Optimizing resources a must as fleets face driver shortages, high turnover rates

It's common knowledge that jobs in the transportation industry can be difficult to fill. Despite taking the most direct route to make scheduled pickups and deliveries, drivers are often on the road for extended periods, work long hours and have challenging careers. And even though unemployment has remained stubbornly high, many of these positions have remained open.

More difficult to find applicants
New research from CareerBuilder lists truck drivers as one of the positions hiring managers have the hardest time filling. The online job site spoke with HR departments across the U.S. and asked them to specify which job listings within their organization remained open for 12 weeks or longer, then compared that data with job growth data from Economic Modeling Specialists.

Truck drivers were listed as the fourth hardest career to fill, in regard to the number of jobs added from 2010 to 2013. This spot ranked just below sales representatives, machine operators and nurses. According to the study, while 113,517 new positions were created within the past several years, a 6.7 percent growth rate, the need for workers continues to grow. Despite this strong demand for employees, hiring managers still report a lack of qualified applicants.

Turnover continues to be a problem for large and small fleets
Finding new employees is even more difficult, as the industry has been experiencing a high turnover rate in recent months, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). A recent report from the group revealed that during the first three months of 2013, competition for highly skilled drivers increased turnover rate at transportation firms across the U.S.

"Our data shows that competition for drivers across the industry remains high," said Bob Costello, the ATA's chief economist. "It is our fear that this competition for drivers may be exacerbated by losses in productivity caused by recent regulatory changes such as the new hours-of-service rules."

The problem is prevalent at both larger companies and within smaller fleets. The ATA's Trucking Activity Report showed fleets with at least $30 million in annual revenue saw higher turnover rates in the first quarter of 2013, with the annualized rate jumping to 97 percent, compared to the 90 percent seen in the last three months of 2012. Among smaller fleets, the rate jumped from 76 percent in quarter four 2012 to 82 percent in quarter one 2013.

With fewer drivers available, fleets of all sizes must continue to optimize routes and make the best use of their resources with route planning software solutions. Technology can help managers make the best possible decisions in regard to planning runs, determining which drivers will make certain deliveries and how to best utilize available vehicles.