With the ongoing pandemic, global supply-chain disruptions, and the persistent shortage of drivers, 2022 is shaping up to be another challenging year in the trucking industry.
The future is hard to predict, but it’s a good bet that other top industry concerns (as described in the recent American Transportation Research Institute annual report) will continue to plague the industry, including driver hiring and retention, nuclear verdicts, off-site audits, and driver distraction.
The new year will also bring new rules for entry-level driver training, setting a higher bar for those who want to enter the industry.
Meeting the Challenges
However, the challenges aren’t insurmountable. Here’s a few best practices that can help you tackle the five biggest obstacles the industry will face in 2022 and beyond.
1. Driver Hiring, Compensation, and Retention
The shortage of qualified truck drivers may be at an all-time high, but that doesn’t mean all motor carriers are having trouble with their labor supply. Instead, those that create a progressive, fair, proactive, safety-minded culture are better able to entice and keep drivers.
Consider these eight best business practices aimed at finding and retaining good drivers in the year ahead:
- Adopt a sound screening and hiring process and stick to it. Don't lower your standards to fill seats.
- Pay your drivers at or above the industry average, and consider sign-on bonuses as an incentive.
- Involve your drivers in company operations and significant decisions. Drivers can bring valuable insights to the table.
- Listen to drivers’ concerns and take action to address them.
- Lighten your drivers’ loads by helping them track and meet their compliance obligations. For example, schedule new DOT medical exams before they expire, help drivers use the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, and offer guidance and training on hours of service, cargo securement, and other mandates.
- Commit to “safety first,” including both vehicle and driver safety. Go above and beyond the safety regulations, which are the minimum requirements.
- Use exit interviews to study why drivers are leaving and make improvements based on the findings.
- Address the issue of driver detention. Set up trailer drops, pay drivers for detention time, share detention data with customers, and/or stop doing business with customers that excessively detain drivers. Your drivers will notice and will be more likely to stay.
2. CSA and Enforcement
The next year may bring movement toward a structural revamp of the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) enforcement program, but it’s not going away.
The FMCSA and state agencies will continue to use the CSA program to select carriers for enforcement action, up to and including audits. And in the coming year, expect more of those audits to be done off-site than ever before.
Taking action today can help reduce or eliminate roadside inspection violations and crashes and keep your CSA scores low. In turn, this will help prevent fines and penalties, rising insurance rates, and lawsuits. Put safety management controls in place to ensure compliance at all times. This includes:
- Adopting (and enforcing) written policies and procedures
- Assigning compliance responsibilities to all personnel to ensure everyone knows their role
- Having sound hiring and qualification standards
- Providing new-hire and ongoing training, monitoring drivers, and tracking compliance
- Taking immediate action when problems arise
- Manage your compliance documentation electronically. This will reduce paperwork, increase efficiency, simplify sorting and categorizing, increase security, and improve compliance. It will also make your documentation ready for uploading to the DOT for off-site auditing.
- Watch your CSA data closely. Look for trends that point to compliance problems and then take action to correct them. Challenge any violations or crashes that don’t belong on your record.
3. Entry-Level Driver Training
Strict new driver training requirements will arrive on February 7, 2022. While this removes a burden from motor carriers — they won’t have to perform their own FMCSA-mandated entry-level driver training anymore — it places another hurdle in front of drivers who want a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or specific endorsements.
- Ensure that your existing and potential drivers — including employees thinking of becoming drivers — are aware of the new requirements. They will need to obtain training from an FMCSA-registered training provider before acquiring or upgrading to a Class A or B CDL or a passenger, school bus, or hazardous materials endorsement.
- Talk to affected employees about their concerns with the new rules. Consider paying for your drivers’ training and help them navigate the process.
- Decide now if your company intends to register as a training provider. You’ll need to get added to the FMCSA’s Training Provider Registry if you want to perform entry-level training in the new year.
- Even if you’re not on the Registry, don't stop performing training — for new and existing drivers alike. Ongoing training will remain a critical part of any compliance and safety program.
Driver distraction is a significant and growing highway safety concern, and technology plays a big role in causing and preventing distraction.
- Enact strict policies against the use of distracting technologies while driving. Regularly remind drivers to “keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.”
- Make sure drivers are aware of the severe state and federal penalties resulting from texting and handheld cell-phone use while driving.
- Offer ideas for “alternative distractions” like chatting on a hands-free device, sipping a beverage, or singing along to the radio. Studies have shown that these activities improve alertness and safety.
- Install and use dash cameras to monitor your drivers’ behavior (and potentially lower your insurance rates).
5. Hours of Service
Hours of service (HOS) remains a top concern for drivers and is a persistent worry for many motor carriers. Though tweaks in late 2020 made the rules a bit more flexible for some, understanding exactly how the rules apply from day to day remains a challenge.
- Train and retrain drivers on the rules, perform in-house log auditing, and counsel drivers who have violations to help ensure compliance and safety.
- Develop, update, enforce, and communicate sound HOS and fatigue-management policies. Make sure those policies address unassigned driving and personal conveyance.
- Ensure that any driver who wants to use an exception knows how to use it and documents its use.
- Unlock the potential of electronic logging devices (ELDs) to find and reduce violations, uncover excessive detention, track assets, generate reports, and plan routes.
- If you cross the northern border, make sure your ELDs are registered and compliant in Canada, where ELD enforcement begins in June.
As we look to 2022, it’s a safe bet these five issues will be near the top of daily concerns for many in the industry — but they don’t have to be. Resolve to take steps that address these and other pressing industry concerns. Consider a fleet management system, like J. J. Keller® Encompass. It’s helped thousands of fleets improve DOT compliance, hire good drivers, identify poor driving habits, automate hours of service, reduce accidents, and maintain a positive, productive company culture. Talk with a compliance specialist about Encompass, the industry's premier compliance management system, with new features, including award-winning training, a regulatory library, and an enhanced dash cam solution.