Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Trucker shortage forces companies to get creative in hiring

The shortage of long-haul truck drivers is prompting trucking companies to get creative in order to attract and keep more workers. The need is critical, since trucks move almost all items Americans purchase, and the shortage is driving up shipping rates for consumers, Frank Morris reports for NPR. That can be especially true in rural areas.

Truckers have been in shortage for about 25 years, but a recent increase in demand for freight, high turnover rates, and baby boomer retirements have made the problem more acute in the past few years. "The American Trucking Associations figures companies need about 60,000 drivers, a number that could top 100,000 in just a few years," Morris reports.

Trucking companies are employing a variety of tactics to hire and keep more drivers, such as increasing pay, making the job easier, and recruiting drivers who don't traditionally go for the job.

Companies have increased driver salaries by almost 10 percent on average, making the typical pay as much as $60,000. Drivers also demand health insurance, paid time off, and a retirement fund. Many companies are going the extra mile, offering free online college tuition for drivers or bonuses for drivers who sign on, stay put, or refer friends. But even with the pay increase, drivers make less now than in the 1980s when incomes are adjusted for inflation, Morris reports.

Trucking companies are also cracking down on shipping facilities that keep drivers tied up for hours unloading or waiting to unload freight. That cuts into drivers' pay, since most truckers are paid by the mile instead of by the hour, Morris reports.

Companies are also trying to add numbers by recruiting people who don't usually go for trucking jobs, such as women, minorities, and LGBTQ drivers. Only 8 percent of long-haul truck drivers are women, but that is double what it was a dozen years ago. Some might hesitate to take a trucking job because of safety issues inherent in being a solo female driver obliged to take food and bathroom breaks at truck stops every night. Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women in Trucking, told Morris her organization is working with truck stops to improve lighting and other safety measures.

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