Endangered species are defined as “a species of animal or plant that is seriously at risk of extinction.” Could that include the difficult-to-find professional truck driver? It would seem so. Where in the world has the American trucker gone, and why have they left? It would be a simple solution if there was one answer to this question, but of course there are a lot of different issues to examine.
Has trucking kept pace with other industries?
Thirty years ago, all you needed to be a “trucker” was a ride and an opportunity. The qualifications and technology knowledge that is needed to be a professional driver today far exceeds what anyone could have possibly expected thirty years ago. Professional drivers are (or at least should be) considered skilled laborers. Payscale.com lists the average annual salary of a professional plumber at $45,000 for a beginner. The U.S. Labor Department pegs the median annual salary for all truck drivers at around $40,000. Plumbers are home every night. See a problem? Increased wages may not be the sole answer and isn’t always feasible, but it sure would go a long way in attracting new individuals to the industry.
Where are new drivers coming from?
Competition for attracting new drivers to the industry is at an all-time high and trucking has to compete with other skilled labor pools, unskilled labor pools, secondary education, and trade schools to find the next generation of drivers to replace an aging workforce.
Would a structured career progression plan make trucking a more prestigious option for twenty-somethings looking for a career? What if you could show someone their future? Would that entice today’s youth to look at trucking as an option? Your job has a “carrot-on-a-stick” progression with different titles, different compensation raises, and different benefits. Why wouldn’t professional drivers be attracted to the same structure?
Should trucking companies start negotiating wages?
When you left your last job for your current job were you able to negotiate a wage, or at least state your case for an increase of what you were offered? Of course you were…it’s a part of the process in every job search in America. Except for truck drivers. So, you’re a Driver with 9 years of experience with zero accidents, zero late deliveries, zero moving violations and exceptional reviews from previous employers? You make 46¢ per mile just like the guy who came here with 6 years of mediocre driving history. How silly is that?
What would be wrong with an actual negotiation with a professional driver to agree on a wage that works for both the driver and the trucking company? Sure, there must be some limits, but would the 9-year driver described above be worth three to four more cents per mile to your company to know you never had to worry about a turned down load, late delivery, or poor customer service? It’s something to think about.
Stop talking and start acting.
We design and promote ads for a lot of different trucking companies at CDLjobs.com, and the process always starts with a question: “What separates you from every other trucking company looking for drivers” The answer is almost always the same…. “We treat drivers like family.” Remember what lengths you go to in order to get away from family during the holidays? Me too. Treating people like “family” isn’t the answer. We need to try something else to move the needle. Until we do, we’ll always be left wondering; where did all the truckers go?