Don’t beg, borrow or steal

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While the effort to hire drivers has always been a headache for fleets, the projected shortages are sobering and may very well be the tipping point that galvanizes innovative solutions. The American Trucking Associations’ recent economic study conducted by research firm Global Insights concludes that the long-haul heavy-duty trucking industry’s current shortage of 20,000 drivers likely will rise to 110,000 by 2014 unless there’s a significant change in current trends. What can be done?

After all, you’ve already increased pay packages and home time; beefed up benefits; added satellite radios, chrome and computers; instituted hefty sign-on bonuses and increased your classified advertising dollars. The only thing left is to beg, borrow or steal from other fleets as desperate as you. However, the industry’s top innovators say there are other untapped sources of drivers, and that it’s time to exert a coordinated effort to go after them.

Mike Russell, ATA public affairs director, says that’s the focus of a new public awareness campaign soon to be unveiled. Industry innovators like Kevin Burch, president and partner of Jet Express in Dayton, Ohio, and Ray Kuntz, president and chief executive officer of Watkins & Shepard Trucking in Helena, Mont., are co-chairs of a joint ATA and Truckload Carriers Associations task force to find and recruit new drivers. Kuntz, whose company received Commercial Carrier Journal’s 2006 Innovator of the Year award, led his company’s unique program to offer affordable trucking school financing by forging an alliance with financial institutions and technical driving schools. (Read more about it in next month’s CCJ.)

Russell says the new campaign came from working in tandem with individual state associations to target four categories of potential drivers: traditional workers in minimum-wage fields, age 30-54; workers age 55 and older; Hispanics; and young ex-military, recently returning from duty without clear career plans.

To market the trucking career message to these undertapped groups, the new campaign will target One Stop job centers, Veteran Affairs Job Centers, websites like Monster.com and organizations such as AARP. It’s a movement that’s gathering momentum as the word spreads. Leaders like CTL Distribution in Mulberry, Fla. – CCJ’s Innovator in this issue (page 61) – are spearheading efforts to recruit from state unemployment centers. They’ve had success finding new drivers from the unemployment rolls by building relationships with One Stop job center counselors.

The word on the street is that new drivers are out there – and it’s our job to find them, train them and put them behind the wheel. Working together as an industry is going to pay off in the long run – versus stealing from each other for the short run. Let’s go get ’em.
Jeff Mason