In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, trucking companies are continuing to face a driver shortage. The industry was already struggling to recruit and retain drivers before the pandemic. The pandemic only exacerbated the problem, as many drivers left the industry or took extended breaks.
As a result, trucking companies scrambled to find new drivers and are continuing to struggle to do so. In this blog post, we’ll look at the driver shortage and how it’s been affected following the worst parts of the pandemic and explore ways trucking companies can best respond to the problem in the post-pandemic world.
Commercial Driving and the Pandemic
According to the latest Transportation Spotlight Report by HireRight, the pandemic has significantly impacted commercial driving. Truck drivers remained essential workers throughout the pandemic, keeping the economy moving by transporting goods and supplies across the country.
However, the pandemic meant drivers had to work extra hard, which took a toll on their mental health and overall well-being. Many got sick and had to take some time off or quit working. The lockdowns and widespread supply chain issues disrupted commercial drivers’ normal operations.
Carriers suffered the biggest blunt due to the Great Resignation during the pandemic. According to HireRight’s report, 29% of transportation companies experienced a decrease in workforce. The main reason for the shrinking workforce was that most drivers who took extended leaves did not return to work.
Another 47% of freight operators faced a higher resignation rate, while 42% witnessed a higher turnover rate for their newly hired drivers. The worst part is that it took an average of over six months to fill the vacant positions.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to supply chain disruptions and shortages of goods and drivers across the country. These shortages were exacerbated by the closure of factories, businesses, and schools and the cancellation of events and travel.
Getting Back On Track
Now that the pandemic is subsiding, the trucking industry is readjusting to a new normal. The industry is also adapting to new challenges, such as the rise of e-commerce.
In line with this shift, the need for product transportation has increased. The increase only means that the world will continue down its path of increasing reliance on the trucking industry. Carriers realize this new task and are now responding by ensuring they have enough drivers to deliver goods when needed. If freight operators are not focusing on recruiting a more skilled workforce, they are on their toes trying to retain the commercial drivers they already have.
However, the pandemic interfered with retention and recruitment efforts in the trucking industry. On one hand, it made retention difficult because many drivers had to leave the industry due to the increased risk of exposure to the virus. Some commercial drivers left their companies to search for better pay and benefits. On the other hand, the trucking industry faced recruitment challenges because of difficulties in finding qualified employees. The new hires had a higher-than-average turnover rate. Most companies took three to six months to fill vacant positions after losing employees.
Given the high turnover and recruitment challenges, carriers are focusing more on driver retention than recruitment. This means prioritizing commercial drivers’ needs to make them stick around for longer. The idea is to start retention efforts before hiring employees and continue through internal campaigns to remind them why they are valuable to your company.
Going forward, carriers will focus on rebuilding their fleets and preparing for the post-pandemic world. However, they will have to contend with several challenges, including an ongoing shortage of drivers. Freight operators must find innovative ways to meet transportation needs related to the increasing e-commerce trend amidst the driver shortage.
The answer lies in more transparency and focusing on retaining drivers through better pay and support. Transparency means communicating the company’s plans for its future to drivers and being honest about the challenges that come with the trucking industry.
In an industry struggling with high turnover and recruitment costs, focusing on driver retention, and supporting the well-being of your staff will be crucial to the success of trucking companies. Retention efforts will encourage drivers to stay with their companies and help rebuild the depleted fleets during the pandemic. As a result, trucking companies can better meet the demands of the e-commerce world.
Overall, commercial driving and the pandemic mean carriers can do several things to reduce the risk of drivers leaving. These include:
- Increasing pay and benefits
- Ongoing training programs
- Having initiatives that support drivers’ mental and physical health
- Offering programs that help with work-life balance
All these items point to one important thing: preventative maintenance – it’s not just for your rigs. You should ensure that the drivers have the confidence to use the available support resources without feeling stigmatized.
The trucking industry is the backbone of the economy. As the industry faces a shortage of drivers, trucking companies will need to find innovative ways to meet transportation needs related to the increasing e-commerce trend.
The best thing is to embrace transparency and focus more on drivers’ retention through better pay and support. With these things in mind, trucking companies can build a foundation for growth and longevity.