The trucking industry continues to dominate the freight transportation
Almost every product consumed in the United States is transported
In 2001, the industry hauled close to 80 percent of all U.S.
Currently, there are more than 500,000
interstate motor carriers in the U.S., including for–hire (truckload and less–than–truckload),
private carriers, owner–operators and government fleets. Most trucking
companies are small; about 80 percent have 20 or fewer trucks. The remaining
20 percent operate more than 20 trucks, down from previous years.
In 2000, the number of active truck
drivers in the U.S. decreased by 0.9 percent to 3.1 million. Although
the industry grew in
the early to mid–1990s, it has decreased in two of the past three
years; decreasing approximately 2.1 percent, to roughly 3 million, in
2001. There is a direct correlation between the number of active truck
drivers and the 4,000 failed companies.
The decrease in active drivers has also resulted from
the dramatic rise in fuel costs, which led to an economic slowdown in
early 2000. However, the percentage of active minority truck drivers steadily
increased during the 1990s.
Minority truck drivers represented approximately
27 percent of the active truck drivers in 2000.
The turnover rate for truck drivers
varies greatly due to the various types of trucking.
An annual turnover
rate is difficult
to calculate. Industry sources say that the turnover rate for long–haul
truck drivers is roughly 80 percent; several companies have put the rate
at between 90 and 100 percent. The figure is around 30 percent for short–haul
Information for industry research
revealed that the average truck driver changes jobs about eight times
during a typical 30–year
career. On average, a truck driver is unemployed for about four months
after a layoff. So, why do so many leave their current employers or
trucking industry entirely?
The first major reason is that potential drivers are trained
for jobs, not careers. They are not trained to mesh their personal and
company goals, or taught how to live on the road. Schools and companies
must learn to measure the effectiveness of their training programs as
well as their content. The second reason is that recruiters fail to ask
the right questions during interviews and fail to seek the right references.
Third, trucking is hard. Many do not realize this until they complete
training and are hired. Once they determine the level of difficulty, they
quickly get out.
Fourth, the industry loses drivers who decide to find
jobs closer to home. Over the past several years, the lack of time with
families has been one of the leading reasons why most women leave the
industry. Since peaking at 5.7 percent in 1997, the percentage of active
women truck drivers has steadily declined. As we entered the new decade,
only 4.7 percent were women.
A final reason for high turnover is poor communication
and little genuine concern for the jobs these drivers perform. Insensitive
dispatchers and an initial misunderstanding of pay and benefits head the
list. In America, money talks, and if truck drivers feel they are not
paid well, they often walk. With truck drivers changing jobs so frequently,
most lose wages, medical coverage, 401(k) benefits and vacation time.
Consequently, many decide to leave the trucking industry to obtain these
benefits. During the previous economic boom in the U.S., many truckers
took advantage of the employee markets and found jobs in other industries.
The industry's problem is that some of these causes probably
cannot and will not be solved. The job has remained a difficult and sometimes
lonely occupation. Truck drivers will more likely than not, elect to be
closer to their families than their jobs.
Some studies indicate that one way to maintain staff is
to make the profession a worthy career, not just another job. Several
companies have begun offering additional responsibilities, such as customer
service and sales, as well as opportunities to advance. A truck driver
who feels satisfied is more likely to work harder and feel more committed.
Other ways to satisfy employees are to treat them well financially and
provide support equipment.
In mid–2001, many signs pointed toward a reduced
turnover ratio. September 11, 2001, seems to have reversed this trend.
With fewer companies in the market, the employee market no longer exists.
This is especially true for new hires. The recovering economy in 2002
shows now is the time to review the reasons for losing drivers and to
develop retention programs. The driver shortage is not over. The recovering
economy, retiring baby boomers and competing, skilled occupations are
wake–up calls to the trucking industry.
article is provided by Willie Johnson, a senior manager in the transportation
arena for more than 15 years.
He is the originator of the innovative TrendsPortation
His research and insights give access to information needed
to meet the challenges affecting your bottom line.
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