Competitive Advantage -
For anyone looking at the issue of driver shortages, it would be hard not to come to some general conclusions regarding this phenomenon. In general, driver wages appear to be a culprit along with working conditions and treatment of drivers.
Driver wages have not kept up with inflation compared to other occupations, including minimum wage workers. In addition, working conditions can be challenging, including long durations away from home. Also, drivers are often treated as second-class citizens. This article will explore these issues to gain a better perspective regarding the driver shortage problem and what can be done to resolve it. More importantly, it is my assertion that trucking companies can gain a competitive advantage if they begin to address these issues.
Wages would be the number one item that could potentially resolve the driver shortage issue. However, this is often overlooked and ignored. Driver wages have not kept pace with inflation; I can personally attest to this fact from experience. According to National Transportation Institute, from about 2006-2016, average driver wages only increased approximately 6.3%, while minimum wage rose by a whopping 45.26% (Owner, 2017).
While this is a US. statistic, I believe it closely mirrors the Canadian market. Since wages have not kept pace with inflation, many have left the industry searching for better opportunities in other sectors. It is my assertion that there is not really a driver shortage problem per se but a shortage of drivers willing to work for the suboptimal wages offered (Markets win out over “chronic” truck driver shortage, 2019). The effect of wage increases and driver recruitment have positive correlations.
Working conditions can be a stressor for driver retention. Drivers generally can be expected to work around the clock while taking eight or ten hours off between shifts depending on whether they are in the US or Canada. Many are away from home for several days to several weeks at a time. Weather conditions and traffic are also intrinsic factors, as well as carriers micromanaging the work schedule. Often there is barely enough time to smell the coffee due to tight appointment times and schedules. While the allure of the open road has attracted many to the industry, it is quickly forgotten when the harsh realities are realized. Taking proactive steps to reduce time away from home and allow drivers time to make deliveries comfortably would be beneficial.
The image of truck drivers has been less than optimal over the years. Unfortunately, it only takes a few drivers to tarnish the industry’s image. From inexperienced to aggressive drivers and those conducting themselves in a less than professional manner has instilled negative public perceptions. As a result, many feel it is ok to treat drivers as second-class citizens. However, while drivers are essentially to blame for public image issues, they are also a product of their environment. If carriers were to treat drivers as a valued member of the team and change the working environment, drivers would likely adjust accordingly with higher self-esteem.
Could companies gain a competitive advantage by increasing wages, improving working conditions, and treating drivers as valued team members? A respected well paid, and well-treated driver will feel more fulfilled and incentivized in their current role. Recruiting and retention are likely to improve, allowing the company to focus on operations and be more competitive (Min & Lambert, 2002). Companies would benefit from a more efficient and experienced workforce. The public image of trucking and trucking companies would also likely improve.
Markets win out over “chronic” truck driver shortage. (2019). JoC Online, N.PAG.
Min, H., & Lambert, T. (2002). Truck Driver Shortage Revisited. Transportation Journal (American Society of Transportation & Logistics Inc), 42(2), 5–16.
Owner, F. (2017). Driver Pay, Trucking’s Image and the Worsening Driver Shortage. Waste360, 1.
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