After two long years away from trade shows and in-person networking, our team packed our freshly made, bright blue trade show booth and headed to the Ontario Transportation Expo (OTE) in Toronto. Our excitement to see industry friends and brainstorm with like-minded people again had us rushing through the conference doors. On day one, we eagerly filed into our first session: HR Issues and Driver Recruitment. During this session, we confirmed that the driver shortage is still the top concern facing the transit and trucking industries. At the conference, each conversation we had led to the question, “How do we attract and retain quality drivers?”.
It is often said that asking smaller questions is the only way to answer a big one. Infuriating! To answer this challenging question, let us dissect it.
What is causing the driver shortage?
According to an article written by Smart Trucking1, the shortage of drivers comes down to the simple fact that drivers are not happy or satisfied with the lifestyle that a trucking career has to offer. What is contributing to this unhappiness? Factors such as low pay and less desirable working conditions.
A common theme at the OTE was that companies struggle to get enough driver candidates through the door before beginning the hiring process. Currently, Canada reports a shortage of around 25,000 truck drivers, while the US reports a whopping shortage of about 60,000 drivers. This shortage impacts organizations because there are not enough quality candidates coming into the industry, and companies are losing money by hiring, training, and onboarding candidates who don’t stick around. With a lack of qualified candidates coming into the market, retention becomes essential to weathering this storm. Simply put its easier to retain existing drivers than gain new ones.
What can you do to inspire change?
Create a Culture of Caring
People stay in environments where they feel comfortable, appreciated, and valued and leave places they are not.
Your organization has the power to control the way potential candidates feel about your business. Ask yourself: Is my company supporting a culture of caring? A caring culture is focused on investing in the health and safety of drivers rather than on a revolving door of hiring. If you are unsure, go to the source and survey your drivers. Continue what you are doing well and adjust where you could be doing better. Building, maintaining, and communicating a caring culture takes dedication but could be the key to attracting and retaining drivers. With a positive company culture, potential candidates and current employees feel valued and stay gainfully employed for years. Drivers talk. Why not be on the positive side of those conversations?
“You work at [company name]; what is it like?”
“You have a retirement plan!”
“They helped you discover a medical condition, and you are doing great now; that is awesome. I wish my company cared that much.”
Address the Aging Workforce
Based on the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s latest report2, the average age of a truck driver in Canada is 49 years old, seven years older than the average worker. With an aging demographic of workers, the focus of a company’s culture might be different than what was once thought to be enough. Retirement and pension packages, long-term health care plans, education programs for children and grandchildren, and health and wellness programs start to look much more appealing as people get older. You might also be surprised how these same topics attract the younger generation of drivers as well.
As we age, health issues become a more significant concern, in particular for sedentary jobs. When medical conditions go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and unmanaged, they can lead to progressive, persistent, or episodic medical conditions that could remove a driver from working for a short, long, or indefinite period. Supporting early detection of medical conditions facilitates proactive intervention in a way that fosters a caring culture and ensures drivers are healthy and fit which all leads to improved driver retention.
Build Meaningful Programs
A robust culture of caring starts with leadership but it can not end there, it needs a champion to drive the initiative and make it come alive within an organization. So, where do you start?
- Review your hiring practices and retention of newly hired drivers.
- Review retention rates
- Conduct exit interviews
- Survey existing drivers
You may find that you are close to meeting driver needs and wants, but you also may discover that you are miles apart.
Assembling a fitness for duty program that fits the company’s needs and culture is another great way to invest in the talent driving your business. If you have a current fitness for duty program, we suggest you review it. Many of these programs were developed over a decade ago and have not evolved to capture the changing world. Review what protocols are currently in place, and are they working? Are there gaps where your program could use support? The best way to manage your driver pool is by developing a consistent, measurable, and standardized approach to managing your drivers.
ExceleRATE harnesses the power of science and technology to provide decision makers with measurable evidence of risk, whether driving or impairment related.
Driver risk is linked to trainable errors, competency, or functional abilities, and impairment risk is linked to medical conditions, substance abuse, fatigue, and mental health. Within 30 minutes, ExceleRATE provides the confidence that a driver is safe, and within 4 hours, empowers stakeholders to make hiring and return to work decisions.
Let ExceleRATE help your company address the driver shortage head-on.
Vice President of Business Development
John Brown is VP of Business Development at Impirica Inc. He is in charge of developing and facilitating new business opportunities so that Impirica can accomplish its mission of making communities safer through the fusion of science and technology. John has vast experience working in the human services industry with a background in Human Resources. Currently, he consults with businesses, transportation and transit organizations, and municipalities to assist them in creating risk management solutions that fit the needs of their organization. John has his Masters of Education from Athabasca University and has implemented the foundations of Adult Learning into risk management solutions.