On August 21, 2019, the American Trucking Associations released its latest projection of the state of the freight economy, showing continued growth in the industry. This year’s report projects a 25.6% increase in tonnage by 2030 and an increase in freight industry revenues by 53.8% to $1.6 trillion over the next decade. Are you positioned to take advantage of the continued economic growth?
As you have likely heard, the U.S. trucker shortage is expected to more than double over the next decade. Citing a study by the American Trucking Associations, Bloomberg notes that the U.S. driver deficit swelled by more than 10,000 to 60,800 in 2018 from a year earlier. This shortage is expected to “ease slightly this year as U.S.-China trade friction slows freight demand and since trucking companies boosted pay to attract recruits.”
American Trucking Associations’s Chief Economist Bob Costello says the shortage is specific to the over-the-road or long-haul for-hire truckload industry segment. The ATA estimates that 160,000 driver positions will go unfilled in a decade. Costello also notes that the problem is not a shortage of applicants, but rather a shortage of qualified applicants: “Carriers repeatedly say it isn’t that they don’t have enough applicants for their open positions – they do. What they do not have is enough applicants who meet the demanding qualifications to be hired. In some cases, carriers must reject 90% of applicants out of hand because they fail to meet at least one of the prerequisites to drive in interstate commerce.”
Following Costello’s thinking, you don’t just need more applicants, you need to be reaching a more qualified pool of applicants. You may need to think outside the box and compete for more qualified applicants.
Consider Recruiting Veterans
If a veteran drove any type of heavy vehicle in the service, a military CDL will allow the veteran to waive the civilian CDL skills test provided they are currently licensed and provided they were employed within the last 90 days in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV). CDL knowledge (written) test cannot be waived. The veteran may also have a history of working with hazardous materials.
An FMCSA rule will provide military personnel with a time extension to apply for a skills test waiver and also permit active duty military personnel to apply and be tested for their commercial learner’s permits and commercial driver’s license in the State where they are stationed.
The CMV Operator Safety Training grant program will provide grant funds to commercial driver training schools that train veterans to transition into civilian motor carrier careers.
The FAST Act military pilot program will allow select military personnel ages 18, 19 and 20 years of age to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.
Consider recruiting applicants who may already have a related skill set.
In addition to veterans, some states waive partial CDL requirements for other industries, including:
Many companies compete to attract qualified applicants - the ones that are the most successful are the ones that promote themselves internally and externally toward that group, so hold yourself out.
Build your brand in the community you are targeting
To target veterans, for example, recognize the veterans already in your workforce. If you have veterans in your workforce, celebrate the information on your website, like Prime does. Also, leverage your existing employees and, if you already employ veterans, ask them to recommend others.
In 2015 C.R. England added military themed trucks and trailers to their fleet and recognized the drivers who would drive in the “Honored Veterans” fleet. Drivers who were candidates for the honor must have had a clean safety record and at least one tour of duty in the military. Additionally, the company profiles two veterans each month in the company’s newsletter. And, each new hire veteran receives a veteran hat, and at upgrade receives a decal to place on his or her truck and a shirt identifying them as an “Honored Veteran.”
Develop specific programs targeted to attract the applicants you want
Some companies, like Schneider National, Celadon Trucking, and CRST Trucking offer military apprenticeship programs that are covered by G.I. Bill benefits, allowing veterans to earn a stipend while learning skills.
Schneider National considers military rank in determining seniority.
CRST Trucking offers a $500 sign-on bonus for veterans in addition to traditional sign-on bonuses. It also pays credit for time served. C.R. England offers a tuition-free training program to help military service members transition into civilian work.
C.R England also has a corporate mission to increase the number of veterans it employs annually.
Implement a targeted recruitment strategy
Attract veteran applicants using veteran career fairs and posting open positions on military job boards. Websites such as military.com, HireVeterans.com, and HelmetstoHardhats.org are excellent recruitment websites to allow you to target returning service members.
Also, internally, you may want to consider adding veteran resources to your recruiting team to help handle veteran applications to your company.
Know the possibly relevant legal issues
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to all employers with 15 or more employees and it protects applicants and employees with disabilities, including veterans, against employment discrimination. Under the ADA, employees have a right to choose whether to tell an employer about a disability and a right to an accommodation that does not cause undue hardship. See ada.gov. The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified employees or job applicants on the basis of their disability and it covers all employment practices, including the job application process, hiring, advancement, compensation, training, firing, and all other conditions of employment.
Additionally, employers must make “reasonable accommodations” under the ADA for employees with disabilities, which means changing the work environment or job duties to eliminate barriers that keep an individual from being able to perform the essential functions of the job. Employers are not required to provide accommodations unless an employee requests them. Employers are also not required to make accommodations that would result in an “undue hardship,” which means accommodations that would result in significant difficulty or expense. If an employee does not want or need accommodations, they do not have to disclose the disability.
According to Tom Weakley, director of operations for the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association, the regulatory Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) considers a number of disabilities as potentially affecting safe driving. “Any disability that the FMCSA believes may hinder safe driving is in their domain,” he says. If a question is raised -- whether due to loss of limb, insulin-dependent diabetes, a sleep disorder or any other reason -- the driver must prove he can perform his duties safely and effectively. Whether applying to the FMCSA individually or through his company, a driver with a disability must show he is under a doctor’s observation. He also must pass a skill performance evaluation, using the type of truck he would normally drive.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) applies to veterans, including those with service-connected disabilities, in the workforce. Under USERRA, the employer must hold a job open for employees who are service members returning from active duty. USERRA, like the ADA, requires employers to accommodate returning veterans with service- connected disabilities.
USERRA also establishes rights and responsibilities affecting employment, reemployment, employment benefits and retention when employees serve or have served in the uniformed services including members of the Reserve and National Guard.
Consider creating a company policy regarding military leave. If you have employees in the Reserve or National Guard, they will need to take leave from work at some point for military training and/or deployment.
The author, Alison Feehan, is the proud daughter of Cdr. Robert H. Wright III (U.S. Navy), who flew the A4 Skyhawk and A6 Intruder. His Naval career spanned 25 years - including 17 uninterrupted years of flying with 300 daytime and nighttime carrier landings, six air medals, Vietnam service medal with four bronze stars and Naval Achievement.