In April of 2021, the number of workers who quit their job in a single month broke an all-time U.S. record. Then, it broke again in July and August, leading economists to label it the “Great Resignation.” As a result, job openings are now at an all-time high, and many are going unfilled for months. Meanwhile, the global supply chain is experiencing an abnormal number of bottlenecks. Businesses everywhere, including the trucking industry, are operating with fewer employees due to the labor shortage. It’s impacting far more than most people realize, from order fulfillment to a lack of goods.
What’s Causing the Labor Shortage?
Businesses point to various factors behind the shortage of job applicants: health concerns, child-care constraints, generous unemployment benefits, and desire for higher wages. In the trucking industry, the COVID-19 pandemic is a driving factor for the worker shortage. The Minnesota Trucking Association estimates the country has a shortage of 60,000 drivers due to longtime recruitment issues, early retirement, and COVID-canceled driving-school classes. However, when outsourcing and automation have eroded opportunities for blue-collar workers, factors like demographics and the truck driver lifestyle continue to plague recruitment.
Driving a truck can be highly demanding with both physical and mental health consequences. The trucking industry is notorious for clocking in extremely long hours, with long-haul truck drivers averaging 60-70 hours per week or more. It’s hard to attract people with families to a job where you return home only a few times a month. Instead, BR Williams prioritizes their driver’s time with their family. “We only send out our over-the-road (OTR) fleet for an average of three days and get them back home,” said Misty Skinner, Vice President of Marketing.
With many truck drivers nearing the retirement age in the next decade and some even retiring early during the pandemic, the truck driver shortage may only worsen. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average age of American truck drivers is 48. However, an increase of women in trucking and transportation could fill in the gaps. Women make up 47% of the labor force in the U.S., but they account for only 6% of commercial truck drivers.
What Are the Effects of the Labor Shortage?
Global supply chains are breaking down due to multiple bottlenecks, and the shortage of workers isn’t helping. Higher demand plus limited supply is sending prices spiraling. It’s delaying transport and translating to higher costs for everyone. Every stage of the supply chain is breaking down in its unique way to the detriment of companies everywhere.
Focus on Retaining Truck Drivers Over Recruitment
Trucking is one of the largest occupations in America, with nearly 2 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators reports the state government issues more than 450,000 new commercial driver’s licenses every year, many entering the long-haul trucking industry. With so many new drivers every year, how can there be a shortage?
The problem may point to retention rather than shortage. The American Trucking Association (ATA) notes the average annual turnover rate for long-haul truck drivers at big trucking companies has been over 90% for decades.
“While the driver shortage was challenging, BR Williams fared better than most carriers because of the way we treat our drivers. We genuinely care about them. We know their name, we know about their families, we concern ourselves with their struggles,” said TK Bardwell, Vice President of Logistics and former truck driver for BR Williams
For some businesses like BR Williams, the pandemic created an opportunity to shift their focus to retention rather than recruitment, focusing on why drivers stay with their company.
“It is no secret that the truck driver shortage has majorly impacted the transportation industry for years, but especially over the past 18 months. Between unemployment pay and the risk of contracting COVID-19, it does not come as a surprise that many drivers have chosen to stay home, some even switching career paths altogether. This shortage has created a domino effect down the whole supply chain and has been detrimental to so many companies. Although we have also felt the effects of this nationwide shortage, BR Williams has been very fortunate during this time that our recruiting and retention have remained solid. The driver shortage has encouraged us to focus more effort on actually retaining our drivers, and this has allowed us to take a deeper look into what exactly it is that causes our drivers to stay with us. We have devoted a large amount of time and effort into getting feedback from our drivers and putting programs into place to ensure we keep our drivers happy and feeling as appreciated as possible so that they continue to choose BR Williams to call home.”Ashley Huter – BR Williams’ Driver Recruiter
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About BR Williams Trucking & Logistics
BR Williams, a family-owned Trucking, Warehousing, Fulfillment & Logistics Company has been serving customers since 1958. We specialize in removing the supply chain frustrations our customers have by developing custom-made solutions. We offer nationwide transportation services through our fleet and logistics division. Our multiple fulfillment and distribution warehouses in Alabama span over 1.7 million square feet. Our core values are HONESTY, INTEGRITY, SERVICE. We still serve our first customer that was established in 1958.