Moving forward: the critical need to support truck drivers

‘Disruption’ may have been the word of the year 2020. The coronavirus and the economy have had an impact on lives, leaving no industry untouched. When the country’s GDP bottomed out in the second quarter of 2020, it essentially wiped out any economic gains generated in the previous five years.

While the trucking industry has been hit by logistics and supply chain issues and staff shortages last year, many analysts have predicted a strong recovery. Since the middle of last year, freight demand has continued to gain momentum. However, trucking companies still face several challenges, the most important of which is their long-standing struggle to recruit, train and retain enough professional drivers to meet demand.

The economy is recovering, but the driver shortage persists

According to the latest ATA driver turnover survey, rates:

-Drop to 87% in the first quarter of 2021, compared to 90% in 2020 for the large full-load carriers (annual turnover of $ 30M +).

-Has increased from 69% to 72% for small full-load carriers.

-Has increased from 13% to 18% in the LTL sector.

American Transportation Association (ATA) Chief Economist Bob Costello said: “While the driver shortage temporarily eased in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, continued tension in the driver market remains. an operational challenge for hauliers and they should expect it to continue into 2021 and beyond.

Even though the market is recovering, the most recent ATA investigation revealed that carriers were reluctant to expand their fleets. Fleet size decreased by 6% for large carriers, 4.9% for small carriers and 0.9% for LTL.

In the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry 2020 report, respondents recommended several strategies to help strengthen the trucking and fleet industry. One strategy includes the repeal or reform of inefficient and burdensome regulations that negatively impact the trucking industry. For example, most industry members have favored adaptations to the Hours of Service (HOS) rule.

In 2020, top HOS strategist pleaded for additional flexibility in the berth arrangement, allowing for a 7-3 hour split. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) continued to explore the advisability of changing the HOS rules for highly automated trucks, while the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) conducts research to “improve understanding of human factors and address specific areas such as driver preparation. . “

DRIVE-Safe Act

This bipartisan legislation could help close the looming driver shortage, which is expected to reach 160,000 or more by 2028. Continued growth in freight demand combined with early retirements could force the industry to hire 1.1 million drivers over the next 10 years – or nearly 110,000 drivers each year.

The DRIVE-Safe law introduces a rigorous two-step learning program. It would allow young drivers (between 18 and 20 years old) to apply and be trained in truck driving. Applicants complete at least 400 additional hours of training and an experienced driver will accompany apprentices on the road. These drivers in training would be required to drive trucks equipped with the latest transportation management software and safety technologies such as:

-Active braking collision mitigation systems.

-Front facing event recording cameras.

– Speed ​​limiters set to 65 MPH or less.

-Automatic or automatic manual gearboxes.

Respond to the request

The trucking industry continues to work to meet demand. 2020 saw a 36% increase over 2019 in the number of entities (nearly 58,000) to which the FMCSA has granted carrier authorization. But the pandemic has extended the time it takes to train and fire new drivers. An additional 54,000 drivers have become ineligible since the launch of the new FMCSA drug and alcohol clearinghouse last year.

One solution to attracting and retaining more drivers is to increase wages, which have increased significantly recently. Fleets of all sizes now offer sliding pay raises and even signing bonuses of $ 10,000 or more. Ironically, wage increases can contribute to the driver shortage, as some drivers who earn more have chosen to drive fewer hours.

While long-haul trucking jobs have high turnover rates – a measure many see as the reason for the driver shortage – this trend has not been caused by high employee dissatisfaction, but rather by the drivers themselves. -same that bounce between companies.

Attract (and retain) drivers

Trucking companies and fleets have turned to a variety of strategies to tackle the driver shortage, including increased wages and sign-up bonuses. But it’s not just higher wages. Drivers want more control over their workdays and their environment. A tactic to help drivers achieve the balance they want? Workflow and route optimization software.

The adoption of technology has resulted in efficiencies within the trucking industry as more and more trucking companies embrace digital transformation. It’s not just about moving office staff from in-person to remote work or using video conferencing to communicate. Fleets use data analytics to improve utilization. Contactless payment systems and electronic bills of lading have reduced points of contact and friction.

Trucking software helps fleets more efficiently track drivers, manage dispatch records, monitor Interstate Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) reports, optimize driver routes, pay bills, reduce fuel costs, track vehicle maintenance records and more.

Fleet management platforms also help drivers work smarter, not harder. Cloud-based software and accessible data allow fleet managers to analyze information to optimize driver workflow. ELD mobile and workflow solutions enable drivers to manage work processes and routes more efficiently, preparing them for success by removing the guesswork of compliance and reducing frustration, uncertainty and inaccuracy.

Truck drivers are essential and essential workers in maintaining a functioning economy. The pandemic has highlighted not only their importance, but also the importance of the transport and supply chain industries. As the pandemic recedes, the world rebalances and the economy continues to recover, fleets and trucking companies will continue to ship and move goods coast to coast.

Implementing digital transformation tools, such as driver workflows and other fleet management software, will prove to be another useful tactic to attract and retain drivers, keep drivers safe, and empower drivers to simplify their daily workload and operate more productively, while achieving high performance standards.

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Avi Geller is the founder and CEO of Maven Machines. Since 2014, Avi has led Maven’s growth as an IoT platform serving the transportation industry through real-time mobile cloud enterprise software. Avi is originally from Palo Alto, Calif., But founded Maven in Pittsburgh, Pa., Due to the city’s impressive resources for innovation and technology. Prior to founding Maven, he held international positions at SAP and helped grow several successful software companies and startups. Avi also holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Northwestern University.

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