Truck drivers are highly sought after due to driver shortage in the transport industry. Recent research shows that new drivers fresh out of training encounter obstacles finding work, often due to limited professional experience. This even though driver shortage is a major concern. Why is this and what can truck operators do about it?
Attracting new drivers is crucial to the transport industry worldwide. IRU’s annual driver survey from 2022 emphasizes driver shortage globally. But at the same time, according to internal research from 2021 in English, German, French and Swedish, 22 percent of the drivers addresses employability in a negative sentiment. One new driver puts it like this:
“I took my class to do a career change, thinking it should be fairly easy to find work with driver shortage being shouted from every corner. The reality has been a shock, registering with agencies, sending out CV's and applying all over but the general response I seem to be getting is no response, or minimum of two years of experience required”.
When the transport industry is pushing the prices and preferably wants to lower the delivery times, this affects the new and potential drivers in particular. Dieter De Waele is a Driver Development Manager, and he points out that everyone of course wants well educated drivers with 10 years of experience, but that is not corresponding to reality.
“It’s easy to get scared off by the advertisements. Focus more on what you as an operator can offer the driver instead of focusing mainly of what you want from them. When recruiting, make sure drivers feel safe and informed, then offer them a welcoming working environment. Also be ready to invest in proper training because that will pay off in the long run”, Dieter says.
Research shows* that apprenticeship programs and company-financed training were both popular and relevant to new drivers as it decided who their first employer would be. Paid-for training made it economical possible to educate yourself and easier to enter the industry, but some expressed fear and insecurity regarding the training.
“The training might get you your license, but it gives you a limited amount of time behind the wheel and it will not always prepare you for the real world and the mental and physical challenges you might face there. Learning from and talking to an experienced driver in real traffic and working conditions can be part of the solution”, says Dieter De Waele.
In fact, the most common sought after topic for new drivers (30 percent) was advice, including general questions about the industry and being a truck driver. Even if salary was an important factor (11 percent prioritized this), training and employability was an even greater concern.
Some drivers felt that they were not well equipped to deal with the demands of the job fresh out of training. Intense pressure from the employer to deliver quickly, combined with insecurities as to maneuvering a truck in heavy traffic and fear of accidents, made them consider quitting early due to mental stress.
“I can understand that new drivers worry about all the demands and feels unsecure. It’s important that driver training and the exercises matches the reality, and that the management sees all the different benefits with training. That it can benefit your business both financially but also in terms of retaining drivers”, says Dieter.
The truck combination and the brand used at the training might not always be the one that’s being used in a real-life working situation and that might cause stress, according to Dieter. Securing the cargo, maneuvering, and parking in tricky situations, potential training in administration needed for the job, along with experiences from an existing driver, are aspects that could ease driver’s introduction to their first job and make them stay.
Not surprisingly, one aspect that were seen as a key motivator to new drivers was a competitive salary. A non-satisfying salary along with other demotivating factors like stress and lack of training easily created incentives to search for a new employer. But several younger drivers also asked how to increase their pay throughout the years and make a good living, showing eagerness to build a career in the industry and stay for the long run. Training was the second most important motivator and the research showed that accessible training helped to allow people of a wide variety of backgrounds to enter the industry and attain a good income.
“Salary is a major factor but it’s also important what brands you have, the conditions of your truck and if you can make your drivers feel welcomed, safe and well informed. And since new drivers tend to be stressed in the beginning, both research and experiences show that training not just helps to create safe, calm and secure drivers, it also makes them more likely to feel loyal and stay at the job”, says Dieter.
Read here if you want to learn more about driver support and driver development, or contact your local Volvo Trucks contact.
* Internal Volvo Trucks research from 2021 in English, German, French and Swedish.