Why increasing salaries isn’t enough, says SC&RA boss

A pay increase is not a cure-all, says Joel Dandrea SC&RA CEO

Increasing driver pay caught on over the last couple of years as a potential way to attract and-or retain drivers throughout the industry. But for quite a few fleets, it hasn’t had the impact people expected.

Joel Dandrea Joel Dandrea SC&RA CEO (Image: SC&RA)

While it should be noted that many fleets did increase their rosters more than usual in 2020 and 2021, the numbers point to the pay raises slowing down the actual amount of drivers who dropped out of the industry more than it did attract new ones.

While that’s somewhat positive, U.S. Department of Labor data indicates there have been some local and regional success stories but, by and large, a hiring boom has not emerged. In fact, in many cases, the pay hikes have prompted many drivers to bounce from company to company.

Times being what they are, massive increases in online ordering during the pandemic have sent demand for delivery truck drivers through the roof. While commercial trucking and heavy haul are two different animals, we still draw from similar candidate pools. And trends in trucking are fairly ubiquitous for everyone.

To that end, overall, the increased pay seems to have increased the competition between current drivers more than it has inspired people to move into the profession. In addition, it isn’t uncommon for drivers to want to work less now that they’re getting paid more – seeking more time off from an already complicated vocation.

Food for thought

There’s also competition from outside industries, especially during the pandemic, where a lack of workers across the board has created new opportunity for people who might otherwise have leant towards a career in trucking.

Moreover, as an additional layer of the onion, local trucking jobs are being filled more than long haul or heavy haul, which are often more demanding on time and energy, and can certainly require more expertise. While appreciated, it should be noted that another factor that has led to a reduction in numbers is the federal clearinghouse that alerts carriers to drivers who have failed drug tests, DUIs or other substance-abuse problems on their records. Some 54,000 drivers have been barred from driving since the clearing house went into effect in early 2020.

More so, however, this latest chapter in the driver-shortage era could be reason enough to re-address fleets’ inability to hire drivers under 21 for interstate jobs – thus prompting candidates to choose a different career.

Combined with appropriate moves made at the federal level, a strategy to approach Generation Z by highlighting the undeniable fact that truck drivers make a difference in their community could be quite impactful. As the youngest group within the Covid generation to be at career-age, they perhaps recognise and appreciate more than anyone the value and necessity of essential workers.

They’ve seen truckers make a difference both locally and nationally, and many of them – now questioning the career-path model that was thrown at them from birth – also want to make a difference. They’ve seen the importance of drivers in times of crisis or even natural disasters. If they can also see how viable trucking could be as an employment option, it might just be a catalyst for industry-wide change.

Ultimately, whether we’re recruiting rookies or veterans, it’s still a matter of depth. This isn’t a problem trucking can just throw money at. The nature of employment within the industry has changed, and along with better pay, employers have to evolve alongside it. Companies understand they’re operating in a different work environment now where they have to do different things to attract and retain talent.

Just beneath “pay is too low” in most surveys outlining why drivers quit, you’ll find: quality of life, I hate my boss, poor communication, no room for advancement and I’m not appreciated.

Food for thought, as we all continue to try and solve the trucker shortage conundrum.


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