By Joseph Evangelist
Executive Vice President, Transervice
As originally appeared in FleetOwner Magazine’s IdeaXchange
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a good time to reflect on your operations. Ask yourself how you are positioned for the New Year given what you anticipate it might be like.
Let’s look at some of the issues we are likely to face in 2021.
The first is the driver shortage. It is not going to get any better, and in fact, it may get worse. During the stay-in-place mandates in many states, driver training programs were closed which meant we were not filling the pipeline with potential new drivers. Then we saw a number of drivers retire in part because of the new Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse. On top of that, a number of drivers — more than 30,100 by the latest count — are in “prohibited status” because of a drug or alcohol violation.
Mirroring the driver shortage is the technician shortage. The shortage of qualified truck technicians is not expected to improve any time soon either. A large number, perhaps 40% to 50% of technicians who are active today, will be retired by 2030. The American Trucking Associations says trucking will need 200,000 technicians over the next 10 years to meet current demand. Unfortunately, we are only producing about 3,500 diesel techs a year.
I would be remiss if I did not talk about the trucks themselves. Today’s commercial vehicles are technological wonders that continue to get more complex every year as well as getting more expensive. Electronics, emissions control devices, advanced driver assistance systems are just some of the changes we are seeing in trucks. Those changes will not stop, and at the same time we are seeing significant advancements in alternative fueled vehicles like battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell trucks.
With the continual advancements to the equipment itself, and the tools to maintain and repair the equipment and keep technicians properly trained, this area is going to become increasingly important…and expensive. We have also seen dramatic volitivity in the insurance markets. It obviously begs the question: Is this part of your core competency? Of these resources, which can be better allocated to other parts of your business?
Given all these forces at work, now is a good time to evaluate whether it makes sense to outsource the driver workforce, your maintenance — or even other parts of your operation — to a third party. They can take the risk and responsibility from you and make sure your trucks are properly maintained according to your specifications, that your trucks are operating at their maximum efficiency and that you are getting the lowest total cost of ownership.
It’s something to think about.