While the sun shines on today’s freight transportation industry, with the American Trucking Association’s For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index indicating one of the best freight environments the industry has ever seen, there is a threat lurking in the shadows—the driver shortage. At last count, the ATA reported that the industry could be up to 50,000 drivers short at the end of 2017. With freight movement booming, that number could reach even higher.
“The driver pool is our customers’ main concern,” said Dave Gilliland, Great Dane’s vice president of National Accounts. “Drivers are aging, and the next generation isn’t rushing out to become truck drivers. There is an industry focus on recruiting ex-military, offering signing bonuses and trying to get drivers home as much as possible. There are discussions about lowering the age, allowing CDL drivers under the age of 21 to run on the interstate. Today, these drivers can only run within their own state.”
Great Dane knows the problem won’t fix itself and is actively developing equipment and technologies to draw in the next generation of truck drivers. It starts with the basics: dependable equipment that’s safe and easy to use.
“Items like easy-to-operate support gear, bogie slide function and operation, and high visibility PC-rated LED lights are all operator-friendly and safety-focused items,” said Rob Fortney, Great Dane’s director of Dealer and International Sales, who noted that Great Dane’s standard GD 60 landing gear with its constant mesh gearbox makes the support gear a premium in the market.
“Our super slide along with Hendrickson’s Quick-Draw air assist slider release makes for easy bogie adjustments,” Fortney continued, “and our high visibility and PC-rated side marker light ensures the driver won’t lose sight of the rear of the trailer even in inclement weather.”
Keeping truck drivers and others on the road safe is also a big focus for today’s fleets. Spec’ing air disc brakes on your trailers, along with advanced safety systems such as collision mitigation and roll stability, can make a big difference in your safety program and driver recruitment and retention efforts.
“Air disc brakes are becoming more popular thanks to their reduced fade, superior stopping distances and ease of maintenance,” Fortney said. “Another increasingly popular option that addresses driver inexperience is roll stability in conjunction with the standard anti-lock braking systems.”
Of course, next-generation drivers are going to expect a next-generation equipment experience. That means infusing equipment with the latest technology to attract a connected, mobile-focused driver pool. Great Dane’s FleetPulse is the company’s telematics and data platform that will connect the driver with his or her company, the load and the customer, weaving data analysis into the driver’s everyday workload.
FleetPulse will assist in driver pre-trip inspections and has the capability to notify the driver as well as the fleet maintenance department of any mechanical or electrical issues that may put the trailer out of service, which may cost the driver valuable driving time under the new ELD requirements. Catching potential problems in advance will reduce downtime.
“Without question, FleetPulse will become a common selection by savvy fleet operators,” Fortney said. “The benefits of the pre-trip inspection along with instant notification of a problem, coupled with the ability of FleetPulse to direct the driver or the fleet maintenance department to the nearest Great Dane maintenance provider will become a tremendous time saver.”
As technology changes a truck driver’s job, Great Dane knows that regardless of how advanced technology gets, a truck driver will always have a place in the industry.
“Telematics, gamification, autonomous vehicles – even with these new technologies, drivers will still need to be a big part of what occurs with these trucks,” said Rob Ulsh, Great Dane’s vice president of Dealer and International Sales. “Their job may not be just as a driver anymore, but more like an airplane pilot: Higher paid with additional responsibilities to the actual trip and process of handling the freight.”
Keeping drivers safe, productive and profitable on the road is the path to keeping your business running smoothly regardless of the industry’s climate and challenges. To learn more about how Great Dane can help you with your driver recruitment and retention efforts, reach out to your Great Dane sales representative to start the conversation.
Partnering for the Future
Growing tomorrow’s truck driver pool means making the job accessible to a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and capabilities. Part of Great Dane’s initiative to grow the industry includes partnering with the Women in Trucking Association, a nonprofit organization established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry.
Another important initiative, which Great Dane is involved in, is Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), a group that recognizes that members of the trucking industry and individual truckers are invaluable in the fight against human trafficking. It is estimated that there are 40 million victims of human trafficking across all 50 United States, so this group aims to raise awareness, partner with law enforcement and government agencies to facilitate investigations and draw on resources to combat trafficking crime. Great Dane recently had the opportunity to host TAT’s Freedom Drivers Project at its Savannah, Georgia, office. The Freedom Drivers Project is the first mobile exhibit to educate about the realities of domestic sex trafficking and what the industry is doing to combat it through TAT.