Analysis by Sydney Casey
For years, the driver shortage has impacted the freight industry and transportation. Although a slowing economy has slightly reduced labor challenges, the concerns over the competitive job market and lack of skilled drivers remain. Even before the pandemic, when the strain to find drivers seemed far less urgent, fuel procurement companies already noticed that changes would soon need to be made.
If your company uses drivers, you may have noticed a slight improvement in the driver shortage. The American Trucking Association has noted a moderate improvement in driver hiring, with the shortage falling from 80,000 drivers in 2021 to just 78,000 in 2022. But conditions will again tighten in the future, making the driver shortage an ongoing challenge for companies to manage.
With the rapid increase in e-commerce following COVID-19, drivers were drawn to the higher wages paid by larger corporations such as Amazon, UPS, or FedEx. Smaller and privately owned corporations have had to be strategic in their efforts to combat this trend.
While your company may be facing a driver challenge, your suppliers are likely facing their own hardships. From fuel delivery to delivering goods and commodities, here are three best practices that could aid in fighting the infamous driver shortage:
- Deepen Relations with Core Suppliers – Rather than buying a little from a lot of people, get sticky with a few core suppliers. This ensures you’re consistent in your purchasing and that your vendor knows you by name. Because business is fast and turnover is quick, intentionally building relationships and promoting an open dialogue for full transparency will result in a bond of trust with suppliers.
- Become the Best Customer to Your Vendors – Shift your focus to thinking of suppliers as partners, not vendors. Sometimes, changing certain practices like delivery windows can have a small impact on your business but a dramatic benefit for your suppliers. That can turn into better relationships and even better pricing. Now, you might wonder how being a good customer could retain drivers or combat the challenge of finding carriers. Suppliers will take care of the customers who treat them fairly and have open and transparent communication. In addition, listen, be fair, and let vendors know their importance, and that you care.
- Strengthen Driver Recruitment – Continued investment in driver recruitment will be necessary, both for carriers and for their suppliers. Breaking down barriers that prevent drivers from being attracted to the profession is necessary, requiring both corporate and political investment. Helping pay for driver training, tapping into the next generation of drivers, and recruiting from the military are just a few options that could generate a larger carrier pool.
It is yet to be determined if the freight carrier demand will lighten over the next few months or years. With inflation through the roof – including rising freight charges and price increases – the current improvements may turn into worse driver conditions before long-term solutions take hold.