The Great Truck Driver Shortage

Interstate Dedicated Truck

You probably got into trucking by complete accident. You started growing or brokering plants and all of a sudden, you were in the trucking business too! How did that happen? Don’t worry, you are not alone; I ask myself the same question every day.

As with all of the challenges we face each day, except for the drain on cash part, the actual physical trucks aren’t really the problem. No, the real problem is the drivers, or rather, the lack of good ones.

There is good reason for this shortage — and it is getting worse.

Demographics

People are getting older. This seems obvious, but what I mean is that the general population is getting older, and a lot of the good old drivers of the past are retiring or close to retirement. Typically these empty seats would be filled by new drivers entering the market. The problem is, nobody wants to be a driver anymore.

Studies by the American Trucking Association, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and other trade groups show that becoming a truck driver is about as alluring as a new military recruit getting posted to Afghanistan as a first deployment. It sounded good on paper, but when reality sets in, young people don’t want to be truck drivers.

Road Conditions

Our population is rising, and road congestion increases because of it. Traffic jams are commonplace (and getting worse), and the government can’t pass the Department of Transportation (DOT) bill to improve things. This transportation bill is usually one of the easiest to pass through Congress.
Even the government is happy to tell us all how much worse traffic congestion is going to get in the next few decades. It is like getting a new job in an office and having to share your space with three people on your first day, only to be told that you will have seven or eight people in your office in the coming years. You may decide to look for another line of work.

Government Intelligence

Most of you who read my columns know that I just love the government and hope they interfere with more areas of the industry. For those new to my columns, that last comment was sarcasm. I could go on and on about several of the government’s ideas, but I am going to point out only one. In fact, I am about to inform you of one of the most amazing government-suggested rules that will pass Congress in 2013.

The rule is that drivers will need to pass a medical exam and obtain a medical card in order to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or to renew one. Now, on the surface of it, this sounds like a great idea. Even I thought so. However, what the government seems to think is healthy for a driver is a lot different than reality. Several proposals say that a driver has to have a body mass index (BMI) of less than 30, which would mean the driver is no more than just overweight.

I am 5’9” and weigh 227 pounds. My BMI is 33. According to the government, I am obese, but I wear 36-inch pants, run and play soccer on the weekends and work out a couple of times a week. Trust me, I am pretty fit for a 44-year-old male. But the government says I am obese — and to get a commercial driver’s license my doctor would need to provide me with a written course of action that I must follow to get my BMI to “healthy” in a set period of time — or I won’t get my CDL renewed.

I don’t know about your drivers, but most of mine would never, and don’t want to, pass this test. They will just walk away from the industry, retire or claim disability. Even if they wanted to renew their CDL, most of my drivers (like yours) are not the type to work toward “buns of steel” and go on a low-calorie diet. Heck, they are truck drivers. They sit in one place all day, every day. Of course they are overweight.

Work Ethic

What happened to the driver that was willing to tailgate as part of the job and didn’t expect to get paid more for doing it? Where are the drivers willing to take a 15-stop load and merchandise the product? Yes, there are a few, but many drivers have been spoiled by the proliferation of regional trucking and distribution center loads where “one drop, one pick, no touch” is the mantra.

As soon as a driver has experienced this world of nirvana, our freight is the bottom of the list. A driver I interviewed the other day told me, “All I do is drive. Everything else is extra, and you need to give me the help to do it.” He was unemployed at the time, and I bet he is still unemployed.

The Competition

There is a driver shortage. We all know this. It is also getting worse quickly. The good drivers want, and get, the easiest freight, the best pay, a sign-on bonus, regional freight (long haul freight was so last decade), benefits and new equipment. And once you sit in a brand new cab, it is hard to go back. The large national and regional carriers can offer so much more than we lowly growers — and they are working hard to secure all the good drivers.

This trend won’t change in our lifetimes, so we have to manage through the issues and be creative. We need to pay well and set realistic driver expectations. Increase pay for employment longevity, which works well for us, and look at your delivery circles and decide what your drivers should and will do. Let them do those tasks to keep them happy and outsource the rest to a third-party logistics provider or trucking company.

ind out what matters to your drivers. Some want to be home every night, and others actually want to be away for a night or two each week. If you give them what they feel is important, they may stay. You can also be creative by, say, letting a driver come into the office to dispatch the other trucks every other month, so all the drivers rotate out of the truck occasionally. Or, pay driver incentives for the actions you want to promote, such as better merchandising, lower claims and damage, more empty rack returns, etc.

Letting a driver know that he or she is so much more than just a driver is empowering. Let them know they are the face of the company. I have seen drivers stay at a company and even recruit friends because they got a simple uniform and were told they were in the customer service department.
Who else can better represent you than a happy, smiling, uniformed driver that loves his driving job?

Leave a Reply

6 comments on “The Great Truck Driver Shortage

  1. Tim you are dead on target with this. We are going to outsource our trucking needs as soon as our trucks end their leases and the owned trucks finally fall apart. Drivers are impossible to find and when you find one they are impossible to please.

  2. Our trucking kills us. when it is season we cannot get enough and when it is off season i cannot keep them busy. we will be using a broker going forward. overall it is cheaper. we also got the InMotion Global TMS Tim has for managing our distribution. It is amazing for managing our loads and its totally free. i rec you give it a try if you move product.

  3. It is a little late to be talking about paying the"boy" a bit extra and a nice pat on the back to show he is appreciated? Divers are leaving trucking as fast as they can get out the door. Go to any truckstop and notice they are filled with Immigrunt drivers…legal and not so legal. The atmosphere has changed for the worse and most young people have better things to do…good luck finding a driver.

  4. If there is truely a driver shortage why is it then I am having a problem getting a job with a good company. I have 3+ years experience but because I was out of trucking for 2 years, trying to find a job in my chosen field the only driving job I can get is with a little company with junk for equipment and wants you to run illegally. youoti run

    1. The trucking rates are too low i have 2 ref. trailers have tractors sitting as i can not charge enough to hire good drivers like yourself and most of my customers do not want my drivers to run legal, or pay enough to put a team in a truck

  5. i liked driving back in the 80s and 90s but mto made be leave because of trying to find things so they can nail you for something.Yes driving was fun but the money wasn t there for me the way it should.I do miss the freedom of driving but not all the rules and mto and scales problems.Right now you also see more accidents in trucking now then back then,That makes other trucker look bad and mto come down harder. Yes also medicals cost to much .If you don t get one they drop your license to a g not a dz. Companys want you but mto and government want your money in everyway.To many rules in trucking now then back then .They are watching and checking harder .I would drive again i miss it but if the government cared without thinking about their pocket and care about drivers and stop with so many rules.Seems like trucking gets a head hee come the more rules what you can and can not do.i am know 46 have a job i go home and i have time for family’I also make the same with less hours then what i made back when i did drive.Younger people want to make money and enjoy them selves ‘They don t want someone pushing to get a load fast somewhere plus traffic and break downs.Things need to change fast.

More From Finance/Operations...
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

10 Things You Need To Know About Aquaponics

Are you curious about expanding into aquaponics? From pest control to equipment, Bob and Jesse Kilgore of Brogue Hydroponics offer 10 factors you need to consider.

Read More
Aquaponics At Brogue Hydroponics

March 30, 2015

Aquaponics Is Making A Splash At Brogue Hydroponics

The owners of Brogue Hydroponics explain why they expanded into aquaponics, and how the shift has helped them uncover a new market opportunity.

Read More
Hendriks-Half-Open-Roof_GGS

March 26, 2015

10 Greenhouse Products For First-Rate Growing Environments

From coverings to fork-lifts, greenhouse suppliers offer a variety of products to make growing easier. Check out the slideshow to learn more about these, plus several other products that can offer you value, versatility and durability.

Read More
Latest Stories
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More
american-hort-logo

February 17, 2015

AmericanHort Announces New Board Members

AmericanHort recently announced the election of new officers and members to the board of directors. Each will assume their positions on the board during Cultivate’15, July 11 to 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
All American Selections

February 17, 2015

All-America Selections Elects New Officers, Names New J…

While meeting during the Flower and Vegetable Seed Conference in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections elected new officers for a two-year term. Read on to learn about the new officers, as well as all of the new judges that were added in 2014.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower.com on your desktop, on your phone, on your tablet

February 11, 2015

GreenhouseGrower.com Relaunches With Responsive Design …

Greenhouse Grower magazine, the nation’s leader in profits, production and education for greenhouse growers, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, GreenhouseGrower.com. The new design is the product of direct user feedback and GreenhouseGrower.com analytics, and includes responsive design for ease of mobile use.

Read More
Andy Higgins

February 3, 2015

MasterTag Names Andy Higgins As Its New President

Former CEO and president of Ecke Ranch, Andy Higgins, joins MasterTag as its new president. He brings more than two decades of industry experience to the position.

Read More
Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Lead Role

January 28, 2015

Syngenta Bioline Hires Ronald Valentin For Technical Le…

Ronald Valentin has been appointed technical lead for Syngenta Bioline, effective January 2015. He will be responsible for technical support of Bioline biological control agents and will be instrumental in helping growers develop integrated pest management (IPM) solutions.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Give Equal Time To The Number Crunchers

Before investing in a new business opportunity, check in with the financial gurus of your organization to make certain you have the cash flow to back up your efforts.

Read More
Plant Introductions, Inc. partners Mark Griffith, Dr. Michael Dirr and Jeff Beasley and Bailey Nurseries President Terri McEnaney.

January 20, 2015

Bailey Nurseries’ Purchase Of Plant Introductions Inc. …

When Bailey Nurseries purchased its long-time breeding partner, Plant Introductions, Inc. (PII), in early January 2015, it freed the PII team to concentrate on what they do best: develop new plants. Bailey Nurseries will take on the business management side of the partnership, but otherwise the relationship it has enjoyed with PII for years will be largely unchanged.

Read More
Plant Introductions, Inc. partners Mark Griffith, Dr. Michael Dirr and Jeff Beasley and Bailey Nurseries President Terri McEnaney.

January 13, 2015

Bailey Nurseries Acquires Plant Introductions

Bailey Nurseries has acquired Plant Introductions, Inc. (PII), effective January 1, 2015. PII has developed numerous innovative new varieties that have been marketed worldwide, many introduced by Bailey Nurseries.

Read More

January 7, 2015

How Inflation Affects Your Business And Why You Can’t I…

Awareness of the true increase in costs after inflation is a necessary part of good financial management for greenhouse operations.

Read More

December 4, 2014

New Developments In Shipping/Logistics Software

Improved shipping and logistics software from Picas Software and MapMechanics makes it easier for growers to plan loads efficiently and automate day-to-day distribution planning.

Read More