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In every survey where fleet managers are asked about their biggest challenges, the issue of driver recruiting and retention is near the top.
In fact, in the American Transportation Research Institute’s 2021 Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry report, the driver shortage was at the top of the list. Last year was the fifth year in a row that it held the number on spot. Coming in at number two was driver retention.
Finding and retaining drivers is a big issue for both for-hire and private fleets, but private fleets have an added burden because trucking is not their main business, and drivers are likely a relatively small subset of employees they need to hire, manage and retain.
Managing a fleet today is challenging. Fleet managers are dealing with a lot of issues from a logistics standpoint that require their attention. Private fleets facing issues in their day-to-day operations need to ask themselves if it makes sense to devote a great deal of management’s time to something that is not a core competency.
While many fleets outsource maintenance, outsourcing the entire fleet — including personnel — is probably not something they may have considered.
The most obvious reason to outsource a fleet is that it eliminates the headaches associated with finding drivers at a time when there is a significant shortage of them. But outsourcing also shifts the burden of other driver-related things. When you let someone else manage your drivers, they also take over the responsibility of training – an ongoing responsibility, as drivers need to be updated on how to operate new technology features on trucks as well as being refreshed on a regular basis on safe driving practices.
There is also the responsibility of making sure drivers are in compliance with the myriad federal and state regulations to which they are subjected. Turning drivers over to someone else shifts the responsibility for things like drug testing and return to work protocols following an injury away from the private fleet, leaving it free to concentrate on what it does best – whether that is making furniture or widgets. The company that is now managing the drivers is also responsible for maintaining all the paperwork required by the DOT and making it available to inspectors whenever they ask for it.
Employing drivers comes with significant risk and exposure related to insurance. When a fleet allows someone else to manage its drivers, it shifts that risk and exposure. The company providing drivers can develop a dedicated safety program and standardize it across the entire fleet to ensure compliance while minimizing risk.
Companies that specialize in managing drivers are also better able to provide compensation package expertise to ensure drivers are being paid proper wages and are getting a competitive package specific to drivers’ needs in this highly competitive market
Often at the private fleet, drivers only represent a small percentage of the total number of employees, yet they can’t necessarily be managed the same way other workers within the organization are. Even though they are a small subset of total employment, driver-related issues can end up requiring a disproportionate amount of management time, energy and effort.
Fleet transportation companies that specialize in labor management can provide the human resources capabilities needed to find drivers, develop their skills, retain them and assume responsibility for seeing that drivers are in compliance with all the regulatory requirements.
Given that it seems unlikely that the driver shortage is going to go away anytime soon — the American Trucking Associations says the driver shortage could grow to 160,000 by 2028 — now might be a good time for private fleets to consider getting out of the driver management business and concentrate on their core business and let the professionals handle all things related to drivers including finding them.
David Csontos is senior vice president of logistics at Transervice. Csontos has experience in global logistics including holding positions at Thermo Fisher Scientific and UPS. He is well versed on issues relating to dedicated contract carriage, transportation management, and driver issues. He holds a BS in business logistics from Penn State University.