The Driver Dilemma: 3 Focus Areas for Increasing Truck Driver Recruitment & Retention

Truck Driver Driving

Imagine preparing to onboard an employee and not being able to get a new laptop or safety equipment to them in time for their first day. While solid preparation and planning could prevent this from happening today, the truth is that the American Trucking Associations (ATA) estimates a record high driver shortage of over 80,000 drivers.  This would greatly impact the supply chain in the future – the shortage could surpass 160,000 in 2030 based on current trends.1 The $732.3 billion trucking industry employs 3.36 million truck drivers and moved 10.23 billion tons of freight in 2020, representing 72.5% of all domestic tonnage shipped according to ATA,2 making this industry vital to our economy – and to your new hire’s equipment for their first day.

A variety of factors are contributing to the talent shortage ranging from pay, time, age restrictions, high turnover rates, and an aging workforce to lifestyle issues such as the time spent away from home and more. 

Recently, the Biden-Harris administration released a trucking action3 plan as part of the new $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in an effort to address some of these issues and strengthen America’s trucking workforce. A key area of focus outlined in the law aims at identifying strategies to get new entrants into the industry, including women and young drivers as well as underrepresented communities, such as veterans. Programs like the Driving Good Jobs initiative aim to support and engage drivers, while seeking to identify longer term actions to improve driver retention. The ATA is estimating having to recruit nearly 1,000,000 drivers over the next decade4 to keep up with demand. With turnover rates upward of 90% in the trucking industry,5 addressing retention issues will be critical in reducing the talent gap. Have you considered how the following three areas will play into your recruitment and retention strategies?

1. Culture attracts talent

The new law requires a pilot program be developed by January 14, 2022 that allows trucking organizations to establish an apprentice program for young drivers ranging from 18 to 20 years old6. In addition, it also requires an advisory board to identify ways to provide education or outreach to women in the trucking industry among other initiatives. But is your company culture where it needs to be to attract this talent? The truth is without an effective and sustainable diversity and inclusion strategy, hiring and retaining employees in this demographic can suffer. According to Forbes, 1 in 3 candidates will not consider a position with a company that lacks diversity. There are numerous tactics organizations can employ that support a diverse workforce. Consider implementing networking programs that encourage mentorship, allyship, and sponsorship of minorities and underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, or other communities including women to help employees feel safe and welcomed in the workplace. Another critical area of focus should be guaranteeing the entire organization is aligned on the diversity and inclusion strategies in order to ensure that HR and other business processes are redesigned to mitigate unconscious bias when performing critical tasks, such as recruiting and hiring talent. The goal is to explore and define your diversity and inclusion strategies and develop an action plan to roll out and embed these strategies into everyday practices in the workplace.

2. Elevate your employee’s life-work journey

In the wake of the truck driver shortage, being people-focused, life-aware, adaptable, and resilient can help your organization become an employer of choice. Anticipating the needs of your drivers beyond just work, and thoughtfully adapting to meet their needs is critical to their Life-work Journey. This means keeping your people at the forefront of what you do and the decisions you make. 

As an example, rather than implementing a company-wide scheduling policy, consider surveying employees to understand whether they prefer to work a specific shift allowing them to prioritize time with family. This type of support allows employees to thrive both in life and at work. 

The biggest obstacle to effectively guiding employees along the Life-work Journey is outdated software and related technologies for HR, payroll, time tracking, recruiting, reporting, and other common-yet-essential workplace processes. Given the critical role technology plays in these processes, it’s imperative to provide powerful and effective tools to access this information, while ensuring they’re intuitive and easy to use.  What types of tools or processes can your organization implement and maintain to help optimize operations and efficiencies while providing your drivers with what they need? By understanding and considering the preferences of your drivers, and implementing solutions the way they need them, you will ultimately inspire your workforce.

3. Training for safety and growth

According to the National Safety Council, large trucks account for 10% of all vehicles involved in fatal crashes. While improving road infrastructure to reduce hazards and finding ways to help lessen driver fatigue are critical components to helping decrease accidents involving truck drivers, quality training programs are also instrumental—especially with younger truck drivers on the road. The Trucking Plan includes Registered Apprenticeships, which are designed to prepare trainees; however, ongoing training programs are essential to keep drivers up-to-date with the latest commercial driving regulations. Training can also serve to improve the overall employee experience by providing employees with developmental and career path opportunities based on experience levels and the completion of specific training criteria. Developing a holistic approach to learning that can be shared as early as the recruiting process not only engages employees from the start, but should also align to your compliance, training, and development efforts – effectively educating employees on new rules, skills, and techniques needed to be better and safer on the road.

Today’s truck drivers desire more than just good compensation and benefits. Finding new and innovative ways to approach recruiting and retaining will play a key role in mitigating the risk of a truck driver shortage. From creating a more diverse and inclusive culture where everyone feels like they belong to providing ongoing training and growth opportunities – every bit counts in keeping truck drivers engaged in the workforce. 

Did You Know?

Brian Reaves joined UKG as our Chief Belonging, Diversity, and Equity Officer as part of our continued commitment towards creating more unity, kindness, and growth at work and in our communities. 



Learn more about how to transform your employee experience in our recent webinar Beyond the Great Resignation: An Action Plan for Hiring and Retention.

Watch Here. 

Sources: 1:American Trucking Association,"ATA Chief Economist Pegs Driver Shortage at Historic High." 2:American Trucking Association,"Annual Trucking Trends Report Shows Impact of Pandemic on Industry." 3:The White House,"FACT SHEET: The Biden-⁠Harris Administration Trucking Action Plan to Strengthen America’s Trucking Workforce." 4:American Trucking Association,"ATA Chief Economist Pegs Driver Shortage at Historic High." 5:Rosalsky,Greg,"Is There Really A Truck Driver Shortage?." 6.Lewis,Jackson,"Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Motor Carrier Safety Provisions’ Impact on Employers."