About every week there are stories on the national news and in several newspapers about truck drivers quitting and the truck driver shortage. Finding good employees at this time is hard for all industries in America. The unemployment numbers are at the lowest in several years. People are finally making money. The economy is turning around, people are buying things, homes are getting built, and more products needing to be shipped every day.
All of this combined makes it especially difficult for the trucking industry. Driving a truck was always the job many people with less than a college degree could depend on. However, more and more, the government and trucking companies are making it harder for a person to get into the industry. Everyone asks “why no one wants to drive a truck anymore?” The reasons people quit their jobs are many, but there are four main things trucking companies need to take a look at if they are going to hire competent drivers and retain those drivers.
False Misleading Advertising
It seems truck driver recruiters, HR people, and trucking companies, in general, would know the type of people who are trying to enter the trucking industry. Most have no college, very little if any, and many have dropped out of high school. Many have low paying jobs, at present, and that is why they are interested in trucking. Several are now married and have started a family. So it is understandable why they are fascinated by what they see or read about the trucking industry.
Any of us that have been in the industry know that trucking companies do not always tell potential drivers the whole truth about a career in the trucking industry. We are not saying that what information they give out is false, but several times it can be misleading, especially to someone who does not know about the industry.
We do not want to get into naming names here, but most all trucking companies are guilty of misleading advertising. Things such as – we move freight of all classes over the nation. Whatever you require, we have an answer for you. Yes, this would get me excited, and when you read we have an answer for you, your first thought is this company will solve all my problems.
Statements such as – our most relevant assets are our people. A statement like this could make a young person feel as if he or she is number one in the company when we all know how it is when you start in the industry.
Another that I think should be changed is we are in the game to set you up for progress, and high pay is just the start? Everyone knows we all started out not making very much money as compared to other drivers.
High tech equipment, modern up to date and new tractors. Most of the time a new driver is put into an older tractor as the newer trucks go to the drivers that are employed the longest. Someone, not familiar with the industry may get the impression he or she is going to be driving a brand new shiny Peterbilt.
We know these trucking companies are trying to recruit drivers and that is the job of the truck driver recruiters. They should try to find a way to re-word some of these ads so not to give people false hopes. To me, this is why so many drivers leave the industry and others go from company to company until they find the company they are happy with. Somehow someway recruiters need to find a way to communicate to potential drivers the reality of the industry.
Stay Away From Home
Getting started in the trucking business is difficult for another reason, that being the staying away from home aspect. Most all major cities in our nation have a truck driving school close to them, but if a person does not live close to an establishment, he or she ends up staying at a motel close to where the institution is located. So we start out being away from home for at least three to six weeks, depending on how long the training last. To a single person this may not be a problem, but to a married person, questions may be created right away.
Another problem with being away from home is the majority of people living in our nation do not travel that much. It may be hard to believe, but we have many people who have not gone outside the city where they live, all that much, and many have never been out of the state they reside. Not traveling much is a situation many people face when they start driving a truck. Climate change is the most significant problem people suffer, as well as operating on different roads. Our interstates are much the same, but when you travel on other routes, they can be dramatically different.
Everyone knows all our cities are different. New York City is an entirely separate world from Los Angeles. We all know the impediments that can occur in a city like Chicago. Then we have to mention the heat of the desert southwest or the extreme cold of upper New England. Of course, we need to specify the snow and mountains of the great northwest.
All this can be somewhat overwhelming to a person who has lived in west Texas all his or her life. To finish their driving school and be put into a truck with a total stranger and go off to New York City. Somehow prospective drivers need to be made aware of these circumstances they may be facing. Otherwise, they may jump on the first bus back to Odessa.
No Family Life
Any driver will tell you that having a great family life is about impossible when a person starts out driving a truck. Most truck driving schools are at least three weeks long, and then you are off with another driver for three to four weeks. You and your partner have probably talked about this extensively and more than likely you have agreed that it is something that can be managed. However, this is a long time for a spouse to sit home alone with the kids. All recruiters and truck driving school instructors will tell you this, but it is hard to fathom until it happens.
Something that is not talked about too much, and probably should be, is working holidays. How many of you have watched Fourth of July fireworks through your windshield while traveling down the road? Alternatively, watching everyone proceeding to the lake over Memorial Day weekend, while you are trying to get your load delivered on time. There are times a person gets stuck and can not get a load home, then ends up spending Xmas away from home with several other truckers, having turkey and dressing at the Petro or TA!
These are some of the other conditions that need to be explained to proposed drivers, and perhaps they will not be in such a rush to quit the game.
Perhaps the most substantial problem we have in the trade and the one most discussed. The best paying jobs in our business would be LTL Carriers, Wal-Mart or Fed Ex. There are several more, but my point here is getting the experience and working your way towards these jobs leads to a lot of disappointment and unhappiness, not with just the driver, but their spouses too. I feel that even these jobs do not pay enough when you think about the time and volume of work that is associated with these companies. Everyone knows these people work their 70 hours every week.
The biggest dilemma we face is the pay a driver receives when they are rising in the industry. Several numbers are tossed around, but most say the average driver starts out around $40,000 per year. If we were to break that down to a sixty-hour week that would come out to $12.80 per hour, but the average driver works more than sixty hours per week.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states the median pay for a locomotive engineer is $59,780 per year or $28.74 per hour. Some railroad workers can make as much as $109,000 per year. Engineers have irregular hours much the same as truckers but rarely work 40 hours. Railroad employees are away from home almost as much as truckers but work fewer hours. Here are some numbers on what railroad engineers make. glassdoor.com
A roughneck on an oil drilling rig make on average $51,000 per year and can make as much as $100,000 a year. A truck driver in the oil field can make anywhere from $20.00 an hour, but any job in the oil industry is hard work. On the oil platforms, they rarely work over 48 hours per week and if they do the rigs have a one-week on time and a week off arrangement. Most people who work on the oil rigs are home every night unless they are too far from their home base. If this is the case, they have the one-week on and one-week off system. Click here at experience.com an excellent article on the salaries of oil field workers.
Union apprentice plumbers start out at $14.00 per hour and make more than $50.00 per hour after completing a five-year apprenticeship. Experienced plumbers can make as much as $200,000 per year. Back to my article here journeymen plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters start out making $22.43 per hour and work only forty hours a week. Plumber, pipefitters, steamfitters, and electricians, for the most part, are home every night. For a rundown of a plumber, salary click here at payscale.com
The point here is when a truck driver is starting out they must attend a driver training program with no pay for at least three weeks. Then the driver rides with their trainer for about three weeks with half pay. From the time the individual starts driving school until they see their first paycheck, most times it is a least four to six weeks until they get that check. Moreover, the first check is not enough to cover the bills that have accumulated at home, much less any expenses he or she may have for living on the road. Sometimes a driver goes without a paycheck because they have taken pay advances to cover the costs of living on the road or at school.
The salary figures above were obtained by doing Google searches for the different industries and what the salaries were for the particular occupations. These are all from separate sources, and a person can get several numbers from various sources. I just wanted people to get an idea of the differences in pay and the hours that people work in the different industries.
If the large companies are serious about securing good drivers and drivers that stay with the company they are going to have to address some if not all these obstacles.
Truck driver recruiters should try to be as honest and upfront about a truck driving career as much as possible. Everything about the job should be communicated to the prospective employee. At least try to get as much as they can across to the individual so they can make an informed decision before signing up.
For companies to retain good drivers, they need to provide significant benefits and salaries that are comparable to other industries. As long as people can work fewer hours, be home more and make more money they are going to the other occupations before a truck driving career.
With our economy booming such as it is now there is going to be substantial competition to hire qualified people in any industry. One would think if the companies could boost salaries, maintain good benefits and still give the drivers the freedom to do the jobs as they see appropriate, people will forever want to get into the trucking industry. No matter how people complain about trucking, it is an occupation people should be proud to declare they are a member. For another one of my articles on the truck, driver turnover see this post 6 Things to Slow Truck Driver Turnover
Thank You for reading my post. Your Comments are Always Welcome!