If you’ve been shopping at a supermarket lately, you’ll notice all the shelves are bare. There is no set timetable for the delivery of the new car I drove so enthusiastically months ago. Companies lose business, because they do not receive stock of the goods and ingredients needed to make their products.
These issues are a symbol of supply chain disruption. President Joe Biden has pressured ports to work around the clock to unload containers, get them off the docks, and send them to the public. It helped somewhat.
There is a bigger problem that has not been addressed. We can receive all goods from China and all over the world, but if there are not enough truck drivers to deliver it to stores, we will continue to see empty shelves for a long time.
Truck drivers transport about 71% of the products of the American economy across the country. One of the biggest challenges that no one seems to want to talk about is that there is a massive shortage of truck drivers. The industry has lost 6% of its workers since the pandemic began and is struggling to find employment. The industry needs at least 80,000 new truck drivers, says US Xpress, one of the largest truckload carriers in the country. American truck associations report that the sector is heading for a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2030, and a need for 1 million new drivers over the next 10 years.
Even before the pandemic, long-distance driver turnover averaged 94% per year. With the additional challenges posed by the virus outbreak, some companies are seeing attrition of up to 150%. For US Xpress, the fifth largest asset-based trucking company in North America, a new approach to hiring was necessary to attract candidates.
There are several reasons for this to happen. The trend of great resignations and waves of Covid-19, delta and omicron have left a large number of truck drivers out of the profession. Although a truck driver can earn up to about $100,000 annually, it is a stressful way to make a living. You are on the road most of your life. If you have a family, you won’t see them for months at a time. Stops at small rest stops, local restaurants and low-quality motels make the driver vulnerable to contracting Covid-19. Next, the truck driver got stuck in a small town in the middle of the country, away from family and friends to help take care of them, which wasn’t in the initial job description. Many truck drivers also bear the burden of gas, insurance, and maintenance costs, which reduces their paycheck.
Since the job market provides about 11 million jobs, many truck drivers have decided to leave the industry and switch to something new. They have gone to construction, as the real estate market is hot, manufacturing, warehousing and fulfillment centers or they have chosen a new trade.
The problem in the US isn’t just empty shelves, in large part due to a shortage of experienced truck drivers, and with fewer goods, prices are rising. We have seen the highest and fastest growth of inflation in decades. At this point we had all looked at the bill for the meal and were shocked by the prices. If nothing is done about increasing the number of truck drivers, no matter how much stuff is imported, it will not be delivered and prices and inflation will continue to rise unabated.
US Xpress, a major trucking company, is working on a solution. It is updating its hiring practices, including leveraging conversational AI technology to hire during a driver shortage. She has also opened her own recruiting team to conduct field calls to potential truck drivers around the clock.
In such a competitive industry, “You have to find ways to think differently,” said Jacob Kramer, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at US Xpress. “First of all, everything was challenged. The entire candidate journey was evaluated. We applied our highly talented employees and implemented technology that automates and improves every touch point. We also energized partners who shared our vision and goals.”
The company has been a leader in two proprietary areas of technology. “One uses advertising data points to get the right message in front of the right driver at the right time. The other creates customized, trackable landing pages for every ad and message with near-instant load time, even when cellular service is slow.”
This plan also includes reaching out to people underrepresented in trucking, including the Hispanic and military communities. The company has created a holistic approach to the language that includes “not just Spanish ads, but Spanish language apps, Spanish-speaking recruiters and support staff – a 360-degree approach to making Hispanic drivers feel welcome and needed.”
Trucking giant is making progress. The company recently broke four records for experienced hires, exceeding 40% in Q4 2020 compared to Q4 21, in addition to smashing annual results for such hires, due to better candidate recruitment technology and practices.
Despite the success, the industry as a whole has a problem. We all want experienced drivers for obvious security reasons. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process of teaching someone from scratch how to drive 18 wheels through treacherous ice, snow, and inclement weather.
In Canada, the government has partnered with business to help train new truck drivers. The Biden administration would benefit by considering this type of relationship to build a pipeline of truck drivers in the future. A large amount of money has been earmarked for the trucking industry to help alleviate these problems in Biden’s infrastructure program, but it has not passed, until this time.
Some would say, we should turn to autonomous trucks as an alternative. Perhaps in five to ten years, most Americans will be horrified when they see a terribly large truck drive off the highway with no human behind the wheel. Actions must be taken soon; Otherwise, high prices and inflation will continue to eat up our pocketbooks.
Amanda Thompson, chief human resources officer at US Express, remains optimistic. She believes that employment growth is achievable if you are willing to question the status quo and truly innovate your approach. Listen to what your target audience wants and provide it. Listen to what your data is telling you and act on it – even if you have to devise the technologies to do so. Identify audiences you traditionally ignore and make a concerted effort to connect with them.