The trucking capacity crunch and driver shortage issue in the U.S. has been worsening for years, but today the industry is reaching crisis levels.
The demand for capacity and drivers is at an all-time high, due to a robust economy, new government regulations, and negative perceptions regarding the driver lifestyle. It’s a glaring issue across the modern-day supply chain, and everyone’s searching for a solution.
Drones, platooning and driverless vehicles are making headlines, and while these present exciting possibilities for the future, more tangible changes are a necessity in the short term. But many supply chain leaders are overlooking a crucial contributing factor that affects enterprises across the globe: the negative treatment of current drivers.
Start With the Shipper
Instead of eliminating drivers from the narrative, industry leaders should be looking for a solution that will increase driver satisfaction and retention. The obvious and perhaps best place to start is with the shippers.
Let’s first go back to the significant pain point in the trucking industry: the general treatment of drivers. Stories are too frequently told of truckers being disrespected and denied even common courtesies from touchpoints along their routes. They’re dealing with crowded parking lots, inhospitable pickup environments and generally poor communication from office staff. And while these issues seem trivial, over time they are greatly impacting the relationship between carriers, drivers, and shippers.
There are a number of steps that can be taken to improve the driver’s experiences, by highlighting and providing a “preferred” shipper approach. It begins with treating drivers with respect and kindness.
To be “preferred,” a shipper ideally would need to:
The way that shippers treat drivers affects their reputation, influencing carriers to favor a particular freight opportunity over others. A driver shouldn’t have to play phone tag to reach your warehouse staff or be denied access to simple necessities, like the bathroom. By contrast, preferred shippers do their best to keep drivers happy by being prepared for their arrival and providing an efficient turnaround. Some offer a break room where drivers can stretch and have a snack while the warehouse team loads or unloads. Generally, the duty of the preferred shipper is to make the driver’s job easier and more efficient, in turn creating a better workflow for all parties.
Clearly, being a preferred shipper will help to ensure capacity and a speedier delivery process. But how is it addressing the current driver shortage problem?
The most efficient and cost-effective solutions are those that improve processes and add ease to the driver profession, and these do not require a major investment or technological innovation. By ensuring that the shipper is both easy to work with and respectful of the driver’s time, the industry as a whole can take its first steps toward remedying the driver shortage.
To attract new people to the profession, those in the business need to think and speak positively of it, and a positive experience begins with an amicable atmosphere. If you think of a trucking route like an office, you want your coworkers to smile, be invested in your wellbeing and generally treat you well.
A preferred shipper will apply these considerations to its drivers. As a result, they’ll have encouraging experiences to share about their profession, attracting new talent to the industry. This process can significantly impact and benefit both the shipper and drivers, improving communication and relationships while making for a more efficient experience. Efforts that make your company a preferred shipper can certainly help alleviate the impact of difficult experiences on drivers.
Addressing the Real Problem
Industry wide, companies are experiencing the blows from the capacity crunch and driver shortage. The solution? Shippers need to be easy for drivers to work with, viewing them as a key aspect of the logistics industry and deserving of treatment as such.
There’s a multitude of high-tech solutions for addressing the capacity crunch and driver shortage problems, driverless vehicles being among the more buzzworthy. But the most basic and ignored innovation isn’t a technological advancement at all. The notion of treating truckers like humans seems obvious, but it’s not always a common practice. Through implementation of preferred-shipper best practices, shippers and logistic providers can become actively involved in improving the industry's reputation, and ensuring that drivers are treated fairly.
Todd Johnson is senior vice president of transportation at Kenco.
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