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Combatting the Driver Shortage


Combatting the driver shortage continues to be top of mind for fleets and as Baby Boomers reach peak retirement age, Millennials have been steadily on the rise. If you’re a fleet manager, you should be particularly keen on Millennials and here’s why…

According to Statistics New Zealand, Millennials now make up the single largest age group in the New Zealand labour force, and they’ll make up the majority of the labour force within five years.

With millennials accounting for such a large portion of the workforce, this generation represents a tremendous opportunity for the transportation industry to attract the next generation of drivers and fill the necessary labour gap.

However, the generational differences that exist between Baby Boomer and Millennial workers today are increasingly significant. What was once an appealing job characteristic or benefit for older drivers is often not the case for younger populations today. By employing innovative recruiting techniques and providing new incentives, trucking companies are more likely to attract this growing segment of the workforce.

Ken Shirley, Road Transport Forum Chief Executive, says that driver shortage is a long running issue and that the transport industry struggles to remain competitive in the skilled labour market.

“Driving a heavy rig is a highly skilled profession. While the industry needs highly skilled professional drivers freight rates are currently too low to attract them into the industry. We are price takers, generally. The drive has consistently been to bring down freight rates. While this is great for the overall economy – our exports are competitive, and we have a highly efficient transport system – transport operators are being squeezed like lemons and there is no juice left.”

Ken adds that the gap between when school finishes and when young people are old enough to drive a truck also causes problems.

To win the competition for talent, here are three key factors to consider when recruiting and retaining millennials:

Technology Is Paramount

Millennials came of age in a fully digitised world, and are therefore accustomed to the efficiencies that technology offers both in their personal and professional lives. Recently, the trucking industry has experienced growth in the digital landscape, as new technologies now capture vehicle data through GPS truck tracking systems and driver hours through in-vehicle devices. Investing in technology not only keeps drivers connected, but it also meets the convenience criteria that millennials seek.

Fleets must keep pace with technology as the industry moves toward a hyper-connected world of driver safety controls, autonomous vehicles and smart cities, as well. Millennials offer a strategic advantage due to their experience with all things mobile, plus exposure to complex concepts like big data and artificial intelligence.

The “Gig” Mentality

Flexibility is the crux of the “gig economy” – a term that refers to freelance or independent consultants who work on-demand, without long-term employment contracts. Organisations like Uber have contributed to the rapid adoption of the gig economy among millennials, offering the ability to work independently and enabling an increased sense of responsibility.

Many fleets already embrace this style of work by allowing drivers to have flexible schedules, choosing between local or long-distance hauls. Creating an environment that supports independence and maintains work-life balance is especially important in keeping millennial employees content.

Train to Retain

Millennials thrive in an environment that is continually challenging and encouraging. Fleets that offer ongoing vocational programs, such as driver coaching and entry-level training, not only provide employees with the tools to be successful and engaged, but ultimately create a loyal working culture and reduce turnover.

In addition to established coaching programs, GPS truck tracking systems enable managers to view driver behaviour scores and compare how each driver ranks against the overall fleet. Fleet managers can use this information to better educate vehicle operators and correct unsafe driving habits. Fleets can further incentivise and motivate younger drivers with such data by establishing goals to achieve and reward progress. Millennials will value this collaborative approach and working with leaders as coaches or mentors.

Now is the time for fleets to act on filling the gaps to combat driver shortage. Attracting and retaining Millennials will soon be the standard, not just an option. It is critical for fleets to evaluate hiring practices, as well as employee retention policies, and remain competitive.

Driver safety is also paramount in retaining your drivers, download our free Driver Safety eBook for more details.

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