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Driver Shortage Requires Industry Action, Experts Say

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John Sommers II for Transport Topics

LAS VEGAS — The shortage of truck drivers will worsen as the economy recovers and as the federal government adds more regulations, so it is critical the industry retains current drivers and attracts younger ones to the profession, a panel of experts said here Tuesday.

Ensuring drivers have more time at home, providing reliable equipment to company drivers and offering pay incentives and bonuses are all important steps that fleets should take, according to the discussion at American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition.

Derek Leathers, president and chief operating officer of Werner Enterprises, said that through schedule adjustments, about 71% of his drivers get home at least once a week. That has helped lower turnover and attract more applicants.

Kevin Burch, president of Jet Express, said fleets need to set up mentoring programs so younger drivers gain valuable experience until they are old enough to drive trucks on their own.

Lou Spoonhour, president of Driveco Truck Driver Learning Center, urged ATA and fleets to join with training schools to tell lawmakers how important it is to increase funding for programs that can get new truck drivers on the road in as little as six weeks.

Kenny Veith, president of ACT Research, said the industry’s high turnover rates show that the problem is more about retention than an insufficient number of applicants. He was optimistic in saying that federal regulations will limit the total driving pool, thus tightening capacity and allowing for higher rates. As a result, he said fleets would more easily be able to boost driver pay and keep more of the existing driver workforce.

The session was moderated by Howard Abramson, publisher and editorial director of Transport Topics Publishing Group, and was sponsored by Freightliner Trucks.

Additional coverage of the discussion will appear in the Oct. 15 print edition of Transport Topics.

By Transport Topics