And what to do about it.
The facts and stats are sending a message to the trucking industry. Driver health and wellness is paramount yet continues to pose a challenge and is a reality that carriers have yet to accept as a key recruiter and retention strategy. In the first half of 2021, there were over 4.5 million medical exams in the industry. Of those exams, over 50% of the drivers were issued a one-year or 90-day card, and over 7% were medically disqualified. Those numbers are devastating for an industry that has already been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. While the industry is ever aware of the health of engines, little to no attention is paid to the health of the drivers. That needs to change.
2020 brought a litany of problems to the industry. Driver turnover continued at an alarming rate: in fleets with more than $30 million in revenue, the number stood at 78%. This number was a drop from the previous year, which may seem like a good thing except for several factors. The first was the moratorium on CDL Medical Recertification requirements. While successfully reducing turnover, this lack of medical oversight increased the risk for carriers. Simultaneously, 71% of fleets were forced to halt their training programs, reducing the potential pool of new or replacement drivers by 30-40%. Consequently, large fleets now face not only the threat from medical issues, but driver shortages that greatly impact revenue.
The industry needs to introduce 110,000 new drivers annually over the next decade. The average age of drivers now is 54 with retirement right around the corner. And the average age of a new entrant is 38, signifying the lack of interest in the industry among the younger demographic. Younger people can find similar jobs in different industries that create more predictability for roughly the same pay. For example, the recent infrastructure bill will bring approximately 2 million jobs to construction per year. That incentivization will reduce the pool of available drivers for existing fleets. However, more construction means more freight. With fewer drivers, this situation creates a two-fold problem.
Furthermore, medical disqualifications have increased. Hypertension screenings fell, as did PCP visits and annual check-ups. Simultaneously, drivers have experienced an average pandemic weight gain of 16 pounds. Because the industry has not embraced the health and wellness of its driver population, the cost of healthcare claims has increased 20% in 2021.
How can the industry do a better job?
You might be thinking that you are committed to the health and wellness of your drivers already by offering health insurance or onsite fitness gyms but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Carriers need compelling, innovative programs and incentives to differentiate from their competitors that are chasing the same driver. In the current landscape when safety and health are paramount, it is time to make your company statement meaningful. That means to:
- Provide drivers with realistic wellness opportunities
- Motivate and incentivize drivers to be healthier
- Support driver health towards DOT medical recertification
- Provide access to a continuum of care (taking care of their mental health)
- Find programs that are driver-centric and are focused on getting results
At a time where every driver counts and the stats don’t lie, driver retention cannot be understated. The time is now for offering meaningful, life-changing solutions to help set your company apart.