For-hire fleets struggle to find drivers; only half plan pay hikes
ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said Tuesday that almost 75 percent of carriers surveyed recently reported having more difficulty finding qualified drivers than they did one year ago. (The Trucker: CLIFF ABBOTT)
The Trucker News Services
ORLANDO, Fla. — For-hire fleets are struggling to find qualified drivers, but only about half of them are planning across the board pay increases, the chief economist of the American Trucking Associations said here Tuesday.
It’s all part of the worsening driver shortage, Bob Costello said during a panel discussion entitled “All About the Driver.”
“While the driver shortage is generally confined to only certain segments of the trucking industry it is having real impacts in how fleets recruit and retain their drivers,” Costello said.
Costello was joined on the panel by Jeff Flackler, vice president of transportation, Wal-Mart Stores Inc.; Derek Leathers, president and COO of Werner Enterprises; and Steve Gordon, COO of Gordon Trucking Inc. for a panel discussion on driver issues moderated by Dave Osiecki, ATA senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs.
“Fleets in all segments of trucking have told us they are having a more difficult time finding qualified drivers than they were a year ago,” Costello said. “As a result, more fleets are considering hiring drivers straight out of driver training programs and nearly three-quarters of those we surveyed plan to increase pay or have already done so.”
The information Costello presented during the discussion came from a survey ATA conducted in preparation for the panel discussion.
Costello said the survey revealed that in the for-hire segment, 100 percent of medium-size truckload carriers and intermodal carriers were struggling to find qualified drivers and 54.3 percent of the private fleets were having the same problem.
Collectively across all segments, 81.5 percent of carriers reported the problem.
And, the problem has only worsened during the past year.
Of large TL carriers, 88.9 percent said it was more difficult to find qualified drivers now than it was one year ago, and 54.8 percent of the short-haul TLs reported having the problem.
Collectively across all modes 72.8 percent said they were having more problems finding qualified drivers than a year ago.
The problem lessens with the need to find qualified owner-operators.
Only 22 percent of all carriers reported problems finding independent contractors.
Reefer companies had the worst problem at 45 percent with short haul TLs on the bottom end at 7 percent.
ATA believes the industry needs to find an average of roughly 96,000 new drivers annually to keep pace with demand. If freight demand grows as projected, the driver shortage could balloon to nearly 240,000 drivers by 2022.
As for pay increases, 91 percent of long haul TLs plan to increase driver pay this year. The average across all modes was 71.9 percent.
However, the carriers said not all the increases would come from across-the-board raises.
Small TLs were the most likely carriers to increase pay across the board (about 70 percent) with medium and large TLs both at 50 percent.
The remainder of the increases would come through incentive pay.
Other key outcomes of the survey included:
• 25.9 percent of all carriers surveyed do not hire carriers with no experience with large TLs topping the modes at 77.8 percent. Private fleets were the most likely mode to hire drivers with no experience.
• However, 38.5 percent of the carriers who don’t presently hire drivers with no experience were seriously considering it because of the driver shortage.
• 69.4 percent of the fleets said they could grow their fleets if drivers were available with the key word being could rather than would.
• 43.9 percent of carriers said the new Hours of Service rule had impacted their ability to find/keep qualified drivers.
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