Truck Driver Shortage Drives up On-line Recruiting

by Jana Ritter - Published: 11/07/2013

A shortage of qualified truck drivers across the U.S. is causing some companies to step up recruiting practices as well as refocus their attention on regional hauls.

Truck keyboard

Mark Barnes, co-owner of Spokane-based Fast Way Freight Inc., says companies that send drivers on regional or local hauls can have better luck hiring and retaining drivers; however, regional companies are experiencing some shortage as well. Regional and local drivers, he says, have the advantage of being home every night, whereas long-haul drivers might be gone for two or three weeks at a time.

Jeff Benesch, vice president of personnel for Cheney-based Trans-System Inc. says, "The long haul schedule is so irregular, it makes it tough. But it's a pivotal part of the trucking industry." Trans-System, which operates System Transport Inc., TWT Refrigeration Service, and James J. Williams Bulk Transport, has outlets around the country and runs both long and regional hauls, Benesch says.

As a company, Benesch says, Trans-System has to take a look at the shortage and come up with a plan to meet its growth goals. "We spend a significant amount of money on advertising to attract drivers, both experienced and new," he says. Benesch says the company uses different media to recruit drivers, including newspaper ads and social media. Social media, he says, is the company's No. 1 source for recruiting.

Barnes says Fast Way runs ads to recruit drivers as well, but also relies heavily on word-of-mouth. Because it offers drivers a more regular schedule, the company has slightly more success recruiting, he says. IEDS is also stepping up recruiting practices to attract drivers, say Ewers and company human resources coordinator Tary Lambert. “We’re casting our net further and longer to get qualified applicants," says Ewers. "We're advertising longer in different publications. We also keep our market wage and benefits up to date." Lambert says the company also has experienced a shift in taking recruiting practices online, something she says many companies in the industry are doing.

A variety of factors are contributing to the shortage, say Benesch and Barnes. Barnes says that younger people aren't as interested in being career drivers, and Benesch says that a large number of experienced drivers are now nearing retirement age.

Another problem, Benesch says, is the federal program known as Compliance Safety Accountability, which tracks and directly monitors individual drivers, not just the trucking companies. If a driver has any problems or infractions, it goes on that person's CSA record permanently. He also says that Trans-System has seen a 3 to 5 percent drop in productivity due to new federal regulations limiting the number of service hours a driver can log between rest breaks or without days off. "Long-haul drivers get paid by the mile," Benesch says. "When you have productivity loss, it equates to drivers' paychecks."

The American Trucking Association has said that to keep up with demand, an average of 96,000 drivers need to be hired nationally every year. If demand continues to increase, that number could grow to as many as 240,000 drivers annually by the 2022, the association says. For the trucking industry as a whole, Benesch says, the consequences of the driver shortage could result in longer shipping time, and rising wages.