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Recruiting Hard-to-Find Transportation Workers

Recruiting Hard-to-Find Transportation Workers

By: Catherine Conlan

The transportation industry is generally known for stability and good wages, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for companies to fill jobs. Qualified candidates can afford to be picky, which means employers need to work hard to attract them and keep them happy.

Demographic changes and long-standing assumptions about the transport industry can make it difficult for transportation companies to recruit the employees they need.

Here’s an overview of the situation and how employers are meeting those challenges.

Hit by the Retirement Tsunami
According to research published by the American Trucking Association (ATA), the industry will need to hire almost a million new drivers before 2024. Retirements are the main reason: More than 13 million people work in transportation, and the Department of Transportation says almost half will be eligible for retirement within the next 10 years.

“CDL class A over-the-road drivers are probably the hardest drivers to find right now,” says Scott McNiel, marketing manager at E.L. Hollingsworth & Co. With the large number of open positions available, it’s easy for skilled drivers to hop from job to job in search of better pay and conditions.

And it’s not just trucking that faces challenges. A GAO report found that pilot supply, wages and benefits may be hurting hiring efforts for air transportation. Hiring trends in railroading continue to grow as well, according to the Association of American Railroads.

One of the main ways transportation companies can recruit the employees they need is through strong compensation packages, McNiel says. Offering pay increases, comprehensive benefits and signing bonuses are key.

Coping with an Image Problem
A Department of Labor report found that the transportation industry faces several other challenges, including a “fairly low public image.” Long hours and lots of time spent away from home are required in many transportation jobs, and that can pose a challenge to hiring.

McNiel agrees, saying the industry’s image needs a makeover and that corporate culture needs to shift to better source truck drivers. The ATA offers a program that is meant to boost trucking’s image in particular, for example.

The DOL found that inadequate access to non-traditional labor pools such as women, veterans and people with disabilities were also problems. Providing a strong work-life balance for employees can be a good way to start changing the culture, McNiel says.

Connecting with Millennials
Millennials tend to not consider skilled trades as career opportunities, which can make it harder for employers to recruit for those positions. McNiel says transportation companies are having a difficult time reaching Millennials, and that members of Generation X are finding work in other industries.

It’s vital that companies get the word out about the opportunities they can offer to young employees. Todd Berger, president and CEO of Redwood Logistics, says his company recruits college graduates heavily on college campuses and attends college job fairs, looking for top talent among college graduates.

According to PricewaterhouseCooper’s Next Gen study, Millennial employees expect to work as part of a team, and enjoy doing so. Berger says his company stresses this when recruiting. “The most successful transportation and logistics companies make maximum use of teams and there is no room for ego or self-serving behavior. Employees have to be enlisted in teams they want to join and where they can be effective,” Berger says.

Berger says his company looks carefully at soft skills such as attitude and personality, as well as hard skills. The company screens for work ethic as well, trying to assess if the candidate will go above and beyond for customers.