Retaining truck drivers is not an easy job. The driver market is the tightest it has been in 20 years, and the turnover rate at large trucking companies exceeds 100%, according to the American Trucking Association.
Bill Graves, ATA president and CEO, says it’s critical to “find ways to tap a new labor pool, increase wages, and recruit new people into the industry that keeps our national economy moving.”
The ATA says the long-haul segment of the trucking industry has a national shortage of 20,000 drivers. It predicts the shortage will increase to 111,000 by the year 2014 given the current demographic trends.
A severe shortage of drivers could hurt the U.S. economy. Trucks carry more than three-quarters of domestic goods, and without enough drivers to haul the nation’s products, expect delays on those items you both want and need. And if salaries have to go up to find and keep the talent, that means consumers will soon see much higher prices.
Whiteout in West Virginia
But the trucking shortage goes beyond just bringing consumer goods across state lines. When snowy roads need to get plowed, but there are no drivers willing to hop onboard, things can get dangerously complicated.
In West Virginia, transportation officials have had to temporarily contract with state retirees and people with a commercial driver’s license to do snow removal this year.
In fact, a new bill is up for a vote in the West Virginia House of Delegates that may help fill such critical job vacancies.
The bill would allow the state Personnel Director to offer financial incentives to potential recruits for jobs the state has trouble filling, including its particularly bad truck-driver shortage in several counties.
The state Division of Transportation has about 250 open positions for truck drivers. Almost 500 people have applied for the jobs, but the state predicts just 30% of applicants will show up to the interview.
Finding the Drivers
The tight labor market means drivers are turning to other professions, such as construction and other jobs that keep them close to home. But those who are interested in working as a truck driver find that long-distance drivers’ salaries could be well over $60,000 a year.
Some can earn even more, explains Don Firth, president and CEO of JobsInTrucks.com, a niche job board site that reported an 80% increase in 2006 revenue.
“Then you have the owner-operators; they own their own tractors and offer their services to companies. They’ll be earning a lot more, but they become independents,” says Firth.
“They were once called gypsies, but now you’re getting the major companies to hire them on one-year or two-year contracts. An owner-operator could get a very lucrative load from New York to California, but the problem is if they can’t find a load out in California, they could be stuck in a hotel or in their sleeper, and they are not getting paid until they get their next load,” he says.
The website — which advertises online, at truck stops, and in driver magazines — focuses strictly in assisting trucking companies and private fleet operators find qualified drivers. It continues to grow rapidly with more than 4,000 listed jobs for drivers and 30,000 driver profiles in its resume database.
Its mission is “to connect the right drivers with the right companies” through job postings from both company driver and owner-operator positions in the United States and Canada.
The three-year-old website recently added enhancements, including an online application-style resume form for drivers. This includes a summary of driving experience, skills, license types, driving records, and job history.
JobsInTrucks.com also introduced a driver alert program when new drivers come aboard. This program emails qualified driver profiles to employers and recruiters who post open positions on JobsInTrucks.com.
“It’s a case of getting to that driver very quickly before someone else grabs them,” says Firth.
However, while many of the companies that need drivers are relying on Firth’s site, not many companies are taking advantage of their own corporate career site.
For example, mattress maker Sealy, a JobsInTrucks.com client, recently posted an ad for a driver. Yet its own corporate site lists no mention of this particular job posting.
“Some companies are more interested in marketing their own products than offering their own jobs,” says Firth. “But we do encourage companies to put the jobs on their own sites as well.”
The company hopes 2007 proves as successful as last year, because “we have some of the best jobs around,” says Firth, explaining that he is currently busy hiring more account executives for the website.
Firth says he wants to “spread the word to literally thousands and thousands of companies that need drivers.”