By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
For much of the last decade, we have been talking about the driver shortage in the trucking industry. In fact, the American Trucking Associations believed that we were in need of an additional 60,000 drivers with predictions for even higher numbers later in the decade.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that, at least temporarily, as demand for goods has lessened except in a few key areas of essential services like food, pharma, medical supplies, groceries, etc. In. In the near-term, the driver shortage may have abated; however, this situation will be short-lived as the economy slowly begins to return to more normal activity levels. This won’t be immediate, but there will be a slow and steady recovery over the next year.
You could, like some fleets undoubtedly will, wait until the need for drivers — and for that matter technicians — is more evident to try to fill the need. By then, you could be behind the curve. Then you will be faced with the same issues we had pre-COVID-19: lowering standards to get people behind the wheel or turning the wrench. Track and trend the daily and weekly activity with all of your customers.
Perhaps a more prudent strategy would be to take advantage of the fact that there are so many good, highly qualified people out of work — many of them with trucking industry experience.
As you trend the need, now might be a great time to start filling the ranks offering good-paying jobs to those that may have been displaced by COVID-19. I believe we will only have a relatively short period of time, 12 to 18 months, to take advantage of this opportunity.
Starting to fill the pipeline now makes good sense for your business, your customers and the unemployed. Trucking keeps the economy moving, and it won’t be too long before we will be singing the “driver shortage blues” unless we start making some moves today.
Of course, I know that some of the drivers who are now looking for work may be called back by their former employers once the economy begins its recovery. But no hire comes with a guarantee that the person will stay with your organization. We all run the risk of hiring someone who then leaves us for more familiar surroundings or what they perceive to be greener pastures. That risk always exists.
Being vigilant in your screening process can mitigate some of that risk, especially in light of the fact that many economists are predicting a slow ramp-up of the economy, which means many drivers will not be called back in the short-term.
The COVID-19 pandemic has given us an opportunity to bring some qualified skilled drivers and technicians into our ranks. I think it is a risk worth taking.