Driver shortages surge, expected to jump up to 40%: new IRU survey. The title for the World Road Transport Organisation’s (IRU) article about its latest survey underscores one of the biggest, ongoing challenges for transport fleets.
The survey’s key findings explain what’s behind the expected jump:
-Despite wage increases and high unemployment rates in some of the countries and regions surveyed, about 2.6 million truck driving jobs went unfilled in 2021.
-While the transport sector as a whole struggles to attract staff who are women, the trucking industry lags furthest behind. Just 3% of truck drivers are women in nearly every region, save for the US and China, where women represent 8% and 5% of drivers respectively.
-Europe has the highest average driver age, with a third of its drivers older than 55.
On a surface level, the survey results look bleak. But when considered more deeply, they’re a big opportunity to tackle hiring and retention issues. By addressing these challenges head on, fleets may have an easier time attracting the skilled, engaged workforce that any successful business relies on. Want to breathe new life into your hiring and retention processes? The questions discussed below can be a productive place to start.
4 questions to help you attract and retain drivers
1. Beyond pay, how do we invest in our team members?
Good wages will undoubtedly grab a driver’s attention—everybody has bills to pay. Yet as the IRU survey shows, higher wages don’t necessarily translate into greater job satisfaction. Pay, while obviously important, isn’t the only factor people consider when deciding whether to take a job—or stay in one.
For many jobseekers, a company’s culture, mission and values may speak louder than pay and benefits packages (though, again, those absolutely matter). This is especially true for younger workers, who seek a sense of purpose beyond earning a paycheck. They want to work for companies that aim to make a positive difference. They tend to skip over jobs that seem like career dead ends or offer little to no chance for growth.
Revisit your company’s mission and values statements. Do they reflect a bigger vision, one that includes positive outcomes for customers, employees and society?
In which specific ways does your company invest in its staff? Does it offer, for example, meaningful training and career development tracks? If drivers were interested in moving from behind the wheel into a driver trainer or an admin-centred role, would they be encouraged to apply?
People want to be valued for the work they do. Investing in your team beyond pay can boost morale and retention. Satisfied team members are key to creating a thriving workplace. If you offer referral incentives, they’ll also help you find the best job candidates.
Let’s not forget the bottom line: Less turnover means a lot less money spent on recruitment.
2. Are we sharing the right message?
In today’s highly competitive labour market, you need to stand out from the crowd. Why should drivers work for your fleet instead of a competitor’s? Whatever the reasons, make them authentically shine in your job postings. If you get great reviews from drivers, why not include a driver testimonial in your call for drivers?
To reach younger people, go where they go. Include links to your job postings on popular social media channels. Make them visually appealing with interesting videos, images and/or quotes (here’s where a driver testimonial can help again). What makes driving trucks a great career choice for a young person? Whether it’s adventure or company perks or contributing something beneficial to society, highlight the appeal.
Younger people and women will want to know that your company is a welcoming workplace. Why does a diverse, inclusive team matter for your business? How can women and younger recruits shape the fleet of the future? Your job postings should speak to these questions. Connect what people do to the value it creates—describe how their work matters beyond company interests.
According to the IRU survey, 45% of fleet operators in the EU and the UK say that challenges with attracting younger people is a top reason for the shortage. Just 19% saw difficulties in attracting women as a main reason. Many sectors benefit from trainings around workplace diversity and inclusion, which can be important to creating a welcoming culture. Maybe the transport industry could benefit from such trainings too.
3. Could we think outside the box on driver hours?
Long stretches of time away from family and burnout are significant aspects of high driver turnover. There’s also the fact that many older drivers don’t want to put in extensive hours. These urgent challenges can’t be resolved with the same approaches to hiring and retention.
As reported by trucknews.com, fleets in Canada are meeting these challenges by experimenting with flexible hours and part-time schedules. One fleet has seen success with rotating shifts, where the work is shared between teams of two or three part-timers. The company’s trucks stay on the road, productivity remains high and drivers enjoy plenty of rest and time at home.
Flexibility can also widen the pool of available skilled drivers. As noted by trucknews.com, shift workers like police officers and paramedics can make suitable part-time truck drivers.
4. Can we go the extra mile on listening?
It’s not uncommon for highly experienced drivers to quit over feeling undervalued. Most professional truck drivers say they want more respect on the job, from customers as well as the public. They also want office-based colleagues to show more understanding towards difficulties faced on the road.
Digital tools like handheld devices make a driver’s job much easier, as they eliminate paperwork and admin hassles. At the same time, drivers say they appreciate being consulted on equipment. When purchasing decisions are made without their input, it can breed annoyance. The solution? Keep drivers in the loop. Communicate the benefits they stand to gain. Ask for their feedback on tools and gear.
Take a holistic view—don’t limit your feedback gathering to drivers. Survey your whole team on a regular basis. What’s working well for them? What could be better? When employees know that their needs and concerns matter, they’re more engaged and effective at work. Dispatchers who feel connected to their work are far less likely to take job stress out on drivers and vice-versa.
Follow up by sharing team survey results, along with any action steps the company intends to take. Transparency builds trust, and it ensures people that you take their engagement and satisfaction at work seriously. Your company culture prospers and your bottom line benefits.
Lastly and importantly
We know how crucial it is for fleets to hold onto qualified drivers, and this is by no means an exhaustive list of questions/suggestions. Every fleet’s situation and needs are unique.
For additional solutions, see our section on driver management. You’ll find articles on everything from supporting driver well-being to route optimisation and fleet safety.