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Where Are All the Drivers?

DCS driver standing with his truck

The pandemic has shined the spotlight on truck drivers as the lifeblood of the economy. Often unnoticed and underappreciated, they put in long hours in demanding jobs to keep our shelves stocked and economy moving. Nevertheless, finding the right drivers for your fleet has never been easy. In fact, the driver shortage has escalated over the past year, making hiring drivers an even greater challenge across the industry.

Why it’s so hard to find drivers

The driver shortage has been an issue in the transportation industry for years, but a number of factors converged in 2020 to exacerbate the shortage in a way that will likely be felt by fleets for some time. The first, and perhaps most obvious factor, is the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic hit the driver workforce hard by forcing some drivers into quarantine and pushing others to voluntarily remove themselves from service. Most driver training schools either closed temporarily or began limiting enrollment to meet social distancing requirements, creating a bottleneck for new drivers trying to enter the workforce.

New regulations from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also began to be enforced in 2020. The FMCSA began using the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse to collect drivers’ drug records and require fleets to screen drivers before hiring them. Drivers with one or more drug violations are removed from service and cannot be hired again until they undergo specified return-to-duty requirements. The Clearinghouse is intended to make the roads safer, but it also affects the pool of eligible drivers for fleets to hire.

The pandemic and the Clearinghouse put further constraints on an aging driver workforce that was already dwindling. With the average age of a fleet driver at 57, the industry loses more drivers every year to retirement. We estimate the combined impact of all these factors puts the transportation industry short more than 220,000 drivers.

What it takes to hire a driver right now

Even though the industry as a whole is short on drivers, freight still has to keep moving. This means there is extensive competition between fleets to attract new drivers. Many companies are finding that they require more effort to hire the same number of drivers, and that their cost-per-hire has increased. To be competitive, fleets are offering sign-on bonuses and increased pay to hire the drivers they need. All in all, it’s taking more time, money and effort to hire drivers today.

But the challenge doesn’t end once drivers are hired. Fleets also need to pay more attention to creating a positive experience in order to retain the drivers they have. Otherwise, drivers may leave for a better opportunity at a competing fleet. In some cases, this could mean reevaluating routes so that drivers can spend more time at home with their families instead of on the road. Some companies are even offering “retention bonuses,” after a driver turns in their notice as a way to entice them to stay on longer. Ultimately, fleets need to be in tune with driver morale and be sure to create a positive work experience.

Let J.B. Hunt take hiring drivers off your plate

Recruiting, hiring and retaining drivers represents a significant drain on your fleet’s resources. When J.B. Hunt manages your fleet, we handle all of it for you so you can pour that time and effort back into your core business. As a leader in the transportation industry, we are constantly monitoring trends and setting ourselves up to be competitive in the driver hiring process. We have an entire team dedicated to sourcing the right drivers for your fleet, and we are one of the only transportation companies to offer online direct-to-work orientation for new drivers.

When you outsource your fleet with us, we do the work to fill your trucks with trained, qualified drivers.

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