nowhere to go but up. 

About the Author

Jade Brasher

Senior Editor Jade Brasher has covered vocational trucking and fleets since 2018. A graduate of The University of Alabama with a degree in journalism, Jade enjoys telling stories about the people behind the wheel and the intricate processes of the ever-evolving trucking industry.    

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