Commentary: 10 Things to Take Away From the Year of the Driver

December 2015, - Editorial

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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Deborah Lockridge
Deborah Lockridge

When we were planning our editorial calendar for 2015, the general expectation was that this would be the year the “mother of all driver shortages” finally hit hard. It was going to be the year of the driver, and we planned an in-depth series to run through most of the year to explore what fleets could do to attract and to keep the best drivers.

The capacity crunch wasn’t quite as bad as we thought it would be, thanks to a reprieve in the productivity-killing new restrictions on the 34-hour restart in the hours of service rules, a build-up in inventory in the first part of the year, and an economy that has stutter-stepped somewhat.

Nevertheless, the driver shortage came in third in the American Transportation Research Institute’s annual survey of trucking fleets’ top concerns, while driver retention came in fourth — still a major issue.

Looking back on our 10-part “Driver Dilemma” series, here are 10 takeaways:

There are many factors at play that are making it harder for fleets to find good drivers, including an aging workforce; competition from occupations such as construction that attract people who might otherwise become drivers; regulations that decrease productivity (therefore requiring more drivers), disqualify some drivers and confuse and frustrate others; driver pay seen as being too low; and how drivers are treated by their employers, shippers/receivers, and the public.

Driver pay is important, but sometimes not as important as we think it is. How we pay drivers may be just as important as how much.

We can help expand the pool of potential drivers by reaching out to younger drivers, women, and returning military personnel.

Owner-operators still have an important part to play, but increasing scrutiny of the independent contractor model means some fleets may need to revamp their programs.

Driver training is more important than ever, whether you’re running a beginner training school or providing ongoing training for longtime drivers.

Teaching and incentivizing drivers to improve fuel economy can save money for your fleet while giving drivers a chance to improve their skills and get bragging rights.

Despite the hype, “driverless trucks” are not coming anytime soon. However, autonomous technologies could play a role in making the job safer and more attractive while improving productivity.

“Employee engagement” is a key way to build a driver workforce that not only stays with your company longer, but also is willing to go the extra mile to make sure it succeeds.

Working as a team with drivers to improve scores under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability enforcement program, better known as CSA, can help fleets attract and retain safety-minded drivers.

While it’s hard to measure, wellness programs that help keep drivers healthy, done correctly, can contribute to driver satisfaction.

Just because it’s the end of the year and we’ve wrapped up our Driver Dilemma series, it doesn’t mean we won’t still be covering driver issues. Some of the things we have planned for next year include “Secrets of the Successful Recruiter,” “Living With Electronic Logging Devices,” and a look at driver comfort.

So stay tuned, so to speak. In the meantime, to read the entire Driver Dilemma series, as well as related web-exclusive content, go to


  1. 1. Phillip Sebree [ December 14, 2015 @ 06:42AM ]

    Do a story about comfort of truck manufacturers providing comfort, some get carried away. Like the steering wheels in freightliners. Vovlo and Peterbilt still believe that simple is best, no wavey grips to grab. Also there should be premium sounds in all road units. Places for pens and paperwork should be no more than arms length. Make it easier to replace fuses when a 12v plug goes out, stuff like this.

    If you want driver loyality then drivers should be treated right buy the company, the shipper and most importantly the the receiver and the shippers that treats truckers like less than human, lets say.

    The pay hasn't changed so I have learned to specify my demands prior to filling out applications. I am tired of being mistreated, lied to, and disregarded as a driver, especially when I pick up and deliver on-time 99% of the time with no accidents and no sicknesses. So I demand weekends off and home-time during the week.

    I share your articles with drivers so they can stay in the loop.


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