Driver Shortage Got You Down? Ease Your Worries – and Get Drivers in Seats – With These Top Three Tips

White trucks


Travis Kupar, Kupar Director of HR

The fact that there’s a truck driver shortage isn’t exactly breaking news.

What does stand out – especially lately – is how there are fewer and fewer truck drivers – 200,000 of them, in fact — due to reduced training/licensing, the pandemic and the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.
It can leave recruiters wondering what they can do to optimize their recruitment strategies in order to overcome a problem that clearly isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

While many carriers are promoting a “family first atmosphere, great culture, and fantastic work/life balance” (which are all bonuses, don’t get me wrong), carriers need to be willing to take things a step further to successfully get drivers behind the wheel and overcome the substantial challenges the industry continues to face.

As an experienced recruiter, on the front lines every day with drivers, here are the three key things drivers are looking for that can help your company thrive amidst this national shortage.

Increase Your Wages

I know this is the last thing you want to read. But facts are facts: you need to pay your drivers more in order to stay competitive in today’s industry. While driver pay varies greatly according to experience, what’s being hauled, reputation, etc., you need to make sure your company is at least close to industry standards.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average truck driver salary in 2020 was $50,909. That works out to be approximately $24.48 an hour. This is the equivalent of $979/week or $4,242/month. Are you in line with these amounts? If you’re not, you need to sit down and take a long, hard look at how you can do better. If you don’t step up, well…more drivers are going to step down.

Be sure to pay attention to companies that are similar to yours. If you are a carrier that requires specialized skills, you can’t pay the same wages and a carrier who doesn’t need that unique skill set and expect to get the level of driver that you need to be successful.

Offer a Sign-On Bonus

Almost every carrier across the U.S. is offering some form of a sign-on bonus to entice new drivers. While the amounts vary greatly – $2,000, $8,000, $10,000 are some of the most common sizes of sign-on bonuses you will see offered by trucking companies today – they all amount to one truth: drivers want them.

Some drivers won’t even consider looking at companies that don’t offer sign-on bonuses, so if this incentive is something you’ve been avoiding, it might be time to reconsider your stance.

If you do decide to opt for one, roll it out the right way to avoid paying the price. It has to be sustainable and engaging.

The real secret? It has to focus on both recruitment and retention; it’s not a “one or the other” type of thing.

To encourage drivers to stick around, some carriers are offering a phased approach, offering a bonus that is paid out over the course of six months or even a year.

Going about it this way packs a one-two punch: it encourages your drivers to stay with the company until they get that full bonus that drew them in in the first place, and it can help you avoid the common turnover that often takes place within the first three months of hire.

Offer Safety Bonuses/Award Driver of the Year

A little incentive can go a long way. Aside from a sign-on bonus, consider offering safety bonuses as well.

While all trucking companies have safety programs in place, rewarding drivers that go above and beyond can help further incentivize drivers and establish a culture of safety throughout the company. Who doesn’t enjoy being rewarded for a job well done?

You don’t have to be too crazy with extravagant and expensive bonuses; even recognizing your safest drivers with a small token of appreciation during safety meetings can go a long way. Think coffee shop gift certificates, or corporate swag.

If you do want to go the extra mile and entice drivers with some cold, hard cash (always a win) make sure you do it the right way.

Look at offering safety incentives on a quarterly basis, or even in conjunction with the Annual Review. And know the amount will vary greatly according to where you’re located and your corporate standards. In some cases, fleets will offer hundreds of dollars per year for a perfect driving record. Other fleets might need to spend thousands. The key? Taking an honest look at how things are done, how you want them to go, and developing a plan from there.

Get Your Game Face On

With such a scarcity of talent out there to pick from, it’s important to support your supply chain by being proactive. Starting with these three tips can go a long way to filling those seats that have been sitting empty for far too long…and will continue to remain empty if you don’t step into action and make proactive adjustments to your current recruiting strategy.