For corporate entities in the American economy, the bottom line matters. It sounds like a harsh sentiment and paints the picture of a world ran by a cold, numerical authority.
Unfortunately, that approach is a necessary evil. It helps companies remain efficient, which in turn helps them meet market demand and keep prices low for consumers – or at least ensuring transportation costs don’t cause those prices to rise.
But this necessary evil may not be so evil. Because as trucking companies realize more just how short-staffed the industry has become, it has necessitated a raise in wages. And this boost to payroll may be exactly what trucking needs to keep going.
While there are around half-a-million truckers delivering freight in the US for-hire and over-the-road markets, the industry needs at least 51,000 more – and that number is expected to increase within the coming years.
Now, major industry players like ArcBest, Ryder Systems, Saia, and Titanium Transportation have all raised wages in an effort to attract new talent. The perfect storm of high demand, an older-than-average workforce nearing retirement, and a more strictly regulated industry have all made it tough to find enough drivers. Now it’s crunch time – without a method to solve the problem soon, carriers could be forced to hike up their transportation costs in the near future.
The American Trucking Association’s (ATA) is the nation’s biggest lobbying group, and they’ve compiled yearly statistics about the state of the driver shortage. They were also the first major organization to sound the proverbial alarm and let the industry know they were facing a nationwide staffing problem.
ATA chief economist Bob Costello spoke about the shortage, saying: “We have a couple of demographics problems in the industry — we have a high average age of the current truck drivers. We need to do a better job to get females in as truck drivers. The supply side is tight as well.” Costello also noted the issues weren’t with a lack of freight. It’s quite the opposite – and despite swirling rumors about autonomy replacing human drivers, he noted that the trucks won’t drive themselves.
Management from Salt Lake City’s C.R. England trucking company noted how disappointing it was for them to struggle with hitting growth goals, primarily because there was nothing lacking in terms of initiative. It all comes down to a lack of drivers, which causes otherwise successful carriers to have to turn down potential clients, accept delays, or raise prices.
Carriers have already started out in a dedicated approach to reversing the trend of shrinking rosters and soaring turnover. This doesn’t just mean raising pay, it means changing the way they view it. For one, many carriers are looking toward paying by the hour rather than by the mile.
With electronic logging devices now making antiquated hours-of-service rules impossible to get around, hourly pay could be the only fair way to compensate drivers. There are also benefits like company stock plans to help encourage retention. Hiring drivers is one thing, but keeping them in the long-term is just as important.