Companies introduce wet pet food packaging featuring chemically recycled plastic

Organizations within the recycling and waste management industries continue to face significant challenges in retaining and hiring drivers for their transportation fleets at a particularly precarious time, as drivers more than ever need to continue moving the shipment of materials to satisfy customers.

In a given market, petroleum and liquid petroleum tankers face particularly difficult functional challenges in finding drivers. According to National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC), which represents the tank truck industry before Congress and regulatory agencies, companies serving these markets have seen a nearly 42 percent decline in eligible applicants for drivers since 2019.

NTTC has also estimated that between 20 and 25 percent of all tanker trucks are currently not in use due to a shortage of qualified drivers.

Driver turnover rates are still inflated

While it would be easy to point to the COVID-19 pandemic as the culprit, the fact remains that this has been a growing problem for several years.

For the fourth year in a row, driver shortages remain the truck industry’s primary concern in its comprehensive list of challenges and concerns, according to the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) 2020 report, “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry.”

Compensation programs are discussed regularly to attract new drivers and retain existing drivers. However, fleets based on recycling and waste management are beginning to implement other strategies for hiring and retaining drivers.

Setting up new drivers can erode the bottom line

Usually, the average cost of setting up a new driver can exceed $10,000 for many companies. Thus, organizations with fleets have an ongoing drive to retain their existing drivers to avoid paying exorbitant expenses on board. What they realize now is that having drivers operate new trucks can improve their chances of keeping them.

Newer trucks come with the latest technology, advanced safety features, and fewer maintenance and repair issues, which means less downtime and roadside failures. This means that drivers can frequently return home to their families at the end of the day and operate trucks on their roads with greater confidence that they will avoid breakdowns.

Aside from the costs of hiring drivers, not having enough drivers also erodes bottom line profits. Companies that focus on recycling and waste management are losing their business to landlord operators because they don’t have enough drivers to take over jobs.

says Bob McDowell, president and owner of WM Dewey & Son Inc. Houston-based: “We’ve heard that as trucking rates rise in the spot market, individual operator owners are choosing to have their own power and remove loads from pallets.” “They keep 100 percent of the revenue from the tonnage instead of sharing it with a trucking company. This is a bad trend for existing trucking companies, which cannot increase the number of drivers/owners and operators.”

Advanced safety features benefit drivers and fleets

The advanced safety features found in today’s newer trucks are an important motivating factor for drivers to stay with a particular organization or fleet. Today’s drivers enjoy comfort and safety elements such as:

  • air ride suspension
  • power steering
  • Automatic manual transmission
  • Engine horse power and speed settings
  • lane departure
  • collision mitigation
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Blind Spot Monitoring
  • Roll stability

Companies and fleets get a greater return on their investment in new trucks when more of them are put into service. In fact, the cost of all safety equipment (including collision avoidance, disc brakes, lane change, and electronic stability control) reduces overall collision repairs and yields a return on the original investment in safety technology in approximately 18 months (collision repair cost avoided) . These are significant savings combined with the cost of qualifying new drivers.

Driver shortages and driver retention are listed as the top two problems that carriers face according to the 2021 ATRI Report. Including drivers in the conversation about safety initiatives and recognizing their input is important to retention strategies. As more fleets and organizations replace older trucks with newer, safer road equipment, these companies realize that they will keep their drivers and others on the road safer, retain their drivers at a higher rate and will also enjoy significant savings in reduced accident and litigation costs as well as lower maintenance and repair expenses.

Ultimately, companies are paying more attention to total lifecycle cost management strategies in line with the need for reduced driver turnover and better safety measures. Refocusing truck acquisition strategies based on economic obsolescence rather than job attrition is now helping industry players maintain their bottom line profit potential.

Katrina Jones is Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Fleet Advantage, a leading innovator in truck fleet business analytics, equipment finance and lifecycle cost management.

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