American trucking companies are responsible for 71% of all the freight moved in the US. Trucking.org reports there were upwards of 50,000 unfilled jobs in the industry in 2017 alone. Small Business Trends spoke with Brian Fielkow, CEO of Jetco Delivery, about what he sees as the solutions to this critical persistent gap.
“The trucking industry is marked by an average driver turnover rate of 100% every year,” Fielkow says. “It’s very hard to build a service model and culture with those types of numbers.”
Truck Driver Shortage Solutions
Change Payment Structure for Drivers
He goes on to say that drivers as a group are underpaid and their wages haven’t kept up with the usual benchmarks like cost of living. There are other inconsistencies like the fact some drivers are paid by the mile — great if you’re driving through Montana but not so much when you’re a driver delivering loads in NYC, Chicago or Houston where you cant wrack the miles up.
Fielkow summed up the issues facing this all-important industry this way.
“What we need to do is attack the old compensation models,” he says suggesting that implementing minimums and/or providing an hourly wage could stop the driver drain.
Seek Ways to Deal With Fluctuating Demand
“You can still pay drivers on variable factors like per mile or percentage of the load, but you need to have minimums in place so drivers know they’re going to take home at least a certain amount every week.”
While Fielkow stresses employers need to implement these changes, he concedes it can be an uphill battle in an industry where demand fluctuates often.
Have Candid Conversations with Customers
“Everything involves candid conversations with your customers because you can’t change driver’s compensation without changing rates,” he says adding another part of the problem lies in the fact the industry is so fragmented.
Everything leads down the same road to what Fielkow calls a driver capacity issue. If the industry doesn’t solve this, goods won’t get to market.
Improve the Work Culture
Jetco Delivery has put Fielkow’s words into action. They’ve raised wages and had the necessary conversations with clients. While money is an important factor across the board, Fielkow knows it’s not everything. That’s why his company has also implemented other changes designed to foster long term relationships with truckers by fostering a more engaging environment for them.
He calls the firms that want to make these changes “Shippers of Choice.” To be one of these innovators, he’s implemented some other changes to Jetco other companies would do well to emulate. These center around the work culture provided.
Improve Onboarding of New Hires
A breakfast meeting with new hires is one of the ways Jetco strives to turn the dial up on a healthy workplace. It gives new drivers a chance to check in with management after a few months on the job.
There are other incentives like a Driver’s Committee and a focus on understanding the differences between integration and orientation. However, Fielkow says one of the most important benefits his company offers is the least structured.
“The most important aspect is to make sure that you’re listening to your people, that managers do things like making sure to have that cup of coffee before someone leaves for the day,” he says.
Image: Jetco Delivery