TCA 2014: Driver shortage still an issue and there is no Easy Fix
Each year the titans of trucking come together for the annual TCA conference. This year was no different and I had the opportunity to attend and hear the topics firsthand. This conference attracts a wide variety of attendees, all of whom are interested in constructive dialogue about today’s carrier challenges.
Trucking; it seems so simple. You own a truck, pick up freight, drive to the destination, deliver the freight, and invoice the customer. There is a demand for the service and frankly, there is freight everywhere. However, the more you dig into this industry, it is amazing how complex the process actually is. The evolution of data and dispatch systems, government mandates, safety regulations, equipment costs, insurance concerns, environmental interests, fuel costs, and not to mention multifaceted economic and customer pressures, all contribute to the added complexity. Top down, managing the business can be very complicated.
These complications were all topics at this year’s TCA conference, but the main industry issue talked about at the TCA this year was simple—filling the driver seat. We all know the current workforce is aging, not necessarily a problem. However, young people today are not entering the profession. Why is this? Many talked about it being the image of the job. I’ve been to more than one conference where they ask the audience for their opinion on matters like this. The first question is often, “Who believes there is a driver shortage?” All hands go up in the room. Then the second question comes, “Would you recommend to your son or daughter that they become a truck driver?” Very few hands go up this time. It’s sad but true. The stereotypes of a driver’s life—being away from family, a lack of respect in the public domain, health issues, and loneliness—is what sticks in people’s minds today.
So how will the leaders of the trucking industry fill those seats? We need to improve the appeal of being a truck driver. Everyone agrees there is no easy fix for this issue; however a recent shift in thinking from trucking executives may make all the difference. We all know the executives have a vested interest in finding drivers if they want to keep their trucks on the road. But recently, the executives have begun to shift their mindset about how to approach the issue.
At this year’s TCA conference, there was a genuine interest to make life better for their drivers. Many of the top executives at the conference personally set goals to make this the main priority in their company. Searching for creative ways to get drivers home more often, developing driver wellness challenges, investigating incentive based pay, and improving internal communications were all topics that came to light more than once. The first step in solving a problem is recognizing one. There is no magic answer, but large asset providers are beginning to make an effort to find the solutions this industry needs.
What is happening in your company? How are people trying to improve driver experiences? Leave your comments. By collaborating, we can find solutions for all and maybe one day eliminate the driver shortage.