Strategies for Treating Drivers as the Essential Workers They Are

September 14, 2022

Look around. Trucks hauled 72.5% of everything you see. The $791.7 billion trucking industry is the lifeblood of America. In fact, 80% of the country relies exclusively on trucking for daily deliveries of essential goods.

A 2019 report showed that if trucking stopped, America would too. Medical supplies, life-saving pharmaceuticals, and fuel would be in short supply within the first 24 hours. Manufacturing delays would put hundreds of thousands of people out of work within two days. Empty ATMs, bare grocery store shelves, and oxygen-less hospitals would appear within a week. At the 14-day mark, the United States would run out of clean drinking water because trucks deliver the chemicals.

Truck drivers are frontline workers. But despite their critical role to the American economy and its citizens, they often feel less than “essential.” That must change. Our lives truly depend on it.

Essential or Exit: Understanding the Truck Driver Shortage

According to the American Trucking Associations (ATA), the industry currently is short 80,000 drivers. Analysts expect the number to double by 2030.

With 300,000 drivers leaving the profession each year, and 80% of the workforce within 10-15 years of retirement age, the trucking industry must recruit 1 million new drivers within the next nine years.

That is a heavy lift for a profession with a decades-long struggle of recruiting qualified workers.

Operating a truck is a hard job. Drivers average 60 hours per week on the road. The work is typically solitary and physically demanding. Ask any of the 3.5 million drivers and they will tell you achieving a work-life balance and supporting a family is a big challenge.

All that hard work and sacrifice often doesn’t come with a big paycheck. An MIT study found that 40% of a driver’s daily work capacity is wasted due to ongoing supply chain and infrastructure issues. It should come as no surprise that current job boards show nine jobs for every one driver as a result of mounting industry pressures.

Taking on Turnover and Creating Staying Power

As an industry average, for every 10 drivers that walk into a company, nine will walk back out before the year is over. While everyone’s needs differ, common trends exist in why drivers transition jobs or leave the industry altogether.

Drivers will reward companies who are willing to address their needs with quality work and loyalty. Fleets with these five attributes know, and do, what it takes to make drivers feel “essential.”

  • Higher, More Consistent Pay

    Drivers deserve fair compensation for their efforts. The stress of working enough hours or getting sufficient miles to make a decent living is stressful—and often outside of a driver’s control. Professional drivers are looking for sign-on bonuses, higher per-mile rates, or better hourly wages to maximize the value of their time on the road.

    A 2021 study by Randall Reilly found that guaranteed pay now sits as the strongest influence on a driver’s decision to apply for a job. Just like any worker, drivers want to know what they are making each week. Guaranteed pay rewards consistent work with predictable compensation taking the guessing game out of the profession.

  • Various Route Options

    Drivers are not one-size-fits-all and their routes shouldn’t be either. Different life situations dictate what routes work for drivers. Companies offering multiple options stand to attract a larger driver pool. Local, dedicated, and over-the-road routes all appeal differently to drivers. Giving options that work for a driver’s lifestyle helps them align professional goals with personal needs. Plus, rewarding good work with more favorable routes gives drivers something attainable to strive for rather than looking elsewhere for work.

  • Regular Home Time

    Nearly 70% of surveyed drivers indicate they want nightly or weekly home time to accept a job offer. Gone are the days of keeping drivers on the road for weeks at a time. Everyone needs regular off-time and drivers are no exception.

  • Supportive Staff

    Never underestimate the impact of a dispatcher. Roughly 40,000 surveys showed 42% of driver comments concerning personnel were directed at dispatchers. While drivers may be solo on the road, they are in a partnership with their dispatcher. A good dispatcher provides the routes, understands the driver’s goals, offers support when things go awry, and helps keep drivers safe. Experienced drivers recognize a skilled, caring dispatcher immediately. Companies investing in the training of their dispatchers perform better in retaining drivers. The old saying applies, “People don’t quit jobs. They quit people.”

  • Safety

    Drivers stay longer at companies with safety-first cultures. That is because these initiatives help drivers feel cared for and comfortable. Good safety practices involve well-maintained equipment, road hazard reductions, staff education, and secure parking. Employees exiting a company because of unsafe work conditions has increased by 1,000% over the last 10 years. For women drivers, safety ranks as the top turnover predictor according to the Women in Trucking Association.

Why Drivers Stay at Sonwil

Most drivers do not want to switch companies but at times feel compelled because of limitations in compensation, consistency, support, and safety. At Sonwil Logistics, we treat every driver as the essential worker they are.

Our guaranteed pay program and regular home time helps drivers make a life, not just a living. We offer exceptional benefits including a $12,000 health spending account (HSA). There is no “us vs. them” at Sonwil. When the company succeeds, we all benefit by sharing in the profits once a year. Safety stands as a top priority with high-quality equipment and a reserved over-the-road parking program paid for by the company. We offer a variety of routes that cater to individual driver needs and goals.

How did we design these benefits absent at most other companies? We listened to our drivers.
Our doors are always open. Reach out today and discover why Sonwil Logistics has been a driver-favorite fleet for more than 35 years.